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Detective Comics #840

Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2008
By: Kevin Powers

Paul Dini
Dustin Nguyen, Douglas Fridolfs
DC Comics
“The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” (epilogue)

With the lackluster “Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” completed, Grant Morrison has returned to his original and almost forgotten tale of the three batmen and Paul Dini deals with the aftermath left by the mess that was Ra’s Al Ghul’s return. I’ll be completely honest, the whole idea of Ra’s’ resurrection was pretty cool and it must have looked spectacular on paper, but the execution was poor. The writing was inconsistent as the tone of the story changed with each writer. While some of it was immensely enjoyable, such as the Nightwing issues by Fabian Nicieza, as a whole, the story fell short and was a bit too weird and bizarre for my tastes.

However, this issue of Detective Comics shines a new light on the “Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” storyline and Paul Dini delivers one of his top issues during his tenure on this title. Finally, the idea behind Ra’s Al Ghul using his son, the White Ghost’s body, as his host actually brings an important psychological element into play. But even more than that, Paul Dini tells an excellent Countdown free tale on par with his days on Batman: The Animated Series where everything thing going on in this issue flawlessly connects.

Basically, Batman is going after a new villain, “The Globe” who collects well, globes. It just so happens that one of these globes once belonged to Ra’s Al Ghul and now Ra’s wants it back. It’s amazing how such a simple and seemingly mindless plot device can deliver a compelling and well-written story. There’s nothing complicated about it, there’s no “multi-versal” implications, just a simple story that’s told and done with by the end of the issue. This issue proves that Dini’s formula of “stand-alone episodes” that affect future “episodes” works well and a great story does not need to be confined to a story-arc.

Although without the “Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” storyline, this issue would not have been possible. Keeping with one of the major plot elements of the “Resurrection” storyline, Batman battles a horde of ninjas. I’m a bit over the whole “horde of ninjas” thing because they are pretty useless against Batman or any of his army but it works for the purposes of this story. This story really captures Batman in his true form, the always edgy Dark Knight. Ra’s threatens him by setting up his base in Gotham and Batman goes on the hunt. If there is one villain besides the Joker that Batman was meant to hunt down, it is Ra’s Al Ghul. Ra’s makes things personal for Batman, and now that they are related almost by blood, things become even more heated.

What’s most interesting about this issue besides the psychological element of the story is the fight scene between Ra’s and Batman. Usually Ra’s and Bats are decently matched, but here Batman beats the hell out of Ra’s. There seems to be a bit more of an edge to Batman following the events of the “Resurrection”. The psychological element also plays a huge role in the new direction for Ra’s’ character. His soul inhabits an imperfect body and it is this imperfection that leads to the daunting question, “How much of Ra’s is in the body and how much of the White Ghost is in the body?” Dini writes great dialogue as Batman goes toe to toe with the Demon’s Head and when Batman and Alfred analyze Ra’s’ situation. If the new direction of Ra’s’ character is what Batman and Alfred suggest than you can most definitely count me in for this one. The psychological and “family issue” element of this story definitely leaves to door open for fresh, new Ra’s Al Ghul stories.

It’s also the end of the issue that really put a smile on my face. Batman does what he does with any villain that sets foot and threatens his city. He drugs Ra’s silly and puts him in Arkham. Brilliant, this scene is worth the cover price. It’s a fantastic way to establish Ra’s’ new direction. There’s also the cliché yet brilliant line “Welcome to Gotham” that ends this issue.

I was never a big fan of Dustin Nguyen’s artwork, however teamed with Douglas Fridolfs, his work takes a much darker, edgier and less “anime” styled approach. I really dig the art in this issue. Both Nguyen and Fridolfs do an excellent job capturing the tone of Dini’s story, the action and the character portrayal from start to finish. I was pleasantly surprised by the artwork and I hope the style and darkness continues as the Nguyen and Fridolfs run continues.

This issue alone is of greater quality that the entire “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” story-arc. It’s a perfect epilogue and an excellent establishment of Ra’s Al Ghul’s new direction and thankfully Countdown free. I’ll be honest, part of me thought Ra’s was going to catch the next Boom Tube into Salvation Run. I hope Dini returns to the animated seriess style approach to this title because it definitely succeeds here.



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