Detective Comics 846 review

What makes a great Batman villain? The Joker – face of an evil clown, puts a smile on the face of victims.

Scarecrow – dresses like his namesake, overwhelms enemies with fear.

Caqtwoman – garbed in a catsuit, works as a cat burglar.

Hush – wears bandages and, er . . . tells people to shut up in public libraries?

I dunno, I read his long debut in Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s storyline, and all I recall is that he was a playboy doctor who’d been a boyhood pal of Bruce Wayne, and killed his dad cos he wanted to be an orphan. A worthy ambition, obviously.

Oh, and he spoke in the third person – maybe they could call him the Third Man? Or do something, anything to make him interesting.

Paul Dini, whose Detective Comics run has given us some cracking stories, doesn’t manage that trick here. To be fair, he’s saddled with having to recap Hush’s dull back story and set up a tie-in to Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP story. Said link amounts to ‘Hahaha, the Black Glove wants to destroy Batman, but no one shall kill Hush’s enemy but Hush, I tell you, Hush hahahah!’ Cue an encounter with Gotham’s worst themed criminal ever, Doctor Aesop – well, he can’t be allowed to kill Batman either, can he? God knows why Hush wasn’t concerned about the zillion other villains who might have killed his chosen nemesis since his last appearance, wherever that was, but we’ll let that slide.

And yup, Doctor Aesop runs his crime empire (well, more a principality, this fella is strictly little league) according to the word of the Fables fella. This is either Dini showing that Gotham really does attract nuts out to make a name for themselves, or just not wanting to waste a decent villain on a Hush story. Anyway, the bad doctor (Aesop, not Hush) incurs the wrath of Catwoman via his use of dumb animals to illustrate his tale-telling, and this motivates a team-up with Batman.

Oh, oh, that reminds me, Selina mentions Jezebel Jet, Bruce’s squeeze in Morrison’s story. My apologies for being so terribly dismissive above – this is truly an essential RIP tie-in. It even says RIP on the cover.

Mind, it’s easy to be dismissive of a story that seems to be this editorially mandated. Can Paul Dini please tell a tale of his own choosing soon?

Thank goodness for the artwork – Dustin Nguyen and inker Derek Fridolfs are suddenly channeling the spirit of Norm Breyfogle, and I like it. The pages are dynamic, open, loose in feel, yet tight in storytelling.

Nguyen alone provides the cover and it’s an instant classic, well conceived and beautifully executed. It’s just a shame the story – which is running to five parts (sigh) – doesn’t live up to it.

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