While all the press, and most of the sales, have been over at Batman, that old soldier known as Detective Comics has recieved the same upscale treatment. Wheras Batman has fallen into the capable hands of Morrison and Kubert, Detective Comics is currently helmed by Paul Dini and some lesser known artists, featuring gloriously timeless black and white covers by Simone Bianchi. Paul Dini, for those not in the know, is responsible (along with Bruce Timm) for the brilliant Batman cartoon from the 90's, as well as helping to produce and write some of the better episodes of the other DC Animated titles. Dini's comics work is a lesser known beast--he usually hangs around the comics oriented towards younger readers, published under the Johnny DC imprint. With the arrival of a hot, popular team on Batman, DC somehow shoehorned Dini onto Detective, hoping to capitalize on the guaranteed sales of Batman by putting out something to tide people over in between issues of Morrison and Kubert. Six months in, Paul Dini has done good work for the title, choosing to write straight-ahead, one issue stories, all of which have been of a better-than-average quality.
This month's entry, a near-Batman-less tale where Robin is stuck in the passenger seat while the Joker runs people over and a couple lays dead in the backseat, is a masterpiece of the type of story that Dini's able to accomplish--deftly using a few frames here and there to set the stage and choosing to leave the ending as ambiguous as the beginning, it's one of the best Joker stories in a long while. Ignoring the trend towards self-referential metahumor and the desire to show up the foolishness of spandex, Dini clearly set his own tone 15 years ago: this isn't the type of writer who apologizes for writing superhero comics, and the lack of embarrassment is refreshing. While no one should ever be awarded a prize for taking Batman and Robin too seriously, too many comics on yesterday's shelf felt the need to play themselves up with a wink, as if to pat a comics reader on the back and say, "Isn't this a completely ridiculous hobby? Here's some superheroes." Hell, we know it's stupid--but we just spent $2.99 on the book, so try to keep the cynicism to yourself, alright?
-Tucker Stone, 2006