Paul Dini's Batman: Detective is a phenomenon in today's trade paperback market--a book of six done-in-one Batman issues--and it works perfectly. Dini, assisted by DC's post-Infinite Crisis return to basics, writes an iconic version of Batman, Robin, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon that any fan will easily recognize and enjoy; this is the perfect kind of comic you can hand to a fan of Batman Begins or a lapsed Batman reader. For longtime DC fans, Dini includes enough subtle references to current DC continuity (Face the Face, Hush) to ground the series in the present.
As the title suggests, Detective offers six true Batman whodunits, a refreshing change after the more superheroic Batman stories of the Infinite Crisis era. The mysteries here aren't, I'll admit, of Batman: Long Halloween caliber, more like your average episode of Law and Order, but there's a fun, Sherlock Holmesian feel every time Batman reveals the killer. I was impressed, as well, with Dini's balance of crime-solving and crime-fighting; there's no lack of Bat-action in this tale, as with J. H. William's highlighted punches in the first chapter.
The final chapter, however, featuring Robin and the Joker, really distinguishes Dini as a master Bat-writer (as if Batman: The Animated Series hadn't already done so). I read Detective in two parts, chapters one through three and then four and five, and after the first part I was only mildly impressed with the trade; chapter five blew me away. This is a startling, shocking, white-knuckle story, and I hesitate to give away too many details. If you enjoyed Robin and the Joker's conflict in the Robin II miniseries, this is a most fantastic followup.
I only had a few quibbles with Batman: Detective. For one, though Don Kramer does a great job as the main artist, there's little continuity between the others artists's styles; most notably, Tim Drake goes from a teenager to a child and back over the course of the trade. And speaking of continuity, while Dini does his best to reference Face the Face, some of those references are just wrong, especially Poison Ivy's recollection of her most recent crimes. Dini gets points for effort, but it doesn't quite come through.
I want to talk a little more about this iconic, New Earth Batman in another post, coming soon. In the fourth chapter of Detective, the banter between Bruce and Alfred is almost Silver Age, and it suggests some interesting choices by DC in their new and improved Batman. More on this coming soon.
[Contains full covers.]
We continue our Bat-reviews with Grant Morrison's Batman and Son, coming Monday!