Shiny Shelf

Detective Comics #790

By Eddie Robson on 20 February 2004

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

I read this latest issue of ‘Detective Comics’ under what are perhaps the ideal conditions for reviewing a mainstream comic: I borrowed it from somebody, not knowing anything about it or expecting anything in particular from it, to kill some time on my lunch break. I say this because yer basic adventure comic should be capable of keeping a person entertained, in isolation, for fifteen or twenty minutes. Whether it’s part of a larger story or continuity or just a one-off, a mainstream comic should be able to grab somebody who picks it up for no greater reason than boredom.

And this issue failed entirely. A new designer drug has killed over a dozen people in Gotham, so Batman gets on the case. This isn’t really a plot; it’s just a demonstration of Batman at work. The guy who’s making the drugs is tracked down in two easy moves and Batman has him thrown in jail in record time, with no interrogation of the issues the story raises – or could have raised, given the chance.

What makes Gotham’s youth so reckless that they take a drug in the full knowledge that it kills 50% of its takers? It doesn’t seem very convincing – the risks associated with most drugs are low enough to fool takers into assuming that it’ll never happen to them – so it’s up to the writer to convince us. One of the characters says that the threat of death adds to the buzz: I don’t believe that for a second.

At the end there’s a tenuous connection to the death of Robin, which seems to have been the point of the whole thing. Newsflash: I DON’T CARE. It was years ago and I never read it anyway (and neither will the majority of teenage readers, who weren’t even born when it was published). Naturally, it’s an event that had a huge impact on Batman and it drives him just as the death of his parents did, but next month try telling a Batman story whilst you’re at it. The art’s not bad, with Cam Smith’s inks particularly noteworthy, but this issue was just dull.

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Maybe writer Andersen Gabrych (a surprising appointment on DC’s part to say the least, putting a complete newcomer on its flagship book) has something cool planned that relates to all that old Robin stuff. But considering we’ve just had the character appear to return from the dead in ‘Hush’ I’ll be very surprised if Gabrych can now do anything with him that seems worthwhile.

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By Eddie Robson

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