Shiny Shelf

SHINY ADVENT: Detective Comics #826

By Mark Clapham on 08 December 2006

Just in case you thought this advent calendar business was all going to be dewy eyed nostalgia about the movies we used to watch on TV when we were still young, Santa was real and we could eat chocolate for a week without feeling all that sick or getting fat … here’s something new.

Writer Paul Dini, whose run on ‘Detective Comics’ we’ve been raving about from the start, has always given good Joker. While set in the DCU proper, this week’s issue of ‘Detective Comics’ feature a Joker who feels like the animated version – the dialogue seems to be delivered straight off the page in Mark Hamill’s voice.

(At which point you may ask ‘does Batman sound like Kevin Conroy?’ Well yes, he always does. Always.)

This issue is exactly the kind of beautifully self-contained ‘Batman’ story the animated series did brilliantly in 20 minutes, and which Dini has been doing in this comic in 22 pages.

It’s Christmas, and snow falls on Gotham. Batman’s sidekick, Robin, is in deep trouble. Escaping gang gunfire, Robin jumps into the shelter of a nearby car – only to find that the driver is the Joker. Waking up after a gas induced nap, Robin finds himself tied-up in the passenger seat with the Joker behind the wheel, accessory to a murderous road trip across Gotham. The Joker is running down anyone he sees, and seems to have something else in mind for Robin.

An unnerving seasonal story pitting a boy with only his wits to fall back on against an insane killer holding all the cards, this is possibly Dini’s best written issue so far, even though Batman himself barely features. The story is perfectly paced, and as befitting the title shows a degree of detective work and intelligence as Robin tries to predict the Joker’s next move and find a way out of his predicament.

Artists Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher keep pace, their Joker a neat balance between the animated series version and the more detailed look of current DC comics. Kramer and Faucher’s visual storytelling and dynamic action have a clarity that suits the story, although their normal people are not quite as well realised as their grotesques – a flashback featuring former Robin Dick Grayson and current incumbent Tim Drake in civvies shows them with slightly indistinct features, and a scene with two burger vendors shows a similarly loose approach to faces. However, this is forgivable in a story centred on two exaggerated figures – the wide-eyed, masked sidekick and the horrible clown – both of whom are rendered with exactly the right level of caricature.

If you haven’t read a mainstream comic in a while, seek this one out and treat yourself to it for Christmas. It’s a perfect little seasonal shocker.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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