Shiny Shelf

Detective Comics #866

By Jim Smith on 02 July 2010

‘Detective Comics’ #866 marks the return of Denny O’Neil to Batman comics.

For those of you who don’t speak fluent DC, I’ll explain that O’Neil is the most important editor in the history of Batman comics and, what’s more, one of the best writers in the history of Batman comics.

His last return to the Bat universe was in the aftermath of ‘Batman RIP’. It was a two part story that was both rather hyped and hugely disappointing.

This issue is the opposite in every respect. It wasn’t trailed or advertised as far as I’m aware. I didn’t even see it announced. It just appeared on the shelf at my local comic store one day.

It’s also absolutely brilliant. Whereas the ‘RIP’ issues found even O’Neil’s biggest fans asking where the deft plot twists and compelling characterisation that define Denny’s work were, this has both in spades. You’d think DC would be shouting about this issue from the rooftops.

Many years ago, Dick Grayson was Robin. He and Batman got involved with some petty crooks, who themselves ran into the Joker. Now, Dick Grayson is Batman, the Joker is back and there seem to be loose ends from that long ago case that no one anticipated.

This really is a lovely issue. Dustin Nguyen’s art is sharp and satisfying with a gorgeous ‘retro’ section for the ‘past’ time frame of the story and contemporary stylings for the ‘present’.

Denny makes interesting use of the Joker, his pettiness, his motivations and how he’s changed over the years, keeps the Dick Grayson Batman centre stage despite the obvious temptations of flashbacks featuring his predecessor and even introduces, develops and resolves the story of  a minor hoodlum.

On top of that, casual, needless and entirely unobtrusive use is made of continuity related to Denny’s own creation, the avenging angel Azrael.

This looks like a fill in but feels like an anniversary issue. Cracking stuff.

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