Batman: Detective is a Paul Dini book about Batman doing detectivey kinds of things instead of just punchy kinds of things. At this book’s point in continuity, the Riddler has reformed and is trying to be a media-friendly publicly private detective solving crimes, which is actually a pretty cool story. There’s a story about the Penguin opening his new nightclub and realizing the legal theft through merchandising was crazy lucrative. The book also has a Doctor Phosphorus story that hinges on baking soda, which wasn’t awesome, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the Poison Ivy story. But man oh man there’s a Joker story that’s just amazing.
Robin (version: Tim Drake) is chasing down some criminals and then accidentally gets kidnapped by the Joker who proceeds to go on a killing spree with the boy wonder tied up in the front seat. Robin is being resourceful and gets out of it okay, but that’s not the main point of the story. Dini writes the Joker as teetering on that line of violence and terrible humour and ultimate not-giving-a-fuckness the best I’ve seen. Yes, that’s right; I think that might have been the best Joker story I’ve read.
This summer’s The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan’s last Batman movie, and the villain is going to be Bane. I know the basic story of Bane from back in the 1990s but I hadn’t actually read the comics until recently.
In Broken Bat Bane has come to Gotham and blows a hole in Arkham Asylum to let a whole crapton of Batman’s enemies out. Batman is already weakened at the start of the book and Robin and Alfred are trying to get him to take a rest. Of course, Batman can’t do that. So this book is him fighting these escapees and just ending up dead on his feet. There isn’t much explanation of why Batman is already so run-down at the beginning of the story; I think this was just after the long gang war thing with Black Mask, but don’t quote me on that. Anyway, in this book Batman is weakened, physically and psychologically and then Bane (a juiced up South American badass who wants to make Gotham his) beats the shit out of him in stately Wayne Manor. Bane doesn’t kill Batman, but breaks his back.
Who Rules the Night follows Robin, Alfred and Jean Paul Valley as they try to cover for Batman now being crippled. Valley (who’d been brought up as a religious assassin kind of guy named Azrael) takes over the mantle of the bat. He’s a lot more intense about things than Bruce Wayne, and armours up the Batman costume and eventually beats Bane (almost kills him, but pulls back at the last moment).
There’s a third part to the Knightfall story which has the new Batman getting more and more out of control while Bruce Wayne tries to recover (and gets his back unbroken by a magickal doctor, who I expect won’t be in the Nolanverse version of this story).
These comics are interesting in what they say about Batman, and they were a timely part of the 90s trying to put some edginess into superheroes, but as far as good stories go? Meh. I don’t like how old the Tim Drake Robin looks in these books (he’s supposed to be 14ish and looks 20), and the writing is simplistic and the villains are cartoony. It’s good for me to read some of these comics to remember that while there’s good stuff in superhero comics, not everything is awesome just by being words and pictures together. Sometimes I can forget that.