Detective Comics #845 makes me sad, not because it's a shitty comic, quite the reverse, it's an EXCELLENT comic; a stand alone issue that encapsulates everything good about Paul Dini's run on the title.
Why the long face then? Well, the fact is, that the enjoyment I got out of reading it only makes me more pissed off that the next issue sees Detective begin another interminable looking tie-in with Grant Morrison's Batman title. Not only will this multi-parter mean very little to those of us who have no interest in Morrison's book, it will also likely herald a change in tone and pace on Detective.
You'd think that DC would have learnt their lesson after the tedious Ra's al Ghul crossover rendered Detective unreadable for a few issues earlier this year. Alas not. Shame really, you only need to look at #845 to see that Dini is doing just fine on his own.
Tec #845 is an outstanding little murder mystery, full of cute character observations and interactions. A book where, in the best traditions of Batman, the action takes place at night, a book where Batman himself is at the centre of the action, and, above all, a book where Batman gets a chance to be a detective. That's what makes these little Dini tales so good. Truly he is the man who has put the Detective back in Detective Comics
The story has Batman hunting a ritualistic serial killer. He's aided in his investigative work by a supposedly amateur group of internet sleuths - The Heirs of Dupin. Marvellously these IM chatting detectives turn out to be a bunch of DC's most inquiring minds including Detective Chimp, The Riddler and (I think) Barbara Gordon. It's a great idea, which is brilliantly executed in a six page sequence that sees Bats and Detective Chimp competing against the Riddler in anonymity.
The Riddler is a central figure in the issue. Dini has reinvented him over the course of his run, casting him as an ex-con trying to go straight by using his famed powers of deduction to set himself up as a detective. That he chooses to use his new found profession as an excuse to prove that he's a more capable sleuth than Batman suggests that he isn't quite the reformed character he claims to be.
Dini's Batman certainly seems unwilling to accept that his old foe has had a change of heart, interestingly (and perhaps subconsciously) he even appears set on driving the Riddler back to a life of crime through his constant questioning of the former villain's motives. The scenes involving Batman and Riddler are carefully written studies in thinly veiled hostility then. They work because they move the story along while telling us plenty about the two protagonists. It's all very neat, and all very different to Grant Morrison's approach to the character. I like it that way.
Tellingly the one scene in the comic that jars slightly is the two page conversation between Batman and Catwoman. Dini does his best to work it into the story by having Batman ask Catwoman for her thoughts on the murders which he is investigating, but Catwoman's lack of interest in the case and references to events taking place in Morrison's Batman book suggest that she has only been introduced here with an eye on the forthcoming crossover. Sadly I won't be around to find out. I read one issue of the Ra's al Ghul tie-in before dropping Detective for the remainder of that story. I won't even bother with the Batman RIP crossover. Instead I'll return when Dini is once more allowed to resume writing his own detective stories. I'm only sad that I'll have to wait a few months for that to happen.