Friday, June 06, 2008

Detective Comics #845



Superbly well written!

Until the end.

In this one shot story, The Riddle Unanswered, there's a new serial killer in town and the only clue left is a single white lily. Basically, we see that we're gonna be treated to a straight detective story. Gordon, the fuzz and Batman are all examining the crime scene when the Riddler, who apparently reformed post Infinite Crisis and during the One Year Later arc, comes around to offer his half-assed thoughts. And on it goes.

It starts off strong. Brutal murder, crime scene investigation...the return of Catwoman! Apparently she's been cooped up on that prison planet and running around in Salvation Run, but lo she has returned and waiting in the Batmobile. It's a short cameo, mostly the Bat and the Cat playing a bit of catch up and her criticizing his current romantic interests in Jezebel Jet and Zatanna before splitting. Maybe it was a needless cameo, seeinng as those three pages could have gone towards strengthening the climax of the story, but as far as character moments go it was alright I guess. But the coolest thing is what happens after that when we see Batman hitting up a detective chatroom online to brainstorm with other likeminded folks. Having Batman sit there at his giant ass computer, eating a sandwhich and chat online was a clever idea from Paul Dini. The characters he's chatting with, a GCPD cop, Barbara Gordon (I think), Detective Chimp (no shit!) and...The Riddler! Of course! Bu the notion that Batman has an online forum he goes to semi-regularly is neat and adds a nice light touch to a character that's known for being hardcore. One criticism, I suppose, was that since all this could have been condensed down to nearly straight text with minimal imagery, it could have been condensed down to maybe two pages instead of five. Like I said, the ending...gah.

Once Riddler bugs out of the conversation, Batman basically starts a random search of crimes to have happened in the past couple of weeks. And this is the point where this awesome little detective story really breaks down. I'm sorry to say, but it really felt like Dini had this story that was going to center around the Riddler, had his ending and climax, had the beginnings of an issue, but had no way how to connect the two together so at this point what happens follows no real discernible logic involving the death of some school coach slash grief counselor for orphaned youths. I was back tracking a few pages to see if I had missed something. Nope. Well, I figured Dini would manage to pull it all together by the end and, sadly, not really.

The killer was simply a man out for revenge when his new wife was killed during a raid by Riddler and his gang. Apparently, instead of simply going out and shooting the Riddler, this guy concocts some hackneyed scheme involving the brutal murder of like four people to draw the Riddler to him. At this point I was really baffled. The guy was an orphan, so after his wife is killed he talks to his old counselor. He's still raging, plans on killing the Riddler and kills his counselor to make sure there's no one to connect the crimes. What? And then kills three other people after that under the guise of a serial killer. The fuck? All to snare the Riddler in some trap so he could do him in. Christ...

It was a strong issue up until this point, it really was. Dini should have either changed the focus of the story from Batman to the Riddler or made it a straight thriller involving the serial killer or what, but it became really hackneyed by the end. Dini wanted to tell a story about the Riddler's inherent corruptness and his past and how he's a bad guy trying to play it straight but it just fell so flat I'm surprised that the editors didn't send it back with a note to rewrite the ending completely. Just a damned shame considering how cool the first half was.

Strong first half, lame second half. If you're a devoted Batman reader, well, you could do worse but if you need to save a few bucks I'd say you can give it a pass.


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