Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The World's Finest Detective meets THE Great Detective

Detective Comics #572 (March 1987)

In the DC Universe, Batman is generally considered to be the greatest detective (though some recent writers—and film directors--seem to occasionally forget that.) But, in the Silver Age DC Universe at the very least, there was one man who was an even greater detective.  Batman himself acknowledges this within the pages of this issue, so there’s no sense in arguing about it. 

This was Detective's 50th Anniversary issue (not the 50th Anniversary of Batman, which was still a couple of years away. It’s the 50th anniversary of Detective Comics, in which Batman did not appear  until issue #27.)

To celebrate the occasion, the double-sized issue featured a multi-chapter story involving Batman and several other detective characters from the DC Universe. We start with Slam Bradley, a hard-boiled P.I. character who appeared in Detective Comics #1,  brought back now after a long absence. Older but still tough, he becomes involved in a kidnapping case that turns out to involve several descendents of Sherlock Holmes’ arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. He gets an assist from the Dynamic Duo along the way.

The story then shifts to London, where Ralph Dibney--the Elongated Man--encounters some bad guys attempting to steal something from 221 B Baker Street. Ralph foils this, finding some papers containing the history of a previously unknown Holmes case.

This leads us smoothly into a flashback that gives us the details of that lost case, where Holmes and Watson foil a plot by Moriarty to assassinate Queen Victoria.

Back in the present, all the various characters meet in London. Through detective work and deductive reasoning, they uncover a modern plot by a descendent of Moriarty to assassinate the present-day Queen. The Moriarty family is a deucedly determined bunch.

The climax involves Batman getting a bit of help from a certain famous detective--now very old but still the best there is.

The whole story is very well-done. The plot moves along briskly, with plenty of action, but with each of the characters given a chance to show their respective skills as detectives. (The Holmes flashback is more action-oriented than the majority of the original Conan Doyle stories, but Holmes still shows off his powers of deduction and the addition of more action is appropriate to the comic book format.)

It's all balanced very nicely, with the themes of classic detective work and superhero action meshing together smoothly, with a dash of the hard-boiled detective style tossed in for good measure. Batman, Ralph and Bradley all get their moments to shine, with no one of them overshadowing the others.

A different artist drew each chapter, something that has been distracting in other comics. But here, each chapter is sufficiently self-contained to make the different artistic styles work effectively in terms of drama and the overall flow of the story.
And, of course, the greatest detectives in the DC universe helping out THE Great Detective can’t help but be super-awesome!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading this story back in the day. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


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