When I was eleven, I first read this comic in the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told hardcover. Then there was the next part in Greatest Joker. It’d be years before I could read the complete Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin arc. But this issue is where it all started.
So as I break through the bonds of my earthly confinement, traveling through time and space to remember… “Batman: The TV Show” was still a thing back then. It regularly reran. Bad Batman-related narration was a thing. Hell, it might’ve saved the Schumacher movies.
Because while I’m not going to strain myself singing this issue’s praises, it’s the best issue of Detective I’ve read so far from this era. Like, lots happens. Englehart’s pacing is a lot better. Rogers is finally able to do quick action sequences, which means the issue’s got at least four action beats. Five. See, so many I forget them.
The issue opens with Batman and Robin wrestling in the Batcave because bros. Then there’s something about Robin being a ladies’ man just like Bruce, which is problematic, but it sets up Bruce Wayne as having an emotional arc this issue. Englehart doesn’t do a great job, but it’s not bad either. The way he plots the arc is outstanding. The central drama this issue is Bruce becoming convinced Silver St. Cloud suspects he’s Batman and being awkward through lunch with her.
Well, and Deadshot breaking out of prison for the first time since Batman locked him up twenty-five years earlier or something. It ties into the Penguin’s arrest after last issue. Everyone makes fun of the Penguin in this issue, but in ableist, shitty ways. It’s weird.
Deadshot gets a flash new costume—his last outfit was a society dandy with a top hat and Zorro mask—and goes Batman-hunting. They have a delightful six-page fight ending in Silver’s convention hall. She’s a convention organizer because Bruce Wayne’s not falling for an unaccomplished gal. Englehart’s never written Silver particularly well, so this issue’s probably the best; she gets to talk the most she’s ever talked, interrogating Bruce about his history with Batman.
There is a lot of bad writing from Englehart, though. Lots of the narration is terrible.
But it’s Rogers’s best issue so far. He does a better job breaking down the page, how the panels interact with each other, not just how they exist on their own. Still very design-oriented, but learning. Fast learning.
Or maybe I’m still just ten years old reading it.
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