After reading Detective Comics #867, my head was left unsettled and unbalanced. It was hard for me to tell if this was a good issue or not. On the one hand, you have a pretty good beginning, the ambiguity and anticipation really rings true, while on the other hand, after those first few pages, the story becomes bland and uninspired, only serving the fact that this issue only has a certain number of pages and the promise of said pages is completely forgotten as it force feeds us some sort of storyline. But, the book fails in it’s origin, the fact that David Hine isn’t at the top of his game and the fact that there was some sort inner turmoil within the DC office, is and was, the downfall of this book. But this makes me sad in a way. To see such a great title being dragged down by mediocre runs and inconsistency only damages the books reputation as well as the reputation of the Batman character with issue #867 being the prime example of this. Even though this issue has it’s shiny gems of real content, like Dick’s research into the “Joker Juice” or the beginning, it isn’t enough to redeem this issue, if it ever had a chance. But, in the end the story is told way to fast with a generically written cast of characters, horrible and unoriginal dialogue, and poor delivery.
This issue starts off with a man, while getting ready for work, receives a text message that says to meet at Blue Skies Mall at 1pm. The man kisses his wife goodbye, goes to work, and leaves work to get to the Mall in time. The man, now at the mall puts on a green wig, cracks a vial, and inhales its contents which changes his appearance. Now looking like the Joker the man reeks havoc upon the mall along with a whole gang of Joker look alikes. The police are called and arrive promptly on the scene. Using non-lethal force they make their way into the mall. Meanwhile Oracle pages Batman saying that there is a disturbance at the Mall and that he should have a look. Batman shrugs this off saying that he has better things to do and to call him when things get really serious. Back at the Mall one of the main Jokers get’s bored and produces a gun, shooting one of the cops who had responded to the emergency. The cop pulls out his gun and shoots the man that we first met in the beginning, killing him. Cutting to the morgue Batman and Gordon realize that the smile on the deceased man has faded, and that the real Joker likes to leave his victims laughing so it couldn’t have been The Joker who organized these attacks. At the bat cave, using a blood sample he took, Batman is able to discover that the Joker Juice is missing the Hydrogen Cyanide (the most lethal element of authentic Joker venom) although Strychnodide is present which produces the trademark smile, the Strychnodide combined with methamphetamine, MDMA, and nitrous oxide could increase energy levels while causing uncontrolled hilarity and muscular spasms. Gordon shows Batman a fake Joker who seems like he is the ring leader behind these Joker gangs, and while most fake Joker’s get their Juice from the internet this guy is sampling his own product. We are then taken into the past where the real Joker is chasing a young man on a rooftop, Batman intervenes and beats The Joker, but at the last minute The Joker releases his venom much to the young man’s expense, the young man who is apparently The Joker’s 13th victim that night, dies and get’s thrown into the back of a van with the other 12 victims. But he isn’t dead and we come to the realization that he is the man who organized the attacks. Back in the present day, the impostor Jokers, along with their leader, stage a mass demonstration in memory of the man who died in the beginning. To extinguish the demonstration the G.C.P.D are called in, while Gordon replaces everyone’s live rounds with rubber ones. As Batman and The Question look on, the demonstration turns violent, three cops are killed and the gang leader is nowhere to be found. Back at the bat cave Oracle shows Batman a Batman imposter who says that too many good people have died because of the imposter Jokers. That its time now for the citizen’s of Gotham to take up arms and reclaim the streets.
Truth be told, given the time, David Hine could have done great things with this issue, because of the fact that the elements of the story are there, but the problem is that it was planned out haphazardly and executed very poorly. Even with the time constraint couldn’t Hine possibly given us a better written story? He had a great thing going but something went wrong between the initial conception and the day it hit the shelves. Sure the drama at DC did contribute to the failure and yes, Hine was rushed, these are provable facts that are pretty obvious. But that doesn’t mask the fact that this issue was just horribly written. Hine’s lack of creativity and originality becomes very apparent as he falls and stumbles his way through page after page of banality. The characters within the pages are monotone with no real emotion or value and everything that was achieved with Dick as Batman is completely forgotten here. At times it was hard to form a distinction between Dick and Bruce, while the actions and dialogue of the other characters are entirely forgettable. It’s hard to feel like this story means anything to anyone. The lack of content is displayed on a massive scale, we forget all that has happened to the characters and all that will happen to them which only raises a lot of frustrating questions like: Is this story really pushing the Batman character forward in one direction or another? Or is this simply filler put on display to achieve something that it not fully realized? Not pushing the Batman character forward and force feeding us crap causes the content to lose all of it’s credibility, where it’s initial greatness is forgotten and causes the aforementioned content to revel in it stupor.
The art in this issue cannot be fully explained honestly if I were to praise it. The art is just plain horrible. With it’s cartoon look and overdone colors, it is what I imagine the inside of a septic tank would look like. The colors are just a sludge of nothingness, with no signs of boldness or cleanliness to be found. Scott McDaniel’s pencils lack a seriousness and edge to it, and like the writing it is the most bland and tasteless pencils I have seen in quite sometime.
Overall this isn’t a very good issue, it’s failure to deliver distinctiveness, originality, and creativity are only a couple of the many major drawbacks. It was too rushed, and offers no real content or push and rests in its own muck and bad taste. This issue was just horrible with very little in the way of redeeming qualities, as Hine has completely lost control of his talent causing us, the reader, to only hope that he will get his head together and give us a great book with the next issue.
Detective Comics #867:
Reviewed by Dane