Posted by: Graeme McMillan on April 23, 2009
And this is where Brian and I go our different ways, because I thought that DETECTIVE COMICS #853 was really, really appallingly bad. As in, I read it and almost thought that I had accidentally been reading some misprinted copy and that somewhere out there, there was a “real” version of the issue that had, you know, a story and a point and anything other than an overwhelming smugness and sense of incredible deja vu.
At first, I put down my sense of disappointment to the fact that the issue was late and that that had, somehow, raised my expectations of it to an unrealistic level, but a second read made me realize that, no, it was just plain bad. I’m not sure where to start with where I thought it went wrong, but I can tell you that the part where we spend five pages of Bruce saying “Goodnight, [name of familiar Batman element” over and over again before the Batsignal turns awkwardly into a pair of hands delivering a baby who – gasp – just happens to be Bruce Wayne was the point where I felt as if Neil Gaiman wasn’t just even phoning it in, but giving to his assistant to phone in over a bad cellphone connection. Everything about the writing in this issue seemed lazy, even the obvious desperation to “say something” about Batman as myth rather than just character; all of the characters showing up to say their bit about “their” Batman seemed strained and unsubtle, and almost everything Batman himself said felt as if he’d been replaced by Expositionman (“I’m having a near-death experience, aren’t I, ghost of my mother? Do you get that, fanboys? And here’s where I explain that I am more important as a myth and urban legend than anything else. Look. I’ll do it in captions over splash pages so that you know it’s important.”). Gaiman may have a great fondness for Batman, but he doesn’t seem to have any special insight into the character; everything that he tells us here we’ve read many, many times before, and in a way that feels less like something rushed out in an afternoon to meet a deadline.
And talking of deadlines… There’s something weird about Andy Kubert’s art here; there’s a slickness and generic quality that it usually lacks, enough to make me wonder if other people helped out to make sure this book wasn’t more than two months late. His Batman – the “real” Batman, I mean, not the various ones in flashback/anecdotes earlier in the issue – in particular feels like it’s come from a different artist depending on what panels you’re looking at in the issue, and I don’t think that’s because he’s trying to ape different artists’ styles during the same scene. It’s just weirdly inconsistent.
In a weird way, I’m glad that Brian liked it so much, because that makes me feel less guilty about saying that – for me – it was surprisingly Awful. At least there’s some audience out there who it worked for, and it’s not like Bri doesn’t have better taste than me in most things…