Friday, June 3, 2011

Private Casebook

It’s good to know that you can always find a Batman writer you can rely on: I’m talking about Paul Dini, Harley’s creator and in my opinion the most consistently good writer of the comics I’ve yet come across. After reading several lacklustre titles, Batman: Private Casebook made me sit up and take notice. Dustin Nguyen is a curiously variable artist, not in ability but in style—he seems to veer toward a more painterly approach and then go back to very crisply, inked-in lines. I always find Ra’s al Ghul a bit of a yawn, so we’ll skip over “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul—Epilogue.” “The Wonderland Gang!” is a lot more fun, using the now-popular motif of Alice in Wonderland as a vehicle for one of the second-tier of Batman’s costumed foes, the Mad Hatter (here he has Tweedledum and Tweedledee along with March Harriet, and the Carpenter goes after Batman with some power tools). “The Suit of Sorrows” felt very different for Batman, as it took him out of Gotham and into more Hellboy-like territory. “Opening Night” and “Curtains” both give us interesting new twists for Zatanna, a sultry magician who is interested in Batman, and the (female) Ventriloquist. It’s been a long time since a Batman comic story has enthralled me like “The Riddle Unanswered” did—it was ostensibly about the Riddler, but Catwoman made a memorable cameo, and I loved the way it used instant messaging forums as the way Batman got his scoop. Brings a whole new meaning to the series title, Detective. I also really liked the short “Kcirt Ro Taert,” again featuring Zatanna but also the Scarecrow, where Nguyen really let his artistic, painterly talents run wild. It’s rare that witticisms in Batman will actually make me laugh.

BATMAN: There was a fire at Johnny Sabatino’s new club earlier tonight.
PENGUIN: As I have often noted, it sucks to be Johnny Sabatino. Anything else?

ZATANNA: You sure were quick to say “no.”
BRUCE: Did I lie?
ZATANNA: No, but you’ve never investigated the option, either.
BRUCE: I wasn’t aware that option existed.
ZATANNA: Well, it’s here and it’s wearing a top hat.

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