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Batman: Detective Comics #789
"The Randori Stone"
writer: Paul Bolles
artists: Mike Lilly and Dan Davis
"The Tailor"
writer: A.J. Lieberman
artists: Jean-Jacques Dzialowski and Dan Green

In the flurry of attention to Batman, DC started using this title to be a little more experimental. It's not a bad idea, especially as Legends of the Dark Knight is supposedly on its way out. Let this be a book for shorter arcs, strange little back-up stories, and a chance to let new writers play in the Gotham City sandbox.

By dividing the book into two stories, though one definitely in a back-up slot, the publisher also offers us a little more bang for our buck. Unfortunately, the current spotlight story, "The Randori Stone," offers more of a fizzle.

It's full of action as a possessed Batman becomes a truly fearsome creature of the night. In a nice twist, this does not manifest as a physical mutation so much as mental. Though Lilly and Davis draw the occasional wisp of mystic fire leaping from his eyes, this is just Batman determined to stop at nothing for justice. But why?

The story revolves around a bunch of characters that we've never seen before, but somehow Batman is intimately involved. For some reason, that sticks in the craw as a narrative device. Maybe if the story wasn't also rushed, with almost everything explained through narration rather than just happening organically. It reduces everything to telling, though Lilly and Davis work hard to show it, too.

Though the art isn't particularly flashy, the team brings a nice earthiness to their Batman portrayal. This isn't a hero in black rubber, but clad in an almost believable body armor. You can see the seams and reinforcements, even without Bolles calling attention to them in captions. The writer could afford to trust his artists just a little bit more.

However, in the back-up slot, an interesting behind-the-scenes story begins. "The Tailor" is exactly that - the guy who makes the uniforms for the Batman Family. Though old Flash comics played with this notion, it's cool to see an updated version as the so far nameless costumer experiments with making the suits light yet protective.

When The Batman tries to pull him in on a case, he refuses. Business would be ruined if he took a moral stance. And he offers a chilling but deadpan threat: "Every suit has a weakness. Even yours," to the Dark Knight.

The story doesn't end there, and Lieberman has offered just enough up to make this a back-up more compelling than the lead slot. Maybe next issue they can trade…


Derek McCaw

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