September 6th, 2014

Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

Review: Steve Englehart's Unpublished Sequel to His "Batman: Dark Detective" Saga! (Part 1 of 2)

UPDATE: The second half is now up!

Today's review was exciting for me as it was bittersweet. It's not often that I get to review the unpublished sequel to one of the greatest Batman storylines of all time, and with the blessings of the writer himself, to boot!

Long-time readers will know that I love love love Steve Englehart's 1978 run in Detective Comics, the one which gave us The Laughing Fish and its perfect take on the Joker, as well as new characters like Silver St. Cloud and Rupert Thorne, plus bold new takes on once-obscure villains like Deadshot and Hugo Strange (whose subplot I reviewed on its own merits). This run has been collected under two unofficial titles, Shadow of the Batman and Strange Apparitions, but Englehart himself prefers to call his saga Batman: Dark Detective. And here's where things get a bit complicated.

Various covers for different editions of Dark Detective, which will henceforth be referred to as "DD1."

Of course, the title of Dark Detective was what Englehart used for the SEQUEL mini-series that he wrote thirty years later, reuniting him with original series penciler Marshall Rogers and inker Terry Austin. Two years ago, I devoted three lengthy reviews to this delightfully weirdo story which brought Silver St. Cloud back into Bruce's life while featuring another all-time great take on the Joker, plus a unique twist on the Scarecrow and one of the most interesting (and bizarre) examinations of Two-Face's psychology that I've ever seen. It was a damn odd story, but a damn fascinating damn odd story, one totally in keeping with the idiosyncratic touches that made Englehart and Rogers' run so great.

Henceforth, this mini shall be referred to as Dark Detective II or DD2. Sorry in advance for the confusion!

At the end of my review of DD2, I mentioned that there was intended to be a third part of the DD saga, but it was canceled (supposedly) due to the untimely death of Marshall Rogers in 2007. The good news, however, is that Englehart sells the scripts over at his website, and thus, after two years of waffling, I finally contacted him to purchase and—with his generous permission—to review the scripts on this very blog. After years of wondering about Stories That Never Were, I've been given to the incredible opportunity to read one for myself!

So how is it? Well, that's not something I can easily answer. As with Dark Detective, I adore it for being a continuation of everything I love from Englehart's Bronze Age work, but I'm not sure that I could recommend it to the casual Batman fan. Perhaps this is one reason why it never got published (although there are several other possibilities, which I'll address later), but just speaking personally, I find that it's also one of this story's biggest appeals.

Collapse )

This seems like a good place to stop for now. Sorry for meandering around more than usual, folks. Click HERE to read the second half of DD3, wherein I'll try to focus more on the actual plot details as we ramp up to the grand (but frustrating) conclusion of DD3! Will Batman and Deadshot stop the Penguin in time? Will Dala be released from the Betty Ford Vampire Clinic with a new lease on unlife? Will Killer Moth manage to get a flight back to Gotham at a reasonable rate, and if so, what will his in-flight movie be? And, hey, wasn't Silver St. Cloud supposed to be in this? Have I been entirely ignoring her subplot with Evan Gregory to save it for next review? Yes, yes I have.

In the meantime, if you're interested enough to read the scripts for themselves, you can purchase them directly from Steve Englehart himself over at his website!

(Disclaimer: All comic art, including the unpublished pencils, are © DC Comics)