Book Review: DC Comics Greatest Detective Stories Ever Told

DC is known as one of the two big Superhero comic book companies in the United States. However, it’s easy to forget “DC” actually stands for “Detective Comics,” which is also the title of the company’s longest-running title. This book collects a selection of DC comics that center on some of the DC universe’s most noted detectives.

Most comic fans associate the title, Detective Comics with Batman. However, Batman didn’t appear in the series until Issue 27. The book opens with a story from Detective Comics #2, “Skyscraper Death” where two-fisted private eye Slam Bradley finds himself implicated in a murder. This 1937 story has a lot of action, compared to modern comics. The story is only 13 pages long but has a lot to it. It feels like a complete B-Movie in comic book form. The transfers on this story are not great, but they’re probably about as good as DC Comics could get given that it’s an obscure 75 year old story.

Next up is, “The Van Leew Emeralds” which finds the Sandman (Wesley Dodds) in a caper involving crooks and a game of getting them in the right place so the right people will be prosecuted by the police for them. It’s a fun bit of running around.  There’s a tough of Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar (aka: The Saint) mixed a bit with the Green Hornet in the Golden Age presentation of the Sandman.

Then there’s, “The Puzzle of the Purple Pony” featuring Elongated Man (Ralph Dibney.) Elongated Man was a private detective who got stretching superpowers. He fell in love and married a wealthy woman named Sue and they traveled around and he found and solved mysteries. There’s more than a little touch of the Thin Man in the Dibney’s crime-fighting escapades. In this particular story, while out West, Sue becomes curious why a cowboy’s horse is painted purple. While initially, Ralph thinks its none of their business, Sue plunges them headlong into the adventure. The result is a fun Silver Age mystery that doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t go over the top into silliness.

“When it Rains, God is Crying” is a much more recent story. It’s a two-issue Lois Lane series mini-series from 1986 in which Lois does her own investigation into a child’s death  As Lois becomes personally involved and answers become scarce, she begins to alienate everyone in her life. This was a relatively long story, the length of many graphic novels of the era, but felt a bit short. The story becomes a more focused on Lois’ emotional state and her alienation from her friend than it does the investigation itself. There are plot details that are incongruous or don’t quite make sense. For example, her sister Luci appears and plans to write something that she’s afraid Lois will be angry about but that could fix things. We never find out what exactly Lucy did, but we kind of see an outcome. There’s a lot of potential, but this could have used more space to develop as a story. I will say that the art is very evocative for the era, and while the ending is unsatisfying, I think that was intentional to the crimes against children at the center of the story.

“The Doomsday Book” is a giant-sized Issue of Detective Comics put out for the book’s 50th Anniversary. It starts with a visit to the office of the aging private eye Slam Bradley that goes wrong and requires help from Batman. The very involved mystery brings in not only Bradley, Batman, and Robin, but even involves an old case of Sherlock Holmes. Detective team-ups are tricky because generally one detective looks far brighter than the other. Here though, every detective is given their due, and it’s just a really fun yarn.

“The Mikado” is a story from the 1980s Question comic series that finds Victor Sage investigated of murders and mutilations by a man who follows the famous line from the Miakdo, “My object all sublime I shall achieve in time— let the punishment fit the crime.’ It’s actually an effective story that is contained within one issue. It’s gritty, but very well-written.

“The Origin of Detective Chimp” is a 1989 story that provides an origin story for Detective Chimp, a super detective introduced in 1952, and then popping up here and there throughout DC history. The story involves aliens, an incident in a jungle, and just weird things happening but also manages to work in a little bit of mystery for our newly minted detective to solve. I’m not the biggest fan of the artwork, but the story is a fun little jaunt.

The book concludes with an excerpt from the “Parallel Lines” part of the “A Lonely Place for Dying” story. Tim Drake shows up wanting to take on the mantle of Robin. He explains to Dick Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth how he figured out Bruce Wayne was Batman and Dick Grayson was the original Robin. It was based on a personal encounter and some information in the newspapers. While this excerpt’s only 11-pages, it’s an incredibly effective bit of storytelling. Drake’s discovery goes a long way towards making him a plausible Robin. His understanding that Batman needs someone to balance him out and bring a bit of lightness to his dark world would be another. This was a very effective and beautifully drawn excerpt.

Overall, while I had issues with the Lois Lane story, this was a really good collection. If you enjoyed detective-themed Comics, this will be a fun read.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.