Title: Detective Comics #826
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Don Kramer
Publisher: DC Comics
Rating: 5 / 5
It’s the holiday season and what better way to get in the spirit than to reread and review one of my all-time favourite single issue comics, which just so happens to have a festive theme!
I’ve long been a champion of Paul Dini’s work on Batman. Along with Bruce Timm, Dini’s efforts during the Animated Series in the 90s helped usher in an era of Batman where he returned to being more of a Dark Knight in Gotham than previous incarnations.
This comic came from a run where a good many of Detective Comics were Batman one-shots and they were generally all amazing. Detective Comics #826, titled Slay Ride, isn’t really a Batman story though. It’s mostly a Robin and Joker story—in fact, Batman only shows up for a couple panels. It’s a wonderful iteration of how Joker affects more of the Bat family than just Batman and, given what he’s done to Robins before, it’s a tense, enjoyable read.
We open with Robin on patrol and he’s atypically getting his butt kicked by some typical Gotham thugs. He finds a safe haven in a passing family mini-van, which ends up being driven by none other than the Joker. Cue Joker gas and we’ve got ourselves a high-tension comic where Robin is powerless to stop a Christmas killing spree by the Joker.
When I write it out, those opening pages seem a bit silly: for Robin to get bested and seek haven in a passing mini-van, but I think Dini makes a joke at it himself, by having the Joker mention that even he couldn’t have set it up so perfectly. But if you can forgive the catalyst, the rest of the comic is superb. Joker has killed a family and takes to the streets of Gotham to be festive in only a way that he can. We’re brought along for the ride as Robin has to endure the horror of being Joker’s unwilling “sidekick” to his murders, all the while trying to find a way to escape.
I love the way Dini paces this book. From the fast action opening to the nail-biting scenario between Robin and Joker, everything in this story is a page turner. Joker’s murderous and enchanting dialogue is spot-on and goes well with Robin’s inner monologues as he tries to figure out how to stop Joker’s Christmas spree and stay alive. Kramer’s artwork is great, as well. His layouts give us a sense of the claustrophobic feeling Robin has in the mini-van. His Joker is also fantastic, who borders on the campy side but is, not surprisingly, all the more creepy for it.
I whole-heartedly recommend checking this one out. A perfect Christmas read and a single-issue you can inexpensively add to your collection.
Review by Brent Gladney