Tuesday, November 21, 2023

DC's Greatest Detective Stories Ever Told?

DC's Greatest Detective Stories Ever Told is a collection which sadly does not live up to its name. But what we do have is a healthy sampling of stories from across the many decades giving a glimpse of what comics were like at various times. It's an eclectic collection with some pretty good stories, but not as many great ones as it should have. I do love that Mike Kaluta cover though. 

First up is a Slam Bradley story from the second issue of Detective Comics. Produced by the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster team, this is a rousing adventure with a nifty blend of two-fisted action and humor. Slam's partner Shorty is the source of the humor of course. I enjoyed this little tale immensely. 

The Sandman story "The Van Leew Emeralds" by Gardner Fox and artist Creig Flessel might me my favorite in this collection. This story from Adventure Comics #51 has got solid art and the Sandman slips in and out of his mask more than a few times. This is an excellent 1940 Golden Age yarn. 

Behind this Batman and Robin Detective Comics cover is an Elongated Man story titled "The Purple Pony". This is well drawn as usual by Carmine Infantino, but the 1964 story by Gardner Fox is not to my mind the best example of what Ralph and Sue Dibny have to offer the reader. It's fine, but nothing special. 

Perhaps my greatest disappointment was the expansive Lois Lane story which occupies nearly one hundred pages of the collection. The upside is the typically fine Gray Morrow artwork, but the story by Mindy Newell strives for realism at the cost of excitement. The prospective reader is warned that at no time does a scene like that picture on the cover of the second issue occur. This is grim tale about child abuse, kidnapping, and runaways. I admire the desire to focus attention on a problem, but it could've been done with a bit more verve. 

From the fiftieth anniversary issue of Detective Comics we get a darn good yarn. Mike Barr's story is divided into chapters with each drawn by specially selected artists. We begin with a Slam Bradley tale drawn by Alan Davis in which we learn that Shorty has been killed and Slam is drawn into a case when his prospective client is whisked away violently. A certain dynamic duo help. Then in a chapter drawn by Terry Beatty and Dick Giordano Slam seeks his lost client by trying to find a missing woman. This takes us to London where in a Carmine Infantino drawn tale Elongated Man seeks a long-lost document. That document proves to be a forgotten Sherlock Holmes story which we get to enjoy thanks to artist E. R. Cruz. Alan Davis returns to wrap things up as the collected heroes team up. It's a fun romp. 

From the pages of 1987's The Question #8 we get a grim story by Denny O'Neil and artists Denis Cowan and Rick Magyar which pits the faceless hero against a deadly and devious killer of criminals. 

The secret origin of Detective Chimp is brought to us by artist Mark Badger and writer Andy Helfer. It's a truly strange few pages from Secret Origins #40 which feature aliens from beyond the stars who find their way into a small and humble chimp. 

The collection wraps up with a back-up story from 1989's Batman #441 in which Tim Drake introduces himself to Dick Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth. Despite featuring some decent art by Jim Aparo we only get a few pages of this Marv Wolfman story. I'm not quite sure what was the intent here and it's the weakest part of the collection. 

I want to like this collection more than I do. Some of the choices seem odd. And the lack of creator credits in the table of contents is frustrating. I had to use the Grand Comics Database to fill in some gaps for this review. This collection does not live up to its grandiose title. But that is a great cover. 

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  1. That seems a strange collection of stories to me , I'm sure there could have used some more relevant detective based tales . The Sandman golden age tale looks really interesting, I've always been a fan of this version of the character.

    1. The Sandman was a great character, tapped that pulp vein nicely.

  2. Yup, that sure is a great cover, but like the old saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover.