DC’s Greatest Detective Stories Ever Told

What instantly drew me to this comic collection was the striking image on the front cover of Batman and Sherlock Holmes working out a mystery together. I love both of them, so how could I resist? And, as it happens, one of the stories in this collection actually includes a Batman/Sherlock Holmes crossover too, which was a real treat for me.

In addition to Batman and Sherlock Holmes, this collection brings together a selection of stories from several different DC characters. Truthfully, I hadn’t even heard of quite a lot of them, but even without knowing who the majority of them were, the stories still felt accessible enough.

I decided not to rate the stories individually, because I enjoy them all in very different ways. The very first story, Skyscraper Death, is an old 1930s that I found interesting as a historic curiosity, even though the story was a bit silly, while another story (from about fifty years later) which had Lois Lane investigating child murders and disappearances was genuinely really good even by modern standards. There’s a huge deal of variety.

Here are my overviews of each one:

Skyscraper Death by Jerom Siegel and Joe Shuster
Starring a ‘hard boiled’ dick, Slam Bradley, this comic is very much a thing of its time. Imagine a very cheesy detective story from the 1930s – this story fits the mould perfectly. Slam is both big and strong, but also smart. He and his comically proportioned companion, Shorty (who looks kind of like the Monopoly man without the fancy clothes and moustache, even though everyone else has realistic proportions) investigate a murder for which Slam has been framed. An evil racketeering union leader was behind it all, but how can Slam clear his name? I enjoyed it, but, gosh, it was quite hard to take seriously.

The Van Leew Emeralds by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel
By day, a rich playboy, by night a vigilante… how similar to Batman. The Sandman is quite a cool hero who seems to mostly go after big crime families and in this story he’s investigating the stolen Van Leew Emeralds. He has his girlfriend Diane as his only accomplice (which I kind of liked) and the two of them set out to find out where the emeralds have gotten to. It’s nice to see Sandman treated as a villian by the police and, while the story isn’t the most unique thing ever, I felt it was a step up from the Slam Bradley story in that I was able to take it more seriously and I thought it had a pretty good atmosphere.

Puzzle of the Purple Pony by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino
This was the first of the comics in this collection which actually contained a mystery I was keen to see solved. In it, Elongated Man (a hero I’d honestly never heard of before) is driving through a prairie on his way to a rodeo with his wife Sue. Sue spots a man painting a horse purple and is really curious to find out what’s going on, so persuades Elongated Man to look into it. It was a fun little mystery overall and a nice step up from the first two, though I did think the man’s ultimate reason for painting the horse purple was just a bit of anticlimax.

When it Rains, God is Crying by Mindy Newell
This story really stands apart from the three which preceded it, because it is much more adult. In it, Lois Lane begins to investigate a wave of child disappearances and murders in the area, becoming almost single-minded in her desire to raise awareness for the problem and shed some light onto what’s actually going on. It’s a very gritty comic and the art by Gray Morrow does a lot to bring that to emphasise that feeling. Lois is really interestingly written here and it does an interesting job of highlighting that as much as Superman can stop the big super villains, he’s pretty powerless against issues like this.

The Doomsday Book by Mike W. Barr
This was a Detective Comics anniversary comic which told a story that included Batman, Robin, Slam Bradley, the Elongated Man and even Sherlock Holmes. Slam is now a much more interesting character who’s become disillusioned with things after Shorty’s death, which made me like the character more than in the earlier story. I was also pretty pleased with the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, who I felt was very true to his source material. The story starts in Gotham with Slam Bradley, but the action switches to London and we get flash backs from one hundred years ago. It’s a great example of comics doing what they do best, and I loved it. There’s a particularly appealing surprise at the end of the story too. My favourite in the collection.

Mikado by Dennis O’Neil
Another of the very dark and gritty stories, this one features The Question (a mysterious, faceless man) investigating a string of unusual murders. I’d never have seen the ending coming and I actually thought that the killer and their motives were very interesting. The Question himself is a great character too and though this is my first exposure to him, I certainly finished reading it feeling hungry for more.

The Origins of Detective Chimp
Curiously, nobody is credited with having written this story, so I don’t have any names to put down. Anyway, I’d heard about Detective Chimp long ago and always been very amused by the concept. This is my first time reading a story about him and it’s easily the silliest thing in this collection, but I have to say that I found it quite enjoyable, even if it was a little on the short side.

Parallel Lines
Another story that doesn’t credit the author. It features a young boy who comes to Wayne manor and already seems to know all about Bruce Wayne being Batman and Dick Grayson being the original Robin. Dick and Alfred question him, fearing trouble, but ultimately, things work out in quite a touching sort of way.

All in all, I’m really glad I decided to buy this anthology. It’s a nice look at various different threads within the DC multiverse and I liked reading every one of them. If you’re a fan of DC, I strong recommend giving this a try.

Rating: 8.3/10

Buy here.

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