Detective Comics 531 (October 1983)

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One could just read this issue for the art. Alcala beautifully complements Gene Colan. He sort of brings out the lusciousness, but reigns it in just enough. Colan’s never too lush; Alcala is never reductive.

The story’s not bad, but Moench doesn’t quite sell Jason Todd, detective. He investigates, but without any finesse. The scenes where Jason’s talking to potential witnesses flop; no one would talk freely considering Jason’s suspicious behavior.

For the finish, Moench makes an incredibly odd choice–he doesn’t reveal the villain’s face. I had to reread it to make sure I wasn’t missing it.

Moench’s ambition outpaces his skill on the difficult Bruce and Jason character drama.

The Green Arrow backup has decent, if strangely constrained art from Jerome Moore and Mike DeCarlo. Joey Cavalieri makes a funny Superman peanut butter joke. It’s nowhere near as bad as usual.

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Batman 364 (October 1983)

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In hindsight, there’s not much mystery to Doug Moench’s new villain. He has a limited pool of suspects–though it’s seemingly larger–but his execution of the investigation is so strong it doesn’t matter.

The issue opens with Jason Todd, run off with the old circus, feeling depressed. He’s investigating a series of home invasions in the towns the circus visits. It almost seems like the issue will be his, but Moench contrives to bring Batman in. It’s hard to get upset, because Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala do an amazing job bringing Batman to the circus.

The final half or so of the issue is just a long chase scene. Batman and Jason separately chasing the bad guy. Moench loses track of Jason for a little too long, but it’s a fantastic sequence.

Moench paces out the ending well. He devises a final, unexpected twist and a solid cliffhanger.

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