Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best of the Decade #8

A common story structure is to introduce a complication early in a story, then to resolve it at the end. Superhero stories tend overwhelmingly to have happy endings. Detective #826's "Slayride" adhered to that general structure, but it had a middle that was uncommonly horrifying. When Tim Drake, the current Robin, is in trouble one night and flags a ride, he has the poor luck of riding shotgun with the Joker. Writer Paul Dini racheted up the dissonance by setting the story during Christmas.

The psychological aspect of the story starts with the fact that the narration places us in Tim Drake's thoughts. The genius of the scene is that it begs us to hope for some mercy -- the Joker claims at first that he will play by some rules, according to a code of honor. Then, with a number of murders and revelations of yet more, he pulls that hope away sharply. It works as well as ever a scene that I've read has in putting the reader's sympathy into the role of the victim of a supervillain, and in facing his cold wrath. Inevitably, Tim escapes, but not before we ourselves felt hope recede multiple times. Unmistakably, this comic is to be remembered not first and foremost for the heroism of the hero but for the look we get into the eye of villainy.

#7 has something in common with "Slayride". We look in the eye of pure evil and feel the pangs of the hero who faces it. But this time there's no escape.

1 comment:

  1. I read this story in a graphic novel compilation of Dini (forget the title). It was one of my favorites as well. The Joker can get overplayed with every author trying their hand, but using Tim's perspective helped this story a lot.