Over in the Retcons That Made You Go… “Huh?!” thread, there was a discussion about poorly-received superhero murder mysteries, and many of their equally poorly-received retcons. I want to ask the opposite question. What were some GOOD murder mysteries in superhero comics?
Oooh excellent question! This one is a little random but I really liked the identity of Hush Beyond over in the Batman Beyond mini-series. It’s no secret I didn’t like the original Hush story, so when I heard Batman Beyond would be doing their own version, you couldn’t stop my eyes from rolling. To my surprise, it turned out to be really good. It wasn’t just the reveal of who this new Hush was, but it was his motivation that really stuck the landing for me, because it tied into something previously established.
Some mysteries try to go for the big reveal, which is fine but what do you do after that? You have to explain why this person did what they did and I feel a lot of writers aren’t interested in that. They just want to go for the big surprise.
So when you have good mysteries with good reveals and good motivations, that’s something to celebrate.
Again, great topic!
I remember reading that story and really liking it, but I haven’t gone back to it in awhile. It was Dick Grayson under the mask, right?
Something to that effect, yes
Among others, I’m particularly fond of:
-Batman: The Long Halloween
-Superman: The Animated Series S2, E22: “The Late Mr. Kent”
I feel gross in the obviousness of my answer, but…
Well, yes. That one is pretty unassailably great.
There are disappointingly few classical, fair-play-style whodunnits to choose from, so it sort of begs the question of what constitutes a mystery. For example, The Return of Barry Allen from Mark Waid’s Flash run is mysterious at first and has a great reveal, but it’s not like you could really figure it out ahead of time.
One that I think does a good job of being a mystery (and people will argue with me on this but I think I can defend it better than I can defend Hush) is Batman: The Long Halloween - it doesn’t even give you the answer; you have to puzzle it out for yourself. Some people insist there is no answer or that we’re meant to take one of the reveals at face value, but I don’t think either of those is entirely true.
Denny O’Neil did a few really good one-off mysteries in his original Batbook stuff from the '70s, complete with the Ellery Queen-style “Can you guess the answer?” moment.
But honestly, I’d be interested in some recommendations myself.
There was some mystery-adjacent stuff in the Marc Andreyko Manhunter series that was really good. Batman and Robin Eternal was enjoyable, if flawed. The best recent example I can think of was Event Leviathan, but while that’s certainly a whodunnit, it’s no The Big Sleep in terms of its construction. Gotham Central, similar to Manhunter, is sort of mystery-adjacent for most of its run, but the second arc is a solid page-turner that keeps you guessing. Those are the examples I can think of off the top of my head. As @superby1 mentioned, Hush Beyond was (if my memory serves me rightly) entertaining, but that’s pretty much everything I can think of right now.
Oh, and, it isn’t on the app, but Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers is pretty solid for the first six arcs or so.
I think of the original Denny O’Neil Question run.
Batman 291-294 “Where were you the night Batman was killed?”
A couple more random thoughts:
New Teen Titans (1980-) #38: Who is Donna Troy? - Donna’s good origin, and a rare example of NTT actually being as good as it’s made out to be.
Wonder Woman (1987-) #20: Who Killed Myndi Mayer? - Great, underrated issue from the incredible George Perez run.
Detective Comics (1937-) #651: A Bullet for Bullock - Basis for the BTAS episode by the same title, but it’s been so long since I’ve watched it that I can’t remember if it’s as good as the comic. I think they have essentially the same plot, though.
Now, I must preface this with the caveat that I hate every single Bat-Family crossover from the 2000s, but my problem with Bruce Wayne: Murderer?/Fugitive (which is the one that I find least intolerable, by a slim margin) is not with the mystery, which is fairly well-executed. It’s with the fact that the entire plot hinges on Bruce being a moron. And admittedly, the mystery would be resolved a lot faster if he weren’t a moron, but still.
DC Countdown (aka Countdown To Infinite Crisis #1) packs a hell of a mystery story into one issue.
Many of the Elongated Man backup stories in the 1960s Detective Comics issues were actual mysteries and not merely action stories with the pretense of a mystery.
Detective Comics #500
Slam Bradley, Human Target, Roy Raymond TV Detective, Jason Bard, Pow-Wow Smith, and Mysto, Magician Detective get together to solve the murder of a fellow retiring detective.
Seconded on Detective 500. Pretty much the only comic book mystery I know of that would have completely fit in “regular” detective fiction.
@Batwing52: Check out late Silver and early Bronze Age runs of Detective Comics here on the app. Frank Robbins penned many mysteries for The Batman to solve in those books. They’re quick enjoyable reads, with plot-twists and tons of action.
Wow, this looks great. How have I never heard of this issue before?
One of my fave mystery comics was Identity Crisis & of course Watchmen.
I will second Long Halloween, and add Dark Victory to that as well.
Also, perhaps, Batman: Broken City, as well.
For a good Elseworlds take: Batman By Gaslight