DC went back to its roots a few months ago by publishing a ten-cent Batman comic as a promotional experiment. Strictly speaking, the buying power of a 1938 dime was comparatively much greater than that of a 2002 dime, which makes this experiment all the more impressive. DC presumably took a big hit on the financial side to make this happen (one also wonders about negotiations aimed at compensating the creative folks involved for lost royalties), but it was great to read accounts of retailers buying truckloads of the thing to give away as promotional freebies. I hope that this turns out to have worked well for all concerned.
It's certainly made an impression with DC's competition. Marvel tried to snag a bit of the spotlight on the heels of DC's efforts by announcing a nine-cent Fantastic Four book. It's funny, actually, how Marvel's current prez and editor-in-chief keep trying to make noise by insulting DC's business decisions, only to turn around and emulate them seemingly at every turn. Their 'things to do' list to revive Marvel read more like a laundry list of DC's accomplishments, not the least of which has been the significant success of DC's hardcover and trade paperback lines.
The ten-cent Batman book launched an extended storyline called 'Bruce Wayne: Murderer', in which Batman's alter ego finds himself accused of murdering a girlfriend and imprisoned pending a trial. I had fairly high hopes for this; DC seemed to tout this as a real whodunnit, but having read the twelve chapters, it's been more of a character effort so far, focusing primarily on the reactions of the supporting Batman cast to the arrest and incarceration. The next phase of the story is 'Bruce Wayne: Fugitive'; my hope is that the 'Murderer' phase will have served, in retrospect, as simply the establishment part of the story, with the larger proportion of the plot development (and detective work!) still to come.
There are classic crime noir elements feeding this. The 'innocent man fleeing persecution while searching for the true culprit' is a familiar theme in crime fiction and cinema. Blending this with the super-hero/secret identity element, with the specific psychological dimensions of the Batman character, is a nicely inspired move. I really think that this could be a remarkable achievement in storytelling for DC this year. Thinking ahead a bit, if the Batman Year One feature (based on the story by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli some years back) turns out to be a success, this Murderer/Fugitive/etc. story could make a ready transition to the big screen as well.
As for the real culprit behind the crime for which Bruce has been accused, I think I've got it sussed out. I'm not going to say anything here, for fear of ruining things if it turns out that I'm right, but there are some familiar patterns in the story being told that feel significant. Once the whole thing is over, I'll tag an addendum onto the bottom of the page in which I will either gloat or suck it up and admit to being wrong.
(Hopefully, it will be the former; I got a nice bit of practice gloating on the weekend over the Team Canada win during the gold medal hockey match. With glowing hearts we see thee rise...!)
Addendum: I was wrong. It wasn't Hugo Strange.