THIS REVIEW OF ‘DETECTIVE COMICS’ #1000 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Brendan Hodgdon. The Dark Knight Detective. The Caped Crusader. Scion of a family of crimefighters. Orphaned son of privilege. Symbol of fear to the superstitious and cowardly. Tragic figure of inspiration.
For 80 years, Bruce Wayne and his fearsome alter-ego have been a central figure in comics. Many all-time great storytellers have passed between the covers of his books, and he has remained a perpetual pop culture presence in every form of media imaginable. Batman has taken many forms over the years, tailored for many different audiences and moments. To properly pay tribute to his titanic legacy, all stops had to be pulled out, and that’s exactly what editors Chris Conroy and Dave Wielgosz accomplished with this week’s landmark Detective Comics #1000.
One of the more exciting components of this anthology is its cross-generational creative pairings. In “Return to Crime Alley” we see the legendary Dennis O’Neill working with Steve Epting, a match so perfect I can’t believe it never occurred to me before and that I would love to see again. In “Heretic”, the iconic Neal Adams illustrates a story by Christopher Priest, and in “The Last Crime in Gotham” Geoff Johns works with Kelley Jones in a very uncommon blend of style and script. While these three stories are the most one-note and simple compared to the rest, seeing these unique blends of styles applied to the world of Batman is a real treat for any student of comics.
Many of the other stories run the gamut in tone and style, and examine many different facets of Batman’s life and world. Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen’s “The Legend of Knute Brody” is a fun examination Gotham’s unique underworld, and in form and style feels like a great homage to Batman: The Animated Series (Steve Wands’ letters really help sell the documentary-style approach here). Kevin Smith and Jim Lee’s “Manufacture for Use” highlights an under-discussed element of Bruce’s tragic origin—the gun that killed his parents—and turns it into something cathartic and moving.
Meanwhile, both the Warren Ellis/Becky Cloonan “The Batman’s Design” and the Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev “I Know” are effective mood pieces, celebrating Batman’s cunning and guile and providing great arguments for both these creative teams leading Bat-books of their own in the future. Ellis & Cloonan dig through Bruce’s meticulousness to find the gothic pain underneath, while Bendis & Maleev use Penguin to highlight the importance of Bruce Wayne as part of Batman. Both are great, stylish character studies in classic Batman fashion.
But for my money, the three best stories of the book come from the most recent caretakers of The Bat, and while that might be a generational preference it’s hard to deny the quality of their work here. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “The Longest Case” celebrates Batman’s detective side, and acknowledges Detective Comics’ pre-Batman history along the way. In Tom King, Tony S. Daniel and Joëlle Jones’ “Batman’s Greatest Case”, we get a lighthearted and engaging examination of the Bat-family and what they mean to Bruce. In “The Precedent”, the recent Detective Comics team of James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez Bueno depict the critical moment where Bruce decided to allow Dick Grayson to become his sidekick, and we see how important they both were to each other, and to all the other family members that were to follow. These three stories are the most heartfelt and intimate, and this cadre of collaborators—rightfully known as all-time great Batman creatives—do well to highlight the positive, affirmational components of Batman’s character.
There is one more story in Detective Comics #1000 which comes at the very end of the book, and it is by far the most odd and at the moment the most immediately relevant. In “Medieval”, by the current Detective Comics creative team of Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke, the video game character Arkham Knight is introduced to the DC Universe proper as he narrates a montage of Batman’s crimefighting exploits. The Knight seems to view Batman as a menace, an absolute enforcer of order who forgoes the necessary empathy and rehabilitation Gotham’s rogues need in favor of fascistic violence. While this is far from a new perspective regarding Batman’s methods, having this as the closing thematic note of a celebratory anniversary anthology is a… choice, to say the least. And it does always worry me when villains are given what are nominally “woke” world views, as it makes me wonder what the story will say about their viewpoint. It’s still a well-constructed story, and it does effectively tease the upcoming arc in the title, but it does feel a bit off as part of Batman’s birthday.
After last year’s quality celebration of Superman’s legacy with Action Comics #1000, the pressure was on for Batman’s to be just as good. Thankfully Detective Comics #1000 has very much lived up to that example and provided a worthy testament to Batman’s significance. This army of superstars has spun some lovely yarns about Gotham’s protector, unafraid to acknowledge the tragedy and pain of Bruce’s life but also eager to celebrate what makes him and his family special. It’s as good a birthday card as Batman could have asked for. Here’s to many more in the years ahead.
DC / $9.99
Written by Scott Snyder, Kevin Smith, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Dennis O’Neil, Christopher Priest, Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, James Tynion IV, Tom King, Peter J. Tomasi.
Art by Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Becky Cloonan, Steve Epting, Neal Adams, Alex Maleev, Kelley Jones, Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Tony S. Daniel, Joëlle Jones, Doug Mahnke.
Inks by Jonathan Glapion, Scott Williams, Derek Fridolfs, Raul Fernandez, Jaime Mendoza.
Colors by FCO Plascencia, Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz, Jordie Bellaire, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Dave Stewart, Michelle Madsen, Brad Anderson, Tomeu Morey, David Baron.
Letters by Tom Napolitano, Todd Klein, Steve Wands, Simon Bowland, Andworld Design, Willie Schubert, Josh Reed, Rob Leigh, Sal Cipriano, Clayton Cowles.
8.5 out of 10
Check out this 11-page preview of ‘Detective Comics’ #1000, courtesy of DC!