Ricky Church reviews Detective Comics #1000…
After 80 years, Batman has finally reached the milestone issue Detective Comics #1000, only the second publication in history to do so after Superman in last year’s Action Comics #1000. Much like that aforementioned issue, Detective Comics #1000 is a celebration of the Dark Knight and his adventures, examining why he’s remained such a prevalent figure in pop culture for eight decades and all the different aspects of his character from his intelligence, compassion, family and even the deeper levels of aggression he sometimes reaches. Any fan of the Bat will enjoy the deep dive into Batman’s history as a rich collection of writers and artists take turns telling their individual stories of the world’s greatest detective.
Most of the stories included in the issue are pretty great and cut to the core of who Batman is as well as what’s driven him for all these years. From the likes of current writers like Scott Snyder, Tom King and Peter Tomasi to legends such as Denny O’Neil, Paul Dini and Kevin Smith, Detective Comics #1000 is packed with a huge amount of love for Batman, his family and the city he protects. Beginning with ‘Batman’s Longest Case’ from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the pair delve into a mystery Batman has been on almost since the beginning of his career as a crimefighter. It speaks to how much of a detective Batman is as he follows a trail of breadcrumbs to what is possibly his greatest mystery ever only to be subverted by the use of many other of DC’s famous detectives, from Martian Manhunter, Detective Chimp and even Slam Bradley.
Kevin Smith and superstar artist Jim Lee arguably deliver the strongest tale of the book with ‘Manufactured for Use’. Not only does it see the return of Batman’s famous undercover alter-ego Matches Malone (as well as Batman’s classic yellow oval logo), but it follows him as he visits an underground ‘gift shop’ of many confiscated weapons from Batman’s various foes. The real draw for Batman, though, is a much more practical and deadly weapon deeply personal to him: Joe Chill’s gun, the instrument of his parent’s murder. It’s a bit perverse to think Batman just wants to add it with the giant Joker card or T-Rex as part of his collection, but Smith twists the intent in a pretty ingenious move that places an emotional significance on the yellow oval’s purpose as a target for his attackers. It goes without saying Lee’s art is pretty fantastic throughout this story as he depicts Batman against many of his rogues gallery and their habit of going for that oval, making it’s real purpose all the more impactful with Smith’s final reveal.
The only story that could possibly top Smith’s is Paul Dini’s, the creator of the classic Batman: The Animated Series. Taking a bit of a break from Batman’s usual gloom and doom, Dini writes up a fairly entertaining and comedic tale in ‘The Legend of Knute Brody’, a low-level henchman who has worked for so many of Gotham’s villains yet is so hapless he has always foiled their plans by pure accident and foolishness. Dini writes the humour very well, making it still fit within the world of Gotham City, and the reveal of who Knute Brody is is a pretty classic Batman move. Dustin Nguyen’s artwork fits Dini’s style perfectly with his animated detail on the villain’s looks and frustrations due to Brody’s failures.
Aside from being known as the world’s greatest detective, ‘The Batman’s Design’ from Warren Ellis focuses on another big characteristic to Batman: his ability to prepare for virtually any outcome. Ellis’ story follows Batman as he chases down a group of thugs and lures them to a warehouse rigged with his own traps. It’s almost taking a page out of the Saw films as Batman uses non-lethal, but still pretty brutal, traps to take most of them out. Becky Cloonan displays some nice choreography as each gunman is taken down, whether by one of the traps or personally by Batman, and gives a good atmosphere to the way he stalks them in the warehouse. Jordie Bellaire’s colours enhance the story through her bright explosions or dark smoke as Batman drifts through it. It’s a memorable story as it focuses on Batman as a tactician with great art to boot.
Legendary writer Denny O’Neil pens ‘Return to Crime Alley’, which, as he told us in our interview, is a semi-sequel to his classic ‘There’s No Hope in Crime Alley’. Much like that story, Batman and Leslie Thompkins meet to pay respects to Thomas and Martha Wayne at the place they were shot, but run into some trouble as a group of young teenagers and kids decide to mug them. The story focuses more on Leslie’s point of view as she reflects on the ways Bruce could have used his wealth to better Gotham in a normal healthy way instead of turning to so much violence. O’Neil uses her to examine just how much Bruce might enjoy being Batman as a means to beat up on criminals instead of affecting any real positive change on himself or the city, pulling him back at the last second from being fairly brutal to one misguided boy. Steve Epting’s art is pretty atmospheric, particularly one page of Batman overlooking the murders that created him.
Other great stories in the collection come from Brian Michael Bendis, James Tynion IV and Peter Tomasi. Bendis’ ‘I Know’ looks at a possible future where an elderly Penguin visits an elderly Bruce Wayne to gloat how he’s known his true identity for a long time, but kept it to himself just to spite Batman at the right moment. Tynion, meanwhile, examines one of the biggest questions some people ask about Batman: why does he, of all people, need a sidekick, let alone one that is a child? ‘The Precedent’ examines just how and why Bruce took Dick Grayson in and even went so far as to train him in a nice, emotional story that highlights just how important Batman & Robin are together. Tomasi uses his short story to build up his current run on Detective Comics and introduce the Arkham Knight into the main comic continuity. The perspective of the issue comes from the Knight as he details all the reasons, some of which may or may not be misguided, as to why Batman is the biggest villain in Gotham. It’s a good story, but it’s a little too similar in structure to his short in Action Comics #1000 where one character monologues over several full-page images of the hero fighting one of his many villains. Despite that, though, it is still a solid build up to what Tomasi has planned going forward.
Detective Comics #1000 also features stories from Christopher Priest, Geoff Johns and Tom King. While a couple of them are interesting, particularly Johns’ imagining of the Bat-family’s last case with Kelly Jones on art, they don’t quite land the same kind of emotional impact or pathos as the others. King’s story in particular stands out as he conveys Batman’s feelings of happiness, however small, at the makeshift family he’s cultivated over the years, but King’s usual tendency to utilize so much dialogue, much of which is in boxes overlaying a completely different image, is too confusing to follow as you’re never sure whose actually talking throughout most of the story. Despite that, the art from Tony Daniel and Joelle Jones in ‘Batman’s Greatest Case’ is pretty solid.
Detective Comics #1000 is a great celebration of Batman and how he has persisted throughout the years as one of the best superheroes in the world. The vast collection of writers and artists makes the $9.99 price tag more than worth it as they each tap into a different aspect of Batman’s power and skills. There’s something in here for every Batman fan, from those looking for more lighthearted fare in ‘The Legend of Knute Brody’ or ‘The Precedent’ to a darker, deeper examination of Batman in ‘Manufactured for Use’ or ‘Return to Crime Alley’. Any Batman fan will be happy with the love and respect that is poured into this book for one of the best pop culture figures of our time.