To celebrate 75 years of Batman, Detective Comics #27 has been super-sized as a giant anniversary issue featuring a collection of short stories by a roster of all-star creators. Here’s what I thought about it.
Batman: Black and White is $4.99 and doesn’t feature any ads so I was expecting the same treatment for this mega-sized and highly priced issue of Detective. Seriously, $7.99 should buy me the right to not have to look at another “boylicious” ad for CW’s “Arrow.”
I Do It The Case of the Chemical Syndicate
This is a modern retelling of the original Detective Comics #27 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and YES Bill Finger is actually credited, which is great. It’s written by Brad Meltzer with art by Bryan Hitch and colors by David Baron. Metlzer does a fantastic job of recreating the original story for today’s audience, but the overuse of the phrase “I do it” was incredibly grating. I’d love for this story to be reprinted, but with 90% of Batman’s “Journal Entries” taken out. Repeating a word or phrase in a speech for added emphasis is a tactic that can work wonders when used properly but here it just became annoying and it distracted me from an otherwise stellar homage. I did find it somewhat odd though that the creators didn’t try to blend the classic story with the all-new Zero Year take on Batman’s origin. Artist Bryan Hitch, who did a wonderful job of illustrating the story, draws a Batman that’s sort of a fusion of designs like Finch’s Batman Incorporated, Lee’s New 52, and the blue of Neal Adams’ Batman (the trunks are back!). I came into it expecting the purple gloves of Capullo’s proto-Batman, but that just wasn’t the case. So I think it can be assumed that this tale takes place outside of New 52 continuity, especially when you consider how it ends!
“Old School” is without a doubt the best comic by Gregg Hurwitz that I’ve ever read. Hurwitz and the legendary Neal Adams teamed up on a short story that illustrates the full evolution of Batman to the character we know today. It’s a really amazing, post-modern piece that showcases Hurwitz, Adams and colorist John Kalisz’s versatility as we watch Batman and the Boy Wonder chase The Penguin and a cast of other classic villains from the 1930s to now. This is a comic I’ll re-read several more times this week just to pick apart every little detail because these guys really captured the look and feel of multiple eras through dialogue, prose, color, sound effects, and more. “Old School” features an incredible level of imagination and love for the material.
What starts out as a cute look ahead to old Bruce’s 75th birthday (Get it? It’s the 75th anniversary!) where a private party populated by Barbara, Damian, Dick, Tim, and a decrepit Alfred (and curiously no Jason Todd) quickly turns into an homage to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. This story by Peter J. Tomasi and Ian Bertram really put a smile on my face. Bertram’s artwork had a Moebius/Quitely quality to it that gave “Better Days” a nice atmosphere and and lively, almost cartoony characters.
Rain (or Hero? It says “Hero” in the table of contents)
Brilliantly drawn and colored but much too short, this brief tale that takes place “Five Years Ago” (even though that really doesn’t add up, but whatever) will only hit home for those who have read Scott Snyder’s “The Black Mirror” while the uninitiated will be left scratching their heads. I love Francesco Francavilla but this 4 page story that only served to nod to a a graphic novel from 4 years ago really felt out of place in this celebration of 75 years of Batman.
“The Sacrifice” by Mike Barr and Guillem March has a great deal in common with the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Perchance to Dream” only instead of witnessing the life he could have had via an illusion, Bruce is taken on a spiritual journey led by The Phantom Stranger. Frankly it’s too heavy and complex of a concept to be told in just 5 pages. I think Barr and March have something good here and they could’ve really set their vision apart from what we saw on BTAS, but this wasn’t the venue for it. There just aren’t enough pages to make it meet its full potential.
The one story that actually counts as being a part of the New 52 continuity and will actually influence other Bat-titles in a month-long event. This story by Detective Comics‘ current creative team of John Layman and Jason Fabok kicks off a 3-part arc that, much like “The Sacrifice” and “Perchance to Dream,” presents an alternate reality in which Bruce is happy. However, instead of seeing a world in which he never was Batman, we see him as a Batman who is apparently winning the war on crime. He’s a White Knight who fights alongside his partner and lover “Catbird” (there are a lot of weird character names) in the daylight rather than the night, he walks through a Garden on the Wayne Manor grounds to help him think, the mayor is Oswald Cobblepot, etc. etc. The story is loaded with hidden Easter eggs hinting at what other popular characters have become in this twisted illusion and it shapes up to be a fairly enthralling mystery that I’m eager to watch unfold. Unlike the other stories featured in issue #27, “Gothtopia” is the length of a typical episode of Detective Comics. Jason Fabok’s artwork is terrific as usual and it was really fascinating to see all the different Elseworld designs and Tomeu Morey’s far more bright color palette. The binding did get a little tight during this story though and one character in the closing two-page spread almost vanished entirely into the spine of the book!
I think my exact words after finishing it were, “Well, that was ****in’ cool.” Here is a sci-fi take on the Dark Knight that goes even further beyond Batman Beyond. I can’t think of another short story that’s left me wanting more as badly as this one and the trouble is that I can’t really explain the concept to you because learning what exactly is going on in this futuristic tale is pretty much half the fun. Written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Sean Murphy (Go read his book Punk Rock Jesus, immediately) with colors by Matt Hollingsworth, Twenty-Seven is an incredibly awesome Elseworlds story that sets up a world that I think Batman fans will want to see more of as soon as possible.
In addition to all of these different stories you’ll also find several pages of pin-up artwork by Pat Gleason, Jock, Mike Allred, and more.
- You have $8 bucks and love Batman. I’m giving it a 10/10 so I’m obviously recommending it to everybody
I had a number nitpicks here and there and there were some stories that didn’t quite seem to fit, but by the end there was just way too much good not to give it anything less than the highest score I have. The re-read value on this comic is incredibly high and I think this is something that every Batman fan should pick up. It offers a lot of material worth discussing.