Detective Comics #1027 is an anthology to celebrate that this is Batman’s 1000th appearance in this title. Seeing as this book has over 100 pages and this review turned out longer than usual, I’m going to cut this intro short and jump straight into the review proper. Let’s have a look!
The first story in the book is written by Tomasi and illustrated by Walker—the power house team that we’ve seen in recent issues of Detective Comics. Essentially, this is a story that centers around Batman’s skill as an escape artist, and mixes this with a bit of detective work. Unfortunately, neither aspect is fully fleshed out, and so it can feel like something is missing here. Furthermore, the ending scene, after Batman’s escaped, feels tacked on because I don’t think it flows well from the scenes that came before. The majority of the story is spent reflecting on various rogues and death traps, so the sudden switch to Batman confronting someone doesn’t work out so well. Without giving anything away, the conclusion just doesn’t connect very well to the previous passages.
The art is very good, though. Walker draws fantastic homages to old character designs, as well as creative page layouts that are sure to draw attention. Even though most panels are like stills from Batman’s past, they are also very dynamic because everything is always in motion. We see Batman constantly trying to escape a different kind of trap and, combined with the many different costumes of both Batman and the villains, it’s just a really fun comic strip. There isn’t that much to the story, but the visuals more than make up for that.
“THE MASTER CLASS”
I didn’t enjoy this story, but that’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate any of the ideas here. This story is about the Bat family and how they come together to solve a murder mystery. This is the kind of story idea that has been on my mind for a while. I’ve always wanted to see Batman and the others working a crime scene, with Batman acting as a kind of supervisor and mentor, while the others learn from the experience. However, while the ideas here are solid, the execution is lacking. First of all, the deduction and crime-solving aspects almost immediately begin to drag and are boring to read. An attempt is made to spice things up with humor, but this falls flat for me as well because half the time these characters sound exactly the same (which makes this a monotone read), and half the time characters just say things that are sort of related to the task at hand, but really they just say things for the sake of saying things. It’s okay to have characters be silent sometimes; there’s absolutely no need to have them talk almost every panel, especially not when they don’t actually have anything to say. As such, the dialogue is clunky and I don’t enjoy reading it.
I do like that there is a positive message at the end, when Batman tells the team that he thinks they’re all great detectives. This moment would’ve been truly uplifting had the story’s execution been more solid, because, after having seen the bats just kind of beat around the bush until they finally draw their conclusions, I am not convinced that they indeed are great detectives within the context of this story. The ending, while nice, feels unearned.
The artwork is quite good, and especially the coloring is a real treat. There are so many different colors on the page—from red to blue to purple to yellow, etc—but never does it feel like those colors don’t match. The character poses, facial expressions and compositions give the comic a lot of character, too. Seeing the Bat family interact like this and appearing in the same panels is a real treat, even when the writing is very lackluster.
“MANY HAPPY RETURNS”
This is the first story in the collection that I think succeeds on all fronts. It hits various emotional beats: it starts out very mysterious, but once the story picks up and gains momentum, it gets really engaging. There’s even a comedic moment when Batman yells at the villain to give him his birthday present—the situation is very serious and it’s a very angry Batman who is trying to save the city, but there is great comedic timing here as well. That kind of balance is not an easy thing to pull off.
The artwork is fantastic. There are so many creative panels here; for example, Batman diving into the water to save the Teen Titans, or Batman fighting a jokerized gorilla while Joker rides a jokerized elephant in the background. The art is also very dynamic: there is action throughout the entire story, in the form of martial arts, fast cars, explosions, etc. And yet, while this story seems bombastic and relatively big in scope at first, it ends on a rather personal and poignant note, which is expressed beautifully by the final panel.
“Rookie” is unique in the sense that Batman doesn’t make a big appearance here. While Batman’s presence can be felt throughout, this story is really about a young woman who joins the GCPD and then has to deal with corruption and other forms of crime. The story is entirely narrated by said woman, and there is no dialogue between characters. At first I thought the narration was somewhat dull because it boiled down to a summing up of facts, but quickly the character-driven nature as well as the commentary on Gotham City became compelling as the protagonist got into more and more trouble.
I like that there isn’t any dialogue. The art mainly tells the story by showing the actions of various characters—be it anger, frustration, fear, or even satisfaction. The narration complements the art well because it ties the images, events and story beats together on a thematic level. What’s also refreshing is that this is a story that shows Gotham and Batman through the eyes of someone who actually lives in the city. The main character as a rookie cop is a good vehicle to explore this. See, in my opinion there just aren’t enough stories about regular people in Gotham—whether they’re police officers, fire department, doctors or other citizens who try to get by. When there is too much focus on the larger-than-life superheroics, the things that make Gotham look and feel like an actual lived-in city are often left by the wayside, whereas all these elements are necessary to keep a superhero comic grounded. I think Batman stories work best when they are grounded. “Rookie” is a good reminder that there’s still a place for these smaller stories in comics.
I haven’t been enjoying Tynion’s Batman work at all, so I was surprised to find that I did enjoy this short story. Don’t get me wrong, I still have many of the same complaints. I think that this is still rather melodramatic, which makes the story a little bit hokey at times. But I do like how Tynion writes Deadman. This is the type of character that doesn’t take himself too seriously and cracks a joke every once in a while and gets to do outrageous things like possessing other people. Reading this, I feel like Tynion had a lot of fun writing Deadman, and it honestly makes for stronger characterization. I also enjoy that this story addresses death and losing loved ones and tries to send an uplifting message about that.
What I don’t like as much, however, is the artwork. For one thing, I wonder why Batman’s eyes are so large. Rossmo used to draw them much smaller, which fit the character design much better. These large eyes just look weird on the character, because the proportions are completely off. I guess that Rossmo wants to include more cartoony and exaggerated elements in his artwork, but to me it just looks messy and all-over-the-place, whereas his artwork used to look a lot cleaner in the past. As it stands, I find this stuff rather off-putting and since the art is arguably the most important part of a comic book, I don’t think I can recommend this story by itself.
I have never been a fan of Romita Jr, but I have to admit that some of the panels in this story are incredibly dynamic. There’s pouring rain, shattering glass, and some cool Bat-action (even though some of the action can be a bit dull since it’s mostly Batman’s hand grabbing someone’s shirt, badge, or hitting someone square in the kisser). I also enjoy the contrast between the Bruce and Batman scenes: here Batman is mostly a tool for Bruce to get the information he needs to take down a crime boss, but it’s Bruce who finally corners the crime boss and has Gordon come in to arrest him. That said, I don’t feel like I’m reading something that’s really interesting or exciting. It’s not a bad story at all, but it’s very much meat-and-potatoes: nothing that I’ve never seen before.
Lupacchino is an amazing artist: she draws solid characters, designs great page layouts that are easy to follow and yet dynamic and engaging, and her backgrounds are detailed and interesting. Her work is enhanced by Bellaire’s beautiful colors—they’re somewhat muted and cold, but very fitting for a story that centers around the ocean and a group of divers. Sienkiewicz’s inks holds the art together well, and his blacks and shadows blend nicely with Bellaire’s palette.
The story isn’t entirely my cup of tea, though. I do enjoy the idea of an underwater podcast (yes, that actually happens here), but everything else consists of mostly typical action and adventure beats that just aren’t that exciting or engaging to me. This would’ve been fine if I had been given enough reasons to care about the characters or the flashbacks or the stolen artworks, but I think that this is where this story’s greatest shortcoming lies: everything seems so superficial. On top of that, the story ends rather abruptly and ends up feeling like the setup for an adventure story, rather than the adventure itself.
This is a surprisingly original story. It’s about a guy who wants to become a crime fighter, but his ambitions are challenged every step of the way, even by Batman himself, to a point that he decides to give up this vigilante stuff. Morrison writes strong prose and manages to infuse the serious narration with humor in quite subtle ways. What’s particularly good about this story is that Morrison takes the time to introduce you to this character and to show exactly what drives him to become the Silver Ghost. Even though this is a short story, it feels longer because of Morrison’s economical writing.
Burnham is doing a fine job as well, of course. He draws shady characters in hazy bars, shady characters on rooftops, fantastic costumes, and a great rendition of Batman in his very first suit from the original Detective Comics #27. My only complaint here is that his inking is sometimes rather thick and a little smudgy, so some of the panels end up looking slightly messy. Everything else, from the action to the sequence of panels and character designs, is top tier.
“Legacy” is a bit of an emotional story. It talks about cancer and death and losing loved ones, which are heavy themes. However, I don’t think these things are as impactful as they could’ve been because ultimately this story ends up being about a fight between Batman and Dr. Phosphorus. Through this fight, and a dialogue between Batman and Dr. Phosphorus, themes such as selflessness, selfishness, hate and heroism are explored, but I can’t help but feel like this story is trying to be deeper than it actually is. In that sense, it can come off as somewhat pretentious, even though I appreciate that it talks about death and grief, as these are topics that are typically avoided by a lot of people.
The artwork is mostly good, and the sequence of panels creates a dynamic spectacle. However, the character designs look a little bit wonky and I find the colors to be rather flat. This makes the art less impactful than it could have been—especially since this is basically a fight comic.
When I reached this story I had forgotten who wrote it, until I actually started reading and instantly recognized Snyder’s writing style. Whether you enjoy Snyder’s work or not, the fact that he has such a distinct style that I can recognize him among all these other writers is quite impressive. The story itself is pretty good: it’s told from the perspective of Jim Gordon, who works with Batman to solve a case. When the case goes cosmic, Gordon is left behind in Gotham, wondering how Batman and the Justice League are handling things. However, I do wonder why Gordon sometimes comes across as if he has no idea what it’s like to be among the League when he was Batman in Snyder’s own “Superheavy” storyline and has met the League. This is a just a tiny nitpick, but it does make me wonder where this story takes place in continuity (if at all).
Reis’ artwork is—as is to be expected—beautiful. There are fun homages to older comics, and we are treated to Reis’ trademark splash pages that show the League in full force, ready to save the universe. There is not a lot in terms of sequential art here, but every page screams adventure, and the art and narration complement each other nicely. Batman and Gordon’s partnership is a central theme in this story, and this theme is fleshed out well. All in all, it’s a fun story, and well worth a read.
I don’t enjoy this one at all. When I started reading it, I got bored fast until the timeline started to fracture and this story took quite a turn. I thought it was an engaging and fun twist until I realized that, of course, this is really just an ad-disguised-as-a-comic for the upcoming Generations: Future State book. It really just reads like a teaser or a setup, and as such this story remains completely mysterious and vague and doesn’t go anywhere. I feel no incentive to go and pick up Generations, so this entire short story feels like a bit of a waste of time to me. The art is cool, especially when the timeline fractures and Batman turns into First Appearance Batman, but this just doesn’t work as a standalone. I don’t mind when stories tease other stories, but when this is their sole purpose I just don’t care. Moreover, seeing as it’s purely mystery and there is little to no information here, it’s really hard to tell if this is a story that I want to read in full.
And the final story in this collection is another ad-disguised-as-a-comic, except this one advertizes “Joker War,” an event that I’m sick and tired of at this stage. Not only that, but it’s also advertizing the upcoming “Black Casebook” arc in Detective Comics. I tend to feel kind of cheated when I reach the end of a story and it turns out to be a setup for something else. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but I don’t think that this is an exception. This is not the fault of the creative team, though, because both Tamaki and Mora are doing fantastic work. The writing and scripting is beautiful and delves into both Bruce’s psychology and the consequences of the Joker War, as well as the effects that the war is having on Gotham City—this is all very good stuff. Mora’s art is very detailed, moody, sometimes colorful, and just fits the aesthetic of Gotham City so well that I wish DC would hire him to draw an entire arc on Detective Comics rather than just the occasional short story. I appreciate what the creators are doing, but I dislike DC’s insistence on building to the next big thing rather than focusing on good stories with good endings.
- You love anthology books!
- You enjoy reading all these different takes on Batman and Gotham!
- You want some real bang for your buck!
Overall: For the most part I think this is a fun collection. It costs about 10 dollars, but it has over 100 pages of Batman content, and most of it is well worth a read if you are into this type of stuff. The writing and art is mostly on point, save for the occasional dud. Recommended!
Total score: 7.5/10
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.