REVIEW: Detective Comics #1000

DETECTIVE COMICS #1000 / Writers: Scott Snyder, Kevin Smith, Paul Dini, Warren Ellis, Denny O’Neil, Christopher Priest, Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, James Tynion IV, Tom King, Peter J. Tomasi / Artists: Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Becky Cloonan, Steve Epting, Neil Adams, Alex Maleev, Kelley Jones, Alvaro Martinez-Bueno, Tony S Daniel, Joëlle Jones, Doug Mahnke / Inkers: Jonathan Glapion, Scott Williams, Derek Fridolfs, Raul Fernandez, Jaime Mendoza, Doug Mahnke / Colourists: FCO Plascencia, Alex Sinclair, John Kalisz, Jordie Bellaire, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Dave Stewart, Alex Maleev, Michelle Madsen, Brad Anderson, Tomeu Morey, David Baron / Letterers: Tom Napolitano, Todd Klein, Steve Wands, Simon Bowland, Andworld Design, Willie Schubert, Josh Reed, Rob Leigh, Sal Cipriano, Clayton Cowles / Cover: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair / Publisher: DC Comics / Published: March 27, 2019

Reaching one thousand issues of any comic is a milestone, but when it comes to one of the most iconic and successful characters in the history of pop culture, it’s time to push the boat out. Detective Comics #1000 is a landmark comic not just because of the stories inside it, but because of what it represents – the incredible dominance of a comic book character who is still as fresh and vibrant today as he was when he first appeared in 1939.

There are few characters with the same level of cultural power as Batman. Something about a tormented billionaire whose response to the death of his parents is to dress up in a Halloween costume and beat up criminals has resonated with audiences for 80 years, and a vast number of writers, artists, and other creatives have grown and developed the character in that time. This issue features an absolute Rogues’ Gallery (pardon the pun) of those creators – all of DC’s current heavy hitters are here, as are some figures who’ve been instrumental in shaping the Dark Knight throughout his history (Denny O’Neil! Neil Adams! Kelley Jones!)

A lot of the stories in Detective Comics #1000 seek to highlight the different aspects of Batman’s character in a distinct way – as the great detective, as the broken child who overcame emotional trauma, as the analytical mastermind who can out-think any fight. One story even looks at Batman as the monster – the misguided vigilante who takes far too much enjoyment from enforcing his personal vision of justice. It’s an excellent way to show how Batman has meant so many different things to so many people over the years.

Rather than going into detail on every story in this 90-page issue, I’m going to pick out some of my favourite stories – the ones that really dig into this idea of Batman as a multifaceted character who so many people can look up to, identify with, or otherwise find interesting. Let’s get into it!

Batman’s Longest Case

(Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Greg Capullo, Inker: Jonathan Glapion, Colourist: FCO Plascencia, Letterer: Tom Napolitano)

The dream team responsible for the acclaimed New 52 run is back for this story, which delves into Batman’s skill and ability as a detective – not the world’s greatest detective, perhaps, but certainly one of them. It’s a great little tale that doesn’t touch on the action-packed side of the Dark Knight in favour of showing his tenacity and dedication to chasing down clues and piecing together mysteries.

Batman talks to Slam Bradley

Plus it has Detective Chimp, which is really all you need from any DC Comics story, right? Greg Capullo’s art is, as always, crisp and clear, and Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia both work their magic on his pencils to make the pages really sing.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

Manufacture for Use

(Writer: Kevin Smith, Artist: Jim Lee, Inker: Scott Williams, Colourist: Alex Sinclair, Letterer: Todd Klein)

Kevin Smith’s latest take on the Dark Knight zeroes in on the most recognisable part of his mythos: the Bat symbol. Tying the origin of the symbol into the event that created Batman is an intriguing idea that highlights how Batman is fundamentally a story about overcoming a traumatic event – it’s possible to argue that his parents’ death does control Bruce Wayne’s life, driving him to extreme lengths in his battle against crime, but I choose to believe that every night he puts on the cowl is another night where he faces down his memories of that night and overcomes them.

Batman shot by Onomatopeia

The parade of Batman’s Rogues hitting him square in the chest with their various weapons, only for the protective shield behind the Bat symbol to keep him safe each time – a protective shield forged from the gun that killed his parents – is powerful, and also highlights that Batman’s enduring strength and legacy comes from his sheer bloody-minded determination never to give up. Jim Lee and Scott Williams do a great job with a wide range of characters, even if they don’t quite capture the emotion of the story’s twist, and Alex Sinclair’s colours are used nicely to give the appearance of each villain an appropriate hue that contrasts with the cold blue tint of Bruce acquiring the gun.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

The Batman’s Design

(Writer: Warren Ellis, Artist: Becky Cloonan, Colourist: Jordie Bellaire, Letterer: Simon Bowland)

As the title suggests, this story tackles the analytical and calculating aspects of Batman, specifically when it comes to combat. As a regular human being without Kryptonian super-strength or any other supernatural advantage, it makes sense that Bruce would use his intellect to out-think any battle, but that’s often something that gets forgotten in depictions of the character in favour of making him a super-powered punching machine. Here, Warren Ellis shows the thought process that goes into Batman clearing out a warehouse of armoured criminals; constantly cycling through options, making use of gadgetry, and always finding non-lethal ways to neutralise his opponents.

Batman stalks a criminal.

Becky Cloonan’s strong character work and bold lines make her a perfect choice to illustrate – there’s a reason she was the first female artist to draw an issue of the main Batman series, and it’s because her Dark Knight is distinctive and threatening, lean enough to be agile but muscled enough to do some damage. Jordie Bellaire fills the pages with vivid blues and oranges as the warehouse is blown to pieces, complementing Cloonan’s lines perfectly, and Simon Bowland captures the terse, clipped cadence of Ellis’s writing perfectly in the letters.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

Return to Crime Alley

(Writer: Denny O’Neil, Artist: Steve Epting, Colourist: Elizabeth Breitweiser, Letterer: Andworld Design)

Denny O’Neil takes a slightly different tack to the previous stories – this tale looks at the idea of Batman as a cold-blooded monster, as someone who relishes the pain that he dishes out. Leslie Thompkins acts as the critical voice in this story, pointing out that Bruce has let the murder of his parents fester inside him and turn him into a cruel shadow. Her words are borne out as he reacts to a group of wannabe muggers with overwhelming force, a disquieting scene that casts some doubt on our continued enabling and idolisation of the character.

Batman being threatening.

It’s an interesting take, and Steve Epting’s artwork emphasises it – throughout this story, Batman is drawn with a sense of otherness, as a frightening figure lurking in the dark, his cape bleeding into the shadows. He’s more monster than man, even as Leslie refuses to call him by anything other than his birth name.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

The Precedent

(Writer: James Tynion IV, Artist: Alvaro Martinez-Bueno, Inker: Raul Fernandez, Colourist: Brad Anderson, Letterer: Sal Cipriano)

In this beautifully illustrated story, we’re given a look at Batman as an inspiring figure through the prism of his sidekick Robin, the Boy Wonder. Bruce is worried about allowing Dick to join him on his crime-fighting duties – he doesn’t want Dick to go through the same troubles he went through on his way to becoming Batman. Alfred, always the heart and soul of any good Batman story, points out that Bruce can help Dick along the way and give him the guidance that Bruce never had.

Bruce and Alfred talk.

It’s a lovely little story that mixes the narration with some wonderfully laid out artwork of Batman and Robin adventuring and Robin’s friendship with the classic Teen Titans. The colours in this story are also beautiful, with the vibrancy of Robin’s costume standing out against moonlit cityscapes and a gorgeous sunset brought to life during the framing story.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

Batman’s Greatest Case

(Writer: Tom King, Artists: Tony S. Daniel & Joëlle Jones, Colourist: Tomeu Morey, Letterer: Clayton Cowles)

I almost felt the need to describe this story as “Tom King does Brian Michael Bendis” – the writing here, while capturing the current Batman scribe’s signature style, definitely taps into some of Bendis’s penchant for extremely extended narration and back-and-forth dialogue. It’s a long build-up to the “climax” of the story, which features a typically dour Batman taking a family photo with his entire group of sidekicks and associates, but it highlights the importance of family to the Batman mythos. All of these people have come together from very disparate backgrounds because of their connection to Bruce and their devotion to making the world a better place.

Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne exchange pleasantries.

One of the things that makes Batman so beloved is that element of family – an orphan who lost both his parents trying to be a surrogate father to an ever-increasing group of others, all of whom have suffered different tragedies in life. Artistically, the story is good – Tony S. Daniel and Joëlle Jones capture the look of each character, and Tomeu Morey’s colours jump into each page between the moody grey-blue rain of the cemetery and the colourful outfits of the sidekicks, creating a nice contrast that highlights how the family members are a release from despair and a source of colour and light in Bruce’s life.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

Medieval

The last story in the issue, after a gallery of excellent pin-ups, comes from Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke. Taking the form of a series of splash pages that trace the history of the Dark Knight’s conflicts with his greatest villains, this story introduces the Arkham Knight (last seen in the excellent Batman: Arkham Knight video game) into mainstream DC continuity.

The narration here is a little on the nose – if the Arkham Knight monologues this much in the regular series, those comics might be a bit tedious to read – and his style appears to be quite similar to Azrael, in that he believes Batman isn’t good enough and that he can do better. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the video game character’s personality is transferred across and how much of a challenge he’ll pose to Batman as we barrel into the next 1000 issues of Detective Comics.

Overall, there are definitely more hits in Detective Comics #1000 than misses – part of the reason why Batman has endured for so long is that he’s a great template onto which writers and artists can paint their own interpretations, and his mythos is strong enough to endure a lot of changes. This issue is definitely worth your time if you want to understand why Batman means so many things to so many different people, or for anyone who’s ever asked the question, “Why do people even like Batman, anyway?” It’s a great birthday present for the 80-year old Dark Knight, who appears to have a bright future ahead of him.

Overall verdict: 4.5 out of 5

Chris has been writing comics for a large chunk of his life, but only started making them properly in 2011. He's worked with chap-hop superstar Professor Elemental on a series of anthology comics as well as writing stories for a number of prestigious small press publications including Futurequake, Aces Weekly and the Psychedelic Journal and creating his own comic book series 'Brigantia' with artist Melissa Trender.

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