Detective Comics #27: A Celebration of the Bat
Seventy-five years ago, Bob Kane and Bill Finger created a superhero for DC comics, one that would help propel the excitement of caped avengers started by Superman. Kane and Finger came up with a bizarre idea – a vigilante hero, one with no superhuman powers, only gifted with intelligence, physical abilities, training and gadgets. When Batman debuted in 1939 in Detective Comics #27, nothing less than a legend was born.
Jump ahead seventy-five years, and DC has slapped a glossy finish on a book filled with stories from multiple writers and artists. Allowing for a thicker cover, one that makes this issue feel like a graphic novel, and a $7.99 price tag, DC is celebrating he anniversary of their biggest hero. There are seven all new mini-adventures in Detective Comics #27. Some are paying tribute to the past, others the future, and one introduces the world to Gothtopia, a new series that will stretch through multiple Bat books. Although some of the stories here are better than others, each tale is solid, so while $7.99 is a ludicrous amount of money to charge, you do get your money’s worth.
First up is the “Case Of The Chemical Syndicate,” from writer Brad Meltzer and artist Bryan Hitch. This is one of the better stories in the book, though it is based on the original Batman story from Detective Comics #27. Meltzer and Hitch modernize the story to make it play to the current comic book audience, even going so far as to suggest another origin for the Joker. Meltzer’s script is spot on, and Hitch’s art beautiful to look at.
The next is “Old School,” written by best selling crime novelist Gregg Hurwitz with pencils from Neal Adams, which starts out wonderfully, but trips up in the end. At first, Adams draws “Old School” in the a perfect nod to the Silver Age, even down to the dotted style newspaper print. Hurwitz follows right along, filling the story with cheeseball dialogue and a whiz-bang story arc. That section is fun to read. When the story tries too hard to become a surreal declaration on what Batman has endured through the ages, it becomes muddled.
“Better Days,” penned by Peter J. Tomasi with art from Ian Bertram, takes cues from The Dark Knight Returns. On Bruce Wayne’s seventy-fifth birthday party, the bat family gathers. Everyone is old, including Damian, who took over for his father (I guess in this world he lived), and Barbara Gordon, who is now commissioner. Tomasi took elements from Batman Beyond as well. Ultimately, the OG Batman hits the streets for one last romp. Tomasi’s pacing and story idea are excellent, and Bertram’s artwork is breathtaking.
Francesco Francavilla’s “Hero,” for which he writes and draws, is fairly lackluster, giving some unnecessary nod to Jim Gordon’s psychopathic son’s first experience with Batman. “The Sacrifice,” from Mike Barr and artist Guillem March, is cool, but it takes a slice from an idea pie that was long finished. Bruce Wayne gets to see his life if his parents hadn’t died and realizes he had to become Batman. Barr writes it well, and March’s pencils are solid, but really, how many times can we read that story?
“Gothtopia” is interesting. In it, Gotham is like Metropolis, a gleaming jewel of a city with almost no crime. Batman, in a very different outfit, and his partner Catbird (Catwoman with a semi-Robin costume), along with a Bat-family brimming with characters we’ve never heard of. Apparently, this is some kind of trick, a mind-altering plot executed by Batman’s greatest foes. John Layman’s script does exactly what it needs to. It whets the appetite for the bigger story without giving too much away. Jason Fabok’s art is good, if fairly standard comic book fare.
Last but not least is “Twenty-Seven,” from current Batman scribe Scott Snyder, and his The Wake partner Sean Murphy. Snyder sets his story in future, explaining how the Batman identity is passed down from generation to generation, and whoever becomes the Batman loses the memories of there ever being a previous one. It’s a really cool idea I’d like to see expanded into a min-series. As always, Sean Murphy’s art is ridiculously good.
Detective Comics #27 pays homage to the greatest superhero of all time (yeah, I said it). Sure, the price tag is a little goofy, but with so much talent, DC gets a slide. Most importantly, Detective Comics #27 shows that even after three quarters of a century, the Dark Knight’s adventures or just beginning.
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)