Comic Reviews: Detective Comics 75th Anniversary Special!
The Dark Knight turns 75 this year, and DC Comics has really put out all the stops to celebrate the occasion. Boasting talent with names like Greg Hurwitz, Peter J. Thomasi, Neal Adams, Sean Murphy, Francesco Francavilla, Scott Snyder, and more, this mega sized anniversary issue is packed to the brim with content. Like any special anniversary issue, not all of the stories in it are great. So, here’s a breakdown of the seven different stories contained in this issue, along with a handy dandy grade.
The Case of The Chemical Syndicate: This update of the Batman’s first comic book appearance is a lot of fun. Strangely, this Brad Meltzer/Bryan Hitch tale reminded me a lot of the 1989 Batman film. From the opening featuring a fund raiser at Wayne Manor that has the entire police force as guests to Hitch’s Batman having a very eerie resemblance to Michael Keaton, almost every moment of this story had my brain hitting full nostalgia mode.
The plot is pretty straightforward, but Meltzer starts to needlessly confuse readers towards the end by having two Bruce Wayne monologues running simultaneously. The journal entry that runs throughout the story is fine, but once Meltzer adds Bruce’s monologue containing his thoughts during the case, things get real confusing real quick (not to mention his repetition of “I do it because…” starts to get old after the 23rd time it’s used). Hitch’s art is actually really good here, but there are a few weird body positions and angles. Despite the story’s flaws, it’s still pretty good, and not the worst piece in this issue. B
Old School: Yikes. Every anniversary issue has the Meta “you are the slave of the fans who read you” story, but this is one of the worst I’ve read in a awhile. Greg Hurwitz’ plot hits every major cliché regarding the evolution of comic books and superheroes, and Neal Adams, well, is still modern day Neal Adams. His pages that reflect Batman stories past look great, but once we get into the “modern” Batman, the art devolves into the loose shoddy work that Adams has been passing off as “art” since his return to comics four years ago. It’s easily my least favorite of the stories here. D+
Better Days: Peter J. Thomasi’s tale of an aging Batman celebrating his 75th birthday is really cool, and the art by Ian Bertram isn’t half bad. After blowing out his candles, Bruce’s now-old allies head out to answer the Bat signal. After everyone’s gone and Alfred is asleep, the elderly Dark Knight secretly slips on his old duds and heads out to beat the living snot out of criminals. Bertram’s splash page of the Batman beating on futuristic thugs is one of the best pages of the book, and looking back on it, I wish Days had a few more pages. B+
Hero: Francesco Francavilla’s short story has the Batman rescuing a mother and her son from a car accident on his way back to the Bat cave. I won’t spoil the big reveal behind the mother and son’s identity, but it definitely makes the story worth it. Francavilla’s layouts are spectacular, and I desperately want to see more o Batman work from him in the future. A-
The Sacrifice: Much like the Meta “You Are an Icon” story that showed up this issue, this tale also fits into the “It’s a Wonderful Life” style story that also inevitably makes it into any major superhero anniversary issue. Mike W. Barr’s script doesn’t reinvent the wheel, showing us what life would be like for Bruce if his parents hadn’t been killed in that alley so many years ago. Featuring an appearance by the Spirit, the Guillem March drawn story has some interesting nods to a Batman-free Gotham, but we’ve seen a lot of it before. C
Gothtopia: SPOILERS John Layman and Jason Fabok start their new Detective Comics storyline here, with the first installment of “Gothtopia”. Gotham City is a bright, happy, and crime free city, which means that something is terribly, terribly wrong. Batman, in a white costume, helps police the city in broad daylight with his partner and ladylove, Catbird (who’s actually Catwoman with a really dumb name). Despite all of the great things going on in Gotham, citizens are committing suicide on a daily basis. This, of course, causes Batman to be extremely suspect of his surroundings, and he starts to try to uncover the mystery around these suicides.
John Layman’s story is intriguing, even if we can figure out why Gotham is this dream like city from a mile away. Perhaps that’s why Layman reveals the mastermind behind the Gothtopia façade so quickly. By informing us of Scarecrow’s schemes early on, it allows us to sit back and watch the events unfold, instead of yelling at the world’s greatest detective for not being able to figure out who’s behind the mystery.
My only complaint with this story are the new names for Catwoman, Batgirl, Batwoman, and the other allies. Catbird? Really? And Batgirl’s called Bluebelle for what reason exactly? Neither she nor Batwoman can go by their regular names, so they go by Bluebelle and Brightbat? Eeeesh. No likey. No likey at all.
Despite these dumb names, Jason Fabok draws the story, and just as always, he’s a powerhouse. I seriously love this guy’s work so much that I’ve already forgotten my hatred for those names. If Fabok can draw Batman until the end of time I’d be in heaven. A-
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s tale is THE reason to buy this book. I know I’m a huge fan boy for both of these guys, but The Wake creators’ story of a Bruce clone awakening in the “200th year of the Batman” is truly awesome, and has enough storytelling potential that it could become its own series. Snyder’s story is not only original, but taps into Bruce Wayne’s drive for justice. You totally buy that Bruce would come up with a way to create genetically engineered clones of himself that could be activated when Gotham needs a Batman. The narration from the older clone that instructs the new Bruce of his destiny is fantastic, and left me wanting more and more from this story.
Sean Murphy’s art absolutely destroys in this story. The panels depicting the different “ages” of Batman are stunning, and were easily worth the $8 cover price. There’s so much going on in the different panels that I had to stop and pore over them multiple time (the panel featuring a Mad Max-style Batman being one of my favorites). His art truly makes the story come alive, and I desperately hope he gets another shot at drawing the Batman again.
Of all of the stories in Detective Comics #27 this is the one to beat. You can feel Snyder and Murphy’s love of the character through this story. It distills what makes Batman so fantastic and then, while celebrating him, creates him fresh all over again. It’s the result of two creators at the top of their game working on a character that they love and respect. A+
So there you have it. One stinker, one “meh”, one “hell yes give me more”, and 4 good-to-great Batman stories, which makes up for a pretty good celebration of the Batman if you ask me. There are also pin ups scattered throughout the issue by artists like Mike Allred, Kelly Jones, and Jock, but Paul Dini’s story that was solicited is suspiciously absent, which is a major disappointment. As far as anniversary issues go, Detective Comics #27 is a solid purchase for Batman fans like myself, if only for that fantastic Snyder and Murphy story. Seriously. So good.
Posted on January 9, 2014, in Comic book reviews and tagged Batman 75th anniversary, Brad Meltzer, Bryan Hitch, Chris Burnham, Comic reviews, DC Comics, Detective Comics Anniversary, Francesco Francavilla, Frank Miller, Greg Hurwitz, Guillem March, Jason Fabok, Jim Lee, John Layman, Mike W. Barr, Neal Adams, Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.