In May of 1939, DC Comics (formerly known as Detective Comics) was looking to recapture the lightning in a bottle that they’d experienced with Superman in Action Comics the previous year. Rising to the challenge set by the company to create a new superhero to match the Man of Steel was Bob Kane. As a child of the Great Depression, Bob and his family struggled to achieve financial stability, forcing Bob to take on multiple jobs while fostering his talents as an artist. When the publishers approached Bob about creating a new character and revealed he could stand to make nearly $800 a week, he said: “You’ll have a new hero on your desk by Monday morning.” Partnering with writer Bill Finger, the duo quickly got to work in hammering down the details of the first issue that would introduce a new character derived from the pulp detective novels like The Shadow, the heroic presence of Superman, and a wingspan inspired by Da Vinci’s flying machine. This character would be called “The Bat-Man”.
Now, 80 years and 1000 issues later, DC Comics proudly celebrates this landmark event and the 80th anniversary for the Caped Crusader in Detective Comics #1000. Bringing together writers and artists from past and present to contribute to a massive 96-page giant, this is the ultimate love letter to a character who has become a globally recognized icon and represents true justice and heroism to countless generations, cultures, and ethnic groups. You would be hard pressed to find an area of the world that doesn’t recognize that iconic symbol as that of Batman. Enjoying a successful career in comics, radio, animation, video games, and live-action films, Batman has penetrated every generation to achieve something beyond pop culture, to even reach a point of superstardom that is shared by very few, if any at all.
Detective Comics #1000 brings together eleven different short stories told through the lens of 11 different writer & artist teams. Each story is a self-contained short that celebrates the different eras and interpretations of Batman. This review will break down each short and provide a SPOILER FREE dissection of story, art, and how it ultimately celebrates the legacy of Batman. With a gorgeous wrap-around cover drawn by DC Comics legend Jim Lee, the book boasts a formidable presence and a hefty weight, giving the book an instant sense of value that collectors everywhere will want to have in their collection. Once you pick up your copy, you know you’re in for a momentous event in comic book history. (If you would prefer, you can skip to the bottom to the “Final Thoughts” section to see my overall review)
“Batman’s Longest Case” is written by New 52 veteran team Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. The pair most famously had one of the longest runs on Batman ever when DC Comics launched the New 52 in 2011. “Batman” quickly became the biggest selling title in the relaunch and provided some of the best storylines in the Dark Knight’s history including Court of Owls, Death of the Family, Zero Year, and Endgame.
Following in the footsteps of the quality they’ve consistently brought to the character, Snyder and Capullo create a fantastic story that really taps into the detective element of Batman. We are thrust into the middle of a case that Batman has been working to solve since the beginning of his career, following clues to the farthest reaches of the earth and to the deepest depths of the ocean. Upon coming to the trail’s end, Batman realizes that he’s been unknowingly observed by a secret group that has been leading him on this case the entire time.
The artwork by Capullo has often been praised as some of the best to ever grace the character, and he does not disappoint here. He perfectly captures the film noir aesthetic he started in Court of Owls 8 years ago, paying homage to the classic Bruce Timm animated series in how he shows Batman breaking into an apartment to investigate a crime scene. Scott Snyder also lives up to his reputation as one of the single greatest writers to tackle the character thanks to the level of detail and historical research he is able to infuse into the stories he tells. Every panel is oozing with information, both verbal and visual, as you go with Batman to uncover the truth of this mystery and showing why he IS the World’s Greatest Detective.
“Manufacture For Use” teams writer/filmmaker Kevin Smith with fan-favorite artist Jim Lee. The story works effectively as somewhat of a highlight reel, showing Batman fighting his famous rogues’ gallery over the years, consistently getting shot and taking damage to the armored chest plate he wears in his suit. This operates as a backdrop while we are given narration dialogue between Bruce and an antique weapons dealer who happens to own the gun that was used to kill his parents.
Kevin Smith is most famously known for his comedic writing and acting talents, but Kevin is a Batman fan first and foremost, so this story is approached with deep sincerity and love as he creates a perfect verbal and visual metaphor that regardless of how much physical punishment Batman takes, nothing will ever equal the injury inflicted on him as a child when he lost his parents. Paired with Jim Lee’s stunning artwork, this story carries a true gravitas to it and treats us to seeing Batman in dynamic action poses against his most famous of villains. Seeing these panels brought to life in Jim Lee’s unique art style is certainly one of the largest highlights of this issue.
“The Legend of Knute Brody” is written by Batman The Animated Series and Arkham video game scribe Paul Dini, with artwork by the talented Dustin Nguyen. Dini and Nguyen had worked together prior to the launch of the New 52 on an on-going title called “Streets of Gotham”. Reteaming for this story, the duo clearly hasn’t missed a step in how they complement each other’s work.
The story works a lot like a particular episode of Batman: The Animated Series that Dini wrote in 1993 called “The Man Who Killed Batman”. In this issue, we see a low-level thug named Knute Brody who has worked unsuccessfully as a thug for all the major rogues in Gotham City, ranging from the Joker, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Mad Hatter. With each crew, Brody is an inevitable bad luck charm and ultimately results in catastrophe and apprehension by Batman. The story is very heartfelt and reminds us why Paul Dini is one of the most clever writers to ever tackle the character of Batman. Much like a magician, Paul Dini knows how to get the audience looking in one direction so they don’t notice the misdirection when he reveals the surprise.
Dustin Nguyen’s art is also a refreshing change of pace in the book as it takes the reader from the darker and gloomier aesthetic and brings in some pop and color to showcase the inherent fun that this story brings to the book. It’s by no means campy, but colorful in representing the fun and escapism that Batman and family can represent.
“The Batman’s Design” is written by Warren Ellis with artwork by Becky Cloonan. For any Batman fan worth their salt, they know that Batman is one of the greatest heroes in comics. Not because he has super strength or billions of dollars or because he’s the best fighter. It’s because of his strategic mind. Bruce Wayne has trained himself to both physical and mental perfection so that he can plan for every situation. The man has contingencies for his contingencies. In this story, Warren Ellis brilliantly showcases this as Batman takes on a group of militant cultists who’ve been using meta-human enhancement drugs and super-powered battle armor. Here, Batman realizes that he will have to strike hard and end this quickly.
Ever the tactician, Batman reveals that he’s lured the group into a trap of his own design that has been pre-rigged with traps and devices purpose-built for each of them to take them down systematically. The stellar visuals created by Becky Cloonan matched with Ellis’s narration where Batman explains the activity in each panel will have fans grinning from ear to ear.
“Return to Crime Alley” is written by legendary Batman writer Denny O’Neil with artwork by Steve Epting. This is arguably one of the shortest stories in the book, but definitely one of the hardest hitting. Many fans will likely be disappointed to see that Neal Adams did not partner with O’Neil to do this story together as they’re widely regarded as one of the best teams to tackle the character, but Epting’s artwork more than makes up for it. Bringing a striking realism and noir landscape to the chapter, this story is a more grounded approach to the characters.
Batman meets his longtime friend and mentor, Leslie Thompkins, in Crime Alley to commemorate the anniversary of the night Bruce’s parents were murdered. Much like dozens of issues and episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, Leslie and Bruce trade dialogue on how each of them have dealt with the loss since that night, but this latest take on this “appointment in Crime Alley” shows the fundamental differences in opinion of how Leslie views Bruce’s decision on how to deal with his loss and pain. Through a series of events, Leslie divulges a profound feeling of guilt and sorrow for what Bruce has become rather than what has happened to those around them. This story brings the readers back down from the high-flying, fast-paced stories in previous chapters and instead gives us a more emotional moment to introspect the character of Batman and the decisions he’s made and how he views the criminal element of Gotham City.
“Heretic” partners writer Christopher Priest with artist Neal Adams to bring forth another story that focuses on a mysterious murder case in Gotham City. When an Asian boy is found dead with a Wayne Foundation business card on his persons, Bruce investigates to find that the boy actually has ties to one of his oldest and greatest foes, Ra’s al Ghul. Bruce must retrace the steps of his past to discover how he unintentionally played a part in the young man’s death.
This story is very well told by Priest and provides great moments of dialogue between Bruce and Jim Gordon, and even Bruce and Dick Grayson. But the real standout with this story is Neal Adams’s artwork. As a fan of the 70’s era of Batman comics, this was a real treat to see the artist revisit the Caped Crusader in this landmark issue. The story itself doesn’t present a complicated mystery but succeeds in showcasing the resolve and iron clad principles that Batman has always exhibited as a heroic figure in the DC Universe.
“I Know” is written by current Superman/Action Comics scribe Brian Michael Bendis with artwork by Alex Maleev in what is certainly one of the more humorous stories told in the book. “I Know” sheds some spotlight on another detective, The Penguin, as he is shown as an old man and confesses that he’s always known the true identity of Batman. This story is not only creative as it shows how Penguin deduced Batman’s identity but saves the big surprise for the twist at the end.
Maleev’s artwork creates a great diversity from the other stories in the book, drawing many homages to Tim Burton’s 1992 film Batman Returns, not only in his design of The Penguin but also in the world around them and how The Penguin uses his penguin minions. The other piece of fun with this particular story is that, much like Superman, fans have always been frustrated that Batman’s enemies haven’t been able to deduce his secret identity and this story takes that concept and succeeds in giving it a great explanation while simultaneously making it humorous.
“The Last Crime in Gotham” pairs fan-favorite DC Comics writer and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns with artist Kelly Jones in a story that takes place in a possible future. With artwork inspired by the 90’s aesthetic seen in previous Batman comics, “The Last Crime in Gotham” shows a world where Batman and Catwoman are married, fighting crime alongside their two children, in a Gotham City that has been crime-free for a few years. That is until Jim Gordon fires up the Bat Signal one more time to reveal a gruesome murder committed by an unknown copycat looking to mimic the greatest crimes in Gotham’s history.
The story itself is very sweetly told. As with most mystery stories, we are led to believe we are seeing one thing when, in actuality, we are seeing something quite different as it is also revealed to be Bruce’s birthday. This is a very clever nod from Geoff Johns acknowledging the character’s own 80th birthday in comics. In many ways, I feel that this whole story is meant as Geoff’s birthday gift to Batman, that we would all happily give if possible.
“The Precedent” is written by James Tynion IV with artwork by Alvaro Martinez-Bueno and chronicles Bruce Wayne’s apprehensions about training Dick Grayson to be Robin. This is a fantastic story for several reasons. Firstly, it not only shows a heartfelt discussion between fathers as Bruce and Alfred discuss the negatives and the positives of bringing a young child into this type of life. Secondly, and arguably most importantly, it shows why Bruce and Dick are ultimately different sides of the same coin. Where Bruce forged his skills and abilities in a hot fire of anger and vengeance, Dick Grayson has been a character forged in the light. He’s a better version of Bruce that would have existed had someone like that been involved in Bruce’s life at that age. But when you look deeper at the situation, it reveals why there must always be a Batman and there must always be a Robin.
The artwork in this section is very stoic and colorful, using somewhat of a highlight reel motif to show the future life that Dick Grayson has in his career as Robin and how he’ll eventually become Nightwing. This is clearly a very heartfelt story with a heartfelt visual approach in the artwork. Everything is much warmer as it deals with a gentler side of Batman as we see his concerns as a surrogate father.
“Batman’s Greatest Case” is written by current “Batman” writer Tom King and drawn by Tony S. Daniel & Joelle Jones. Death and loss have always defined Batman. From what made him to what drives him to continually be the best that he can be, it’s all been in the effort to deal with his greatest losses. Tom King, who has been writing “Batman” since DC’s soft reboot of the universe in 2016’s DC Rebirth, has brought the entire Bat Family together for a deeper exploration of how Bruce deals with this loss, but not in a way that you might think. Very cleverly, this short story delves more into the dialogue amongst the other members of the family including Nightwing, Robin, Red Hood, Red Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Spoiler, Huntress, Orphan, Signal, Alfred, and even Ace the Bat-Hound. It’s through these key characters that we learn where Batman gains his greatest strength and how he continues to find the determination and will power to continue his war on crime. Tony S. Daniel’s return to the characters is very refreshing as he had a fantastic run on the character from 2008-2012.
“Medieval” is by “Batman & Robin” veterans and current creative team working on “Detective Comics”, writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke. This is a partnership that has found success in countless characters and story arcs across the DC Universe in everything from Superman to the Green Lantern Corps. Their work in the New 52 on “Batman & Robin” enjoyed one of the longest runs out of any of the titles during the relaunch, so to see them tackling the character once again in “Detective Comics” has been an outstanding pleasure.
“Medieval” is a fantastic dissection of Batman from an unknown third party who is narrating across the full-page splash panels, setting up the next story arc that will be unveiled in the coming issues of the title. Doug Mahnke’s artwork takes center stage as he gives us full-page spreads depicting Batman in amazing action poses, fighting against some of his greatest villains.
While the chapter’s primary purpose is to set up the next chapter in their story, it simultaneously gives us a thorough breakdown of Batman’s methods and ideology, and how those are perceived by people in the world. While many claim him to be a hero, others see him as a “Badman”. When readers see the final page, it will instantly send you shooting to the ceiling in anticipation for the next issue!!
Much like Action Comics #1000 which came out last year, Detective Comics #1000 is a great celebration of the character of Batman, his allies, his villains, and his legacy. Sporting a fantastic collaboration of writers and artists, this is truly a wonderful celebration of Batman. If readers go into this issue aware that most of what they will be reading will not tie into on-going storylines, then they will be very happy with the issue and enjoy reading it time and time again. For any readers who may feel cheated by the fact that the issue is primarily short stories that don’t have a significant effect on continuity, they should remember what this issue represents: This is a celebration of Batman. Who he is, what he represents, and what he’s been to so many people over the last 80 years.
With 57 different variant covers, DC Comics took no short cuts in making this an event worthy of Batman. Hardcore collectors will be hard pressed to collect them all as many are very limited print editions and will be sure to fetch a pretty penny in the collector market. You can get a glimpse of all the variants together, compliments of “Batman” writer Tom King.
For a steeper price than your average weekly back issue, Detective Comics #1000 retails on stands at $9.99 with its regular cover. But do not let the price deter you from picking this issue up as it is packed to the gills with a lot of entertainment. Readers will likely feel compelled to read and re-read the issue to not only get the full experience of the stories but to soak in all the breathtaking artwork on display throughout the book. This is an issue that will benefit from multiple reads, and coming in at 96-pages, it will take you a good block of time to get through it.
Ultimately, I feel that this issue is a fantastic celebration of Batman, the 1000th issue of Detective Comics, and his legacy. Not just in comics, but in world history. No matter what generation you were born in or what language you speak or what the color of your skin is, Batman is a hero we have all looked up to. Many of us hold dear the memories of charging around the house in a cape and mask pretending to be this character so that we could feel that courage and heroism that we saw in him as we read the comics or watched the movies. The issue officially goes on sale March 27, 2019, and can be purchased in your local comic shops or digitally through the DC Comics app.
Happy Birthday, Batman, and here’s to the next 1000 issues!!