Review: Detective Comics #1000 (DC Comics)

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Sunday, March 31, 2019

I did not like the Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman book as much as I hoped I would — more on that soon — but I did find a lot to like in Detective Comics #1000, judging it on the whole a stronger book than Action Comics #1000 (where, conversely, I thought Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman was very good).

A team of largely current Bat-creators presented eleven stories that largely play to the strengths of those creators. In this way, Detective #1000 does not overreach nor try to repurpose "lost" material in ways that don't quite work. These are tributes to Batman — to his tragic origins, to his classic stories, to his Bat-family — and they are wholly satisfying; not all of them land, of course, but the success rate here is worth being proud of.

[Review contains spoilers]

The cast of creators for Detective #1000 would be familiar to most fans of modern Batman or the Rebirth DC Universe — Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo; James Tynion; Tom King, Tony Daniel, and Joelle Jones; Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke; plus Christopher Priest, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, and Geoff Johns. Add to that Kelley Jones, Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen, Dennis O'Neil, and Neal Adams, and we see a Detective #1000 heavy on the modern pros with a smattering of historical Bat-figures sprinkled in. There is not an Alan Grant or a Chuck Dixon or a Mike W. Barr, who might represent Batman's history better than the "newbies," nor any non-male writers to speak of, but no question DC's got their heavy-hitters on deck here.

But indeed the stories are quite good, or speak well to the creative teams' strengths, and oftentimes both. Snyder and Capullo kick things off with a story easily cut from the Dark Nights: Metal cloth. Tynion takes a Robin story of course (though Dick Grayson, not Tim Drake), and handles it ably. Both King and Bendis respectively pen dialogue-heavy stories easily identifiable as by King and Bendis. Peter Tomasi echoes his Action #1000 piece with serial splash pages, but with significantly better results this time.

Among notable stories is Kevin Smith and Jim Lee's "Manufacture for Use," a surprisingly touching story (if Smith writing an emotional story is surprising to you) of how Bruce repurposes the gun that killed his parents. This is a story that turns heavily on the "yellow circle" Bat-costume — the story wouldn't work quite so well without it. Both here and in reading Detective Comics: 80 Years, I'm newly convinced this is the best Bat-costume, and the same as returning the Super-trunks, that DC should immediately and un-ironically bring the yellow circle back.

Another thrill, especially in pairing Detective #1000 with Detective: 80 Years, is Dennis O'Neil's "Return to Crime Alley," a sequel to his 1976 "There Is No Hope in Crime Alley" (reprinted in 80 Years) that introduced Leslie Thompkins. Why O'Neil and Adams are both here but not paired, I can't imagine, but O'Neil's story brings a touch of the classic. Further, O'Neil makes a good point about a common line of Bat-dialogue, Bruce talking about this "parents' death" instead of his parents' murder, and that's the kind of meta-interpretation perfectly called for on an occasion like Detective #1000.

Tynion and King approach the Bat-family in ways small and large in paired stories. Tynion's "The Precedent" sees Bruce pausing on the cusp of letting Dick become Robin, with Dick himself providing the reasoning for going ahead (Tynion distills the essence of Robin/Nightwing exceptionally well here). Leaping forward, King gets the whole modern Bat-family together with banter that's funny and even a bit crass; it won't be everyone's cup of tea but I liked it. Together the two stories demonstrate the alpha and omega of the Bat-family well; we know the omega is a moving target, and to an extent Kings's story will forever date Detective #1000, but the group shot is still very sweet.

Again, Tomasi's Action #1000 and Detective #1000 stories are of a piece, a series of linked splash pages (with Superman collaborator Patrick Gleason and Detective's Mahnke respectively). For Action, in recreating famous Superman covers parallel to a battle with Vandal Savage, Tomasi's Action story felt forced at times. Tomasi's Detective story is less focused — there's a narrative, but under it Mahnke seems to be reproducing some Bat-moments and other times just drawing Batman versus his villains — and that takes some of the pressure off. Tomasi's Arkham Knight is both crazed but also has valid points, the best basis for a villain; I've never encountered Arkham Knight before, and that Tomasi interests me in the character solely on its own merits seems to me a good sign.

Among stories that didn't quite work for me were Priest and Adams' "Heretic"; I'm glad Adams is here, and I like that Priest could work in his scene cards, but I didn't understand the implications of the ending. Bendis' "I Know" is nicely "talky" in the manner of a Bendis story, but I didn't find the end particularly strong nor understand too why Bruce was meant to have lost his voice. I was also glad Kelley Jones was included (if perhaps underused), but the future-set part of Geoff Johns' tale felt like it ended with a whimper rather than a bang.

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There have been "obsessive loner" periods of Bat-history; it's been a while since Batman didn't have a Bat-family, but not so long since he didn't treat them poorly (more often than not, even, that's still a thing). In these regards, Detective Comics #1000 is perhaps uncharacteristically generous to Batman, watching him turn tragedy to strength, give criminals a second chance, envision retirement, and pal around with his allies. There is not so much "grim and gritty" in this volume, and emphasis on the "knight" rather than the "dark." That's good, a reflection of the post-Dark Nights: Metal era and in line with what many of these creators have been bringing to Batman individually; if the legacy of Detective Comics #1000 is opening an era of a little more heroism, a little less angst, surely Batman's earned that after 80 years.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Detective Comics #1000
Author Rating
4.5 (scale of 1 to 5)
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2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review .I was wondering what folks thought. I like what DC has done promo wise. Great review. Thanks

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  2. I'm interested as to why you did not like the 80 Years of Detective Comics book as much as the Action Comics one. I thought it felt a bit 'low rent' in comparison and less celebratory. Some scribbled layouts and a snippet of the script for an abandoned story felt rather less special than the unpublished Golden Age story & new story of the previous volume.

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