Welcome to another installment of “Daniel’s DC Pull List”. I, your host, apologize for missing last week; holiday chaos and all that. Now, this week I have a special edition for you all: for the first time in 75 years, we have a Detective Comics #27. For those of you who don’t know the reason this is a big deal, last time this happened, this hero known as Batman showed up and kinda became a big deal. While this isn’t the exact 75th Anniversary, this monumental occurrence has led series regulars John Layman and Jason Fabok to be joined by an all-star cast of Bat writers and artists from across Batman’s history to explore various aspects of The Dark Knight ranging from a modern retelling of his first adventure, to a possible future, to the start of the Gothtopia arc in Detective Comics. I will be organizing this column by story, and will give other series recommendations for the week at the end.
WARNING: THERE BE SPOILERS
“The Case of the Criminal Syndicate”
Written by Brad Meltzer
Art by Bryan Hitch
Bruce Wayne hosts a charity ball where he has all the police in attendance, mainly so he can get to the crime scenes before they can. When a chemical magnate is found dead, Batman starts piecing clues together as another one of his partners at ACE Chemicals have also been murdered in cold blood. The two surviving partners talk at ACE to figure out how to defend themselves, only for one to knock the other out and puts him in a gas chamber. Batman rushes into the chamber just as the door closes and eventually frees himself and the potential victim. The murderer runs, only to be stunned by a batarang. With Gordon and who seems to be Renee Montoya arriving, he surrenders…only to draw his gun. Batman goes to stop him, only to knock him into a vat of acid. Montoya tries to arrest Batman, but Gordon stops her as Batman flies into the night. As the police and the potential victim leave ACE, a hand grabs the side of the vat….
THE GOOD: Meltzer does a good take on Batman’s original appearance, updating it for the present day as well as expanding it from originally six pages to fifteen. He also cleverly ties it into the birth of the Joker. While not an official New 52 story (as are most of the stories in this volume), it is a definite update of an older tale and a nice way to start this extra sized issue. While there’s very little overall dialogue, there is a running debate between the two sides of Batman as he goes about his mission. Hitch does a good job with action and set pieces, especially Batman kicking the man who would be Joker into the vat of chemicals.
THE BAD: The internal dialogue, due to the different color boxes, gets confusing. We know it’s supposed to be Batman in both, but is one Bruce and one Batman? Or (due to the color scheme) one Gothtopia Batman and the other the present Batman? The conceit gets a bit confusing. Hitch’s pencils seem sparse in some panels and faces and overly detailed on others; and the flat color scheme doesn’t help things. Overall story felt a bit flat, making this homage pale to the original.
Written by Gregg Hurwitz
Art by Neal Adams
SYNOPSIS: Batman and Robin take a trippy journey from the Golden/Silver age through the Modern Day as they take on various villains and (convenient) costume changes. And it all ends in the most terrifying place he could ever end up….
THE GOOD: Hurwitz’s faux Golden/Silver Age dialogue is very funny to read, but it’s sincere, not nasty. He embraces the corniness of the dialogue. There are jokes about Batman having to stay relevant throughout the ages through “costume changes”, attitude, etc. Robin’s reaction about getting the Tim Drake costume, with pants, hoping it doesn’t interfere with his agility. The final pay off, though trite, is a nice nod to the strength of Batman’s longevity, and places him where he belongs along with him getting the last laugh. The art by Adams matches this sense of nostalgia; as one of the legendary Bat-artists, he is up to the task in this story which both embraces and teases the past.
THE BAD: Some of the faces look a bit awkward to me, and I’m not the biggest fan of the pastel color palate, especially when it’s proceeded by the 4 color blend seen in Silver Age comics. But these are minor quibbles.
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Ian Bertram
SYNOPSIS: An older Bruce Wayne celebrates his 75th birthday with Damian (now Batman), Dick (Nightwing, and still dark haired), Tim (graying and Red Robin), Barbara (now Police Commissioner), and Alfred (in a wheelchair and needing an oxygen tank). Bruce is showing his age, needing a cane and needing the assistance of his family to blow out the candles. However the celebration is cut short as crime wave starts, and the “young guns” rush out. Bruce is left alone with a sleeping Alfred, and he decides to come back out of retirement for one night, against Alfred’s wishes. In a panel in tribute to The Dark Knight Returns, a smiling Bruce swings over Gotham and proceeds to clean up the streets, with less bloodshed than his TDKR counterpart. While doing so, he notes that he knows he’s far too old and in bad shape to be doing this, but he loves it too much. He returns just in time for Alfred to wake up and the party to continue; when the others mention that there were mysterious appearances of the original Batman that night, which they know is impossible, Bruce leaves us with a wink.
THE GOOD: A very interesting take on an older Batman, with nods to Batman Beyond as well as the aforementioned The Dark Knight Returns. However, it seems to have a good will and warmth that the latter source material lacks. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of TDKR, but this took elements of that and turned it into an older Batman that appeals to yours truly. It’s also nice to see Tomasi give Damian a new lease on life, at least in this possible future. It’s also nice to see the Bat-family still close together, and that Alfred is a tough old bird. Bertram pays homage to TDKR, but gives his Bruce a paternal warmth even as he swings across Gotham.
THE BAD: Some of the faces, especially Bruce, looks overly lined gnarled. Also, how the hell does Dick still have all black hair while Tim and Damian are starting to go grey: hair dye or luck?
Written and Art by Francesco Francavilla
SYNOPSIS: Batman rescues a woman and her child after they crashed into a tree on a rain slicked highway. The woman says that Batman has saved her son before, but when Batman begins to ask, the car explodes. He goes to get help, while the kid asks if that was Batman. That’s when we see who that young boy is….
THE GOOD: Francavilla writes a story that shows that Batman will stop to help anyone, and isn’t just a one man army against crime. It’s a nice simple city that is connected to so many established stories: Year One, The Black Mirror, and recent arcs in Batgirl and Suicide Squad. Francavilla’s art is well done, with beautiful shadowing and light; and that last panel will unnerve you when you see who the boy is….
THE BAD: I could find nothing wrong with this.
Written By Mike W. Barr
Art by Guillem March
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom Stranger shows Batman what would happen if his parents lived that night. Here’s a hint: his personal life would be great, but his world would be hell.
THE GOOD: Barr does a great job at showing the pros and cons to Bruce’s deepest wish; and shows that even the worse events in the world can lead to good. While it may hurt the individual, the opposite could have been far worse. March’s art, with a limited color palate, compliments this tale perfectly.
THE BAD: We’ve kind have seen this before in a tie in to Final Crisis, albeit this is far more compressed. You can also see a condensed version of this story in the Justice League cartoon.
Final Score: 8/10
“Gothtopia, Part 1: The Perfect Crime”
Written by John Layman
Art by Jason Fabok
SYNOPSIS: Gotham: Crime is far down, Catwoman is Catbird, Black Mask is Police Commissioner, Penguin is Mayor, Scarecrow is in charge of Arkham, and Batman is in a white suit, in a relationship with Catbird and operates during the day as well as night. His Bat-family have different names and personalities. It seems to be a paradise. But it isn’t, especially as there is a major increase in suicides. As Batman investigates, it seems his perfect world is a lie, and there is a likely suspect….
THE GOOD: Layman immediately shows us how different this “Gothtopia” is from the start. And it just keeps getting creepier as we see the cracks in this utopia begin to appear. Batman being content while being Batman is amazing to see, but we know that he will be set up for a fall. Seeing the various villains being citizens on the up-and-up is interesting, but it adds to our suspicion. Fabok’s art is top-notch.
THE BAD: Unfortunately, this seems to be the beginnings of another cross over; and even I am starting to be fatigued with them. I pray that the main story can be seen in Detective and doesn’t require the others to know what is going on. Also, it’s possible this story has been seen before, albeit with a different villain at the end, in Batman: The Animated Series. Also this particular villain seems to be overused at this point in time.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy
SYNOPSIS: A new generation of Batman begins as we are caught up on the potential future of the Batman as we travel 270 years into the future. The first Batman makes a rule: 27 years of service, and then choose a successor. In the generations since there is Batmen wearing anime armor, fighting in mechs, and riding rocketpowered surfboards over a megaopolis. And while the latest in line isn’t particularly happy about being chosen, he still does the right thing.
THE GOOD: Snyder does an interesting job of weaving in the number 27 into an important plot point as well as going hog-wild on potential future Batmen. The dialogue between the two future Batmen, one retiring, the other just starting, is fun. Murphy’s art is fantastic, with a samurai-esque retiring Batman as our narrator. He takes Snyder’s wild ideas of Batman’s future and brings them to life. His Batcave, filled with centuries of trophies, is a marvel.
THE BAD: There is no Bad
FINAL SCORE FOR DETECTIVE COMICS #27: 9/10
Dishonorable Mention: This Frank Miller Cover
OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THIS WEEK:
Green Arrow #27
Action Comics #27
The Movement #8
Earth 2 #19
This has been “Daniel’s DC Pull List”; see you next week!