One Thousand Issues in the Making: Detective Comics #1027

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Detective Comics 1027 - J Scott Campbell variant

The ten-dollar-comic is rapidly becoming a regular thing at the local comics shop. True, it's been reserved for these 80th aniversary specials, but as we continue marking that particuar milestone, we'll soon have overlap with 80th anniversaries of later characters and 85th anniversaries of the ones we just celebrated. So the bottom line is to get used to them.

Fortunately, with books like DETECTIVE #1027 -- this one celebrating the 1000th issue of the title since the introduction of Batman -- you get a collection of really good short stories featuring the world's greatest detective. Unfortunately, it doesn't lead off with them -- all the more surprising given the Bat-experience of the writers.

"Blowback" by Peter J. Tomasi and Brad Walker finds Batman waking up in yet another ingenius and overly complicated deathtrap. It's a drowning trap, so his time to escape is limited, while he tries to work out which of his many villains did this to him. So basically what you get here is a well-drawn "Who's Who" of the Batman rogues gallery until Batman figures a way out of the trap and deduces who really put him there.

Following up the rogues gallery presentation is a piece designed solely to introduce all the members of the Bat-family. Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez present "The Master Class," a beautifully drawn and colored piece involving a corpse on a roof where -- by nothing more than coincidence -- every single bat in Gotham (and there are plenty) show up on the scene to investigate it. There are no clues for the reader to pick up on, but eac of the characters spot something distinct that, together, solves the case and also earns them a compliment from Batman himself as to their detective skills.

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky turn in the first truly unique story. It's a decades-long sequence of vignettes, connecting encounters between Batman and The Joker. Apparently since their earliest encounter, The Joker has delivered "birthday presents" to the Dark Knight -- once a month, always on a different day, and never on his real birthday. The gifts range from simple messages to crime sprees. "Many Happy Returns" also gives us a timeline as to how long Batman has been operating, at a minimum.

Greg Rucka does what he does best, giving us a short story from the perspective of one of the GCPD. "Rookie," illustrated by Eduardo Risso, reads like a chapter out of Rucka's long-and-iconic run of Batman stories, following a young officer's induction into a corrupt police force, and struggling to maintain her ethics.

Current BATMAN writer James Tynion IV teams up with artist Riley Rossmo for a story that allies Batman and the first Robin with Deadman to stop The Specter Collector from destroying trapped souls. It's Robin's first time encountering the supernatural, and he's decidedly freaked out, but the story also gives us a glimpse into Batman's childhood to pull out a heartwarming memory of his mother and a foundation for why ghosts are something that don't scare Batman. "Ghost Story" has a fun and unique and almost animated look to it that works for the Dynamic Duo, particularly the era of Dick Grayson's earlier days as the Boy Wonder.

"Fore" was probably one of the stories I enjoyed most in this collection. It's by Kelly Sue DeConnick and John Romita Jr, and gives us one of those instances we used to see in DETECTIVE COMICS in backup stories, when Bruce Wayne was the one in the spotlight of a case. A corrupt businessman challenges Bruce Wayne to a round of golf -- in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain -- all to challenge Bruce's 'toughness' while he tries to bully Wayne into accepting his offer to buy properties from him. In between shots we see flashbacks to Batman following a trail that leads to cops on the man's payroll, ultimately revealing that Bruce is wired for Gordon and his men. The story is quite enjoyable, and I was surprised at the quality of art turned in by JR JR, given his more disappointing work on ACTION, reinforcing to me that he can still do quality work when the story is more interesting. The only thing that took me out of the story was the perplexing presence of Bruce Wayne's umbrella -- which comes with a light and apparently hovers over him automatically. If "dronebrellas" are real, I have to get one.

Continuing in that vein of Bruce-centered stories comes Marv Wolfman and Emanuela Lupacchino's "Oddysey." This story finds Bruce joining up with the adventure-podcasting team of Roy Raymond and crew as they follow up on the shipwreck of The Oddysey, a boat owned by Bruce's grandfather, Patrick, that was sunk by a crashing airplane, sending both vehicles to the bottom of the sea -- along with a horde of art treasures being transported to safety from the Nazis. But someone on the team is an imposter, looking to either keep the treasure for himself, or prevent the others from finding out the truth of the events of that fateful day. It's a story that has that sixties silver-age feel to it, but set in the modern era. And it's nice to see the Raymond family name continuing to live on in the DC Universe.

Easily my favorite story of the entire collection only features Batman tangentially, and no other members of the Batman family at all. "Detective #26" from Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham is the tale of the man who could have been the savior of Gotham City, if only for a bit of split second timing. A private eye in a crowd of private eyes wants to do more, to stand out from the crowd, and take on the scourge of crime in Gotham City. Partially motivated by the murder of the Wayne Family when he was just a boy, and inspired by various masked mystery men who had begun popping up all over the country, the man who would be the Silver Ghost goes through many of the decision steps as would Bruce Wayne -- albeit on a budget and just slightly off in each step from the decisions Batman would eventually make. But when he goes off on his first masked caper, something that might have gone down in his annals as "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," his final question about Gotham City's future gets answered. It's laugh-out-loud funny, but also a little tragic as I would love to have seen the adventures of a garage-kit Batman.

Tom King and Walter Simonson pair off to bring us a story from the past and the future -- a battle with Doctor Phosphorus that leads to the death of Batman. "Legacy" is a back-and-forth story that finds the Darknight Detective trading blows with the radioactive villain, as all the while Phosphorus is claiming victory over having killed Batman. His logic is that the radiation he's giving off and Batman's proximity to him during the battle will result in Batman developing cancer and eventually laying in a bed dying while his loved ones weep. Which is precisely what we see happening in the future (although it takes a second read over to figure out that this is who the people in the bedroom of the future are).

"As Always" is a unique storytelling technique, where the events are told through the suppositions of Commissioner Gordon. Scott Snyder and Ivan Reis begin the tale at the end of one of Batman's cases, as Gordon first-person narrates events. Waiting on sunrise, as per habit on the roof with Batman after putting a case to bed, events get cosmic when the sun doesn't appear on schedule. Something has snuffed it out, and it's a matter for the Justice League to tackle to literally save the world. Gordon has no idea how they are doing it, and wonders how it is that Batman manages to hold his own side-by-side with Kryptonians and Amazons, speedsters and space cops -- and how he contributes to the solutions of such god-level catastrophes. It's a great character piece, with a nice subtle focus on the other importance of a piece of Bat-tech: the Bat-signal.

The last two stories are launching points for new plots and books yet to come. Dan Jurgens sets the stage for the new GENERATIONS: SHATTERED miniseries with "Generations: Fractured." Featuring finishes from Kevin Nowlan, the story finds Batman in a climactic battle on Halloween with Julian Day, the Calendar Man. But during the battle something shifts in time, and suddenly Batman is replaced with the Golden Age Batman -- purple gloves and all. We're not even in the same timeline, and it's at that moment Batman encounters Kamandi, who's communicating with Booster Gold. It's a taste of things yet to come, and the prediction so far for this one is all-out fun.

The final story ties in with the events of "Joker War" currently tearing through the pages of BATMAN and DETECTIVE. "A Gift" comes from Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora. It's a bit of a florid 'think piece' that has Batman remembering the rules for opening birthday presents when he was a boy, coupled with the attempt to rescue a pair of police officers from a building that gets blown up by the Joker. The upshot is that Batman ends up with another vendetta against him, which we may or may not see play out in the future, from a vengeful cop.

As has been the case with all these prestige-bound issues, DETECTIVE COMICS #1027 features a boatload of variant covers to choose from, and is littered with some fantastic pinups from the likes of Jamal Campbell, Lee Bermejo, and even the legendary Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (who should be doing a lot more DC work, in our humble opinion).

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0