Batman keeps aging gracefully.
DC had a tough act to follow with last year’s Action Comics #1000. That issue brought together an all-star lineup of creators for a true celebration of the Man of Steel’s 80th anniversary. Yet somehow they’ve managed to do even better by the Dark Knight. Detective Comics #1000 is a jam-packed comic that pays loving tribute to the legacy of Batman and his supporting cast. Anyone who likes Batman needs to buy this comic, which is basically the same as saying everyone should buy this comic.
Looking back, my one real knock against Action Comics #1000 is that the stories frequently felt too short to live up to their full potential. That issue opted for quantity over quality in that sense. Whether because this issue is longer (96 pages as opposed to 80) or because Batman inherently lends himself better to the short story format, Detective Comic #1000 is able to deliver a more satisfying and cohesive lineup of tales.
Picking just one standout in this bat-flavored smorgasbord is tough, but the honor probably goes to Kevin Smith and Jim Lee’s story. The two creators manage to take an old, familiar trope from the franchise and put a clever spin on it. Like many stories in this issue, there’s an air of hope and optimism to this tale, and it manages to take one of the darker elements of Batman’s world and make into something brighter. Smith and Lee work well together, creating a slick fusion between Smith’s energetic prose and Lee’s powerful, dynamic art.
Another highlight involves the unusual pairing of Geoff Johns and legendary Batman artist Kelley Jones. It’s a strange mixture of campy story and Gothic imagery, but one that works surprisingly well in the end. In fact, the conclusion (one of the few truly dark moments in this entire book) justifies the off-kilter approach to visualizing Johns’ script.
While the Kevin Smith/Jim Lee and Geoff Johns/Kelley Jones pairings are nothing if not novel, this issue also features several familiar, well-established creative teams. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo open the issue with a story about the longest case of Batman’s career. This tale hinges on similar themes to that of Dark Nights: Metal – the allure of the hunt and the thrill of discovery – but with a much more optimistic resolution. This is one of the few stories that could have a tangible impact on the franchise going forward, and I hope to see Snyder or another writer build on the ending.
It’s surely only going to be a matter of time until Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev collaborate on a long-form Batman project, and their story here gives a taste of what that might involve. Maleev’s hauntingly moody art is every bit as perfectly suited for Batman franchise as it was Daredevil. I also appreciate how this story seeks to resuscitate the Penguin’s reputation a bit. Too many recent stories have made Oswald Cobblepot into a comical figure or used him as a punching bag for the benefit of other villains. This story serves as a reminder of how dangerous and crafty an opponent he can be, while still showing how he can be a victim of his own hubris.
Tom King and Tony Daniel reunite once more. Given how grim and morose King’s Batman run has been of late, it’s a welcome change of pace to see a much more positive spin on the Caped Crusader, and one that celebrates his entire supporting cast. This story falls apart a bit if you try to take it too literally or pin down its exact place in Batman continuity, but emotionally it hits all the right notes.
The final story in this issue is also the one with the most obvious impact on the series. The current Detective Comics team, writer Peter Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke) kick off a major new story arc that hinges on the comic book universe debut of the Arkham Knight. This prelude doesn’t offer many clues as to the villain’s identity other than to illustrate how much they differ from the version introduced in the Arkham Knight video game. This story serves as an effective mission statement for the character, and an excuse for Mahnke to render one epic splash page after another.