The Dark Knight Detective gets a solid, occasionally stirring anniversary issue tribute in Detective Comics #1027. Once again celebrating a 1,000th issue milestone (this time, of Batman's debut in #27), DC gathers a wildly talented (though still dude heavy) roster of talent to deliver short, punchy Batman tales, focused on the ethos of Batman and the insane (but enthralling) city he protects. But unlike some of the disposable efforts from the Catwoman and Joker Anniversary issues, Detective Comics #1027's range from good to great, barring a few odd turns from some of the older hands associated with the Dark Knight and the main Bat titles.
Written by Peter J. Tomasi, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Greg Rucka, James Tynion IV, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mariko Tamaki, Marv Wolfman, Grant Morrison, Tom King, Scott Snyder, and Dan Jurgens
Art by Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy, Nathan Fairbain, David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez, Chip Zdarsky, Eduardo Risso, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, John Romita, Jr, Klaus Janson, Arif Prianto, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillian, Emanuela Luppchino, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jordie Bellaire, Chris Burnham, Walter Simonson, Laura Martin, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Marcelo Maiolo, Dan Jurgens, Kevin Nowlan, and Hi-Fi.
Lettering by Rob Leigh, Joshua Reed, Aditya Bidikar, Tom Napolitano, Andworld Design, Troy Peteri, Carlos Mangual, Steve Wands, and John Workman
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Not only that, but the gathered art teams all mesh into a wonderful visual 'walking tour' of Gotham City, who acts as a co-lead to Batman and the Bat-Family in this milestone issue. Offering visual tonalities and flair from pretty much every era of Batman, artists like David Marquez, John Romita, Jr., Tamra Bonvillian, and Ivan Reis, provide sleek, highly cinematic windows into Batman's life and career, ranging from the rough and tumble days of Year One and the slick Animated Series inspired superhero action of the current Batman title. Though your mileage might vary on the anthology format of these anniversary issues, which even I can admit is growing stale, but Detective Comics #1027 stands out from the pack thanks to its heart and classic Bat-action.
Largely unmoored for the current line of Bat titles, aside from Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, Tom Napolitano, and Tamra Bonvillain's wonderful closing story 'A Gift' (more on that in a second), Detective Comics #1027 could arguably be called a 'best of' compilation of Batman comic books. Though these anniversary issues are always somewhat weakened by the lack of a central throughline, Detective Comics #1027 makes up for it with visual panache and genuinely affecting Batman stories.
Opening stories 'Blowback' and 'The Master Class' from Peter J. Tomasi and Brian Michael Bendis, respectively, set a shockingly high bar and emotional precedent for the annual. Handled by the poster ready art teams of Brad Walker, Nathan Fairbain, Andrew Hennessy, David Marquez, and Alejandro Sanchez (reunited Bendis with some of his Ultimate Spider-Man compatriots), Tomasi and Bendis give us wonderful showcases of Batman's villains and the Bat-Family at large.
'Blowback' is largely a montage story, with Bruce recounting the dastardly exploits of his rogues gallery as he attempts to slow his heart rate enough to "die" in order to escape a lower-level street villain's trap.
'The Master Class' however, is a tremendous procedural mystery with the whole of the Bat-family acting as the lead detectives on a murder case, supervised and overseen by their patriarch.
Though both relatively simple setups, the creative teams involved really go for the gusto in terms of how accessibly entertaining they are. Not only that, the artists are throwing in all sorts of wonderful visual callbacks and dynamic page construction.
'Blowback' especially is fun, because as Batman is describing each villain, the page is interlocked with him in battle with the villain, clad in a different era's costume using a set from a different iconic Batman effort. Bendis' verbose scripting style and handle on the more pulpy sides of comics also elevates 'The Master Class' instead of hindering it as it does in other books. Each hero gets to run with the "red ball homicide" of a seemingly corrupt GCPD detective, deftly setting up another aspect of the mystery until they close it with a genuinely stirring affirmation from their mentor and World's Greatest Detective.
From there the stories just get better. Like the chilling, but also genuinely funny Batman/Joker story 'Many Happy Returns' from Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky, and Aditya Bidikar, which tells of the Joker's hellish "birthday presents" he keeps gifting the Batman starting from his earliest days into now.
Scott Snyder, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Marcelo Maiolo's 'As Always' brings us Jim Gordon's eye view of Batman's exploits with the Justice League of America and how something as simple as turning on a light can be everything to a city in crisis.
Team Batman Inc. - Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, and Nathan Fairbairn - also reunite, giving readers a darkly hilarious look at the hero who starred in Detective Comics #26 all those years ago, debuting on the same night as the Batman back in 1939.
Of course, not all of the stories are winners. Efforts like the Generations story (from Dan Jurgens and Kevin Nowlan) and Marv Wolfman's 'Odyssey' cast a bit of a self-indulgent pallor over their sections. They also stand apart slightly, both in visuals and narrative, as they read like parts of a completely different whole, cut from some other book, and injected into the thematically comparable other efforts throughout the annual.
The same could also be said for the closing story 'A Gift,' which is a direct tease for the next arc of Detective Comics (heralding the return of the Black Casebook!). The difference between 'A Gift' and those other stories, however, is it's actually fun to read.
And therein lies the real strength of Detective Comics #1027. It's just really damn fun to read. Offering readers a vast range of what Batman and Detective Comics can offer as a title, Detective Comics #1027 stands as a worthy tribute to the issue that launched the Bat dynasty.