Batman, DC Comics character and star of the page and screen, has just marked his 1,000th appearance in the monthly title “Detective Comics” (1937–) with “Detective Comics #1,027” (2020), and while this 1,027th issue is a landmark for the character, the issue itself reads more as a fun novelty than a sweeping thesis on 1,000 issues.
The book’s credits page reads like a veritable “who’s who” of the top creators in comics. From writer/artist Dan Jurgens to critical darling Grant Morrison, the book collects 12 stories from various perspectives in an anthology format intended as an ultimate sendup to the Dark Knight. The book is bound, not as a softcover comic or magazine, but as a mini graphic novel almost free of advertisements. The issue is available for $9.99, a price that collectors will come to dread as DC has released an array of “variant covers” to entice ardent fans to shell out for dynamic covers by comic industry greats.
For almost $10, though, the stories are sadly hit or miss, with some incredible highs and some disappointing lows. The standout story is “Detective #26” by the aforementioned Grant Morrison with art by Chris Burnham. The story takes full advantage of its eight pages, playing with the transition from pulp-era detectives to the rise of costumed crime fighters that ultimately gave birth to Batman. Another standout is “The Master Class” by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez, where Bendis, co-creator of super-detective Jessica Jones, plots a delightfully detailed murder mystery for the entire Bat family to solve together.
The stories that miss seem at odds with themselves. One, in particular, is “Fore” by Kelly Sue DeConnick, a segment which strikes a fantastic balance between Bruce Wayne and Batman. However, the art by John Romita Jr. is largely inconsistent, with characters seemingly changing body dimensions between panels. “Fore” is, unfortunately, the sore spot in an otherwise beautifully drawn book. “Fore” is well contrasted by the story, “A Gift,” where writer Mariko Tamaki pens a fairly average story, but the imagery on display from artist Dan Mora is something to behold. Mora’s kinetic yet traditional style coupled with the resplendent color work by Tamra Bonvillain evokes a style akin to a neon-lit independent book that feels refreshingly bold in a superhero book.
The confines of an anthology are no doubt stringent, offering creative teams a limited number of pages to tell a story, yet some of the creators tell tales that offer no real conclusion and instead stretch into upcoming books. Dan Jurgens’ story teases “Generations: Future State #1” (2021) and the final panel of “A Gift” proclaims that “The Joker War Rages On In New Issues Of Batman — On Sale Now!” The sentiment of one-sixth of the stories in a celebratory collection acting as extended commercials smacks of cynical promotional tactics slyly slotted into a premium-priced book.
“Detective Comics #1,027” is difficult to quantify, as in some areas it’s a roaring success and in others, it feels sorely lacking. The art is admittedly gorgeous, it seems to be a prettier book to look at than to read, and for a character blessed with a multitude of amazing stories told over decades and decades feels as though it captures one part the magic of the character, but not another.