Comic Review: Detective Comics #27

Greg Capullo cover
Ever since the launch of the New 52, DC Comics has been in the position to do something special for their co-flagship character, Batman. Having made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 back in 1939 from the team of Bob Kane and Bob Finger, Batman has been one of the most popular comic book characters in the world. So popular, in fact, that the Detective Comics title had been running for 881 consecutive issues. But with DC's universe wide relaunch and renumbering, a new Detective Comics #27 was just around the corner. Thankfully, the company took the opportunity as it presented itself and used the issue as a way to celebrate the Caped Crusader's 75th anniversary.

The newest Detective Comics #27 is an oversized issue featuring an oversized line-up of fantastic creators. From Neal Adams to Scott Snyder, Francesco Francavilla to Jim Lee, the issue is chock-full of Batman-y goodness. I first caught whiff of the book when my wife and I met Brad Meltzer at a book signing back in October where he revealed that he was contributing to the Batman mythos. Since then, I've been looking forward to this to come out.

Jim Lee cover
The book is broken up into seven different stories, most of which celebrate the history of the Batman. The second story in the issue (I'll come back to the first), "Old School", was written by Gregg Hurwitz and drawn by Neal Adams. It takes the reader through the gamut of Batman incarnations, from the hokey jokester of the 60s, to the dark and gritty version of the 90s, quickly racing through the years showing how Batman has been forced to evolve to stay interesting and relevant. The art itself also shows the progression. The opening panels imitate the splotchiness of early comics printing and gradually shifts through styles to the more sophisticated coloring of today. It's a beautiful story and fun as hell.

Peter J. Tomasi tells a tale of the future in "Better Days", where an elderly Bruce Wayne celebrates his seventy-fifth birthday. It features the aging cast of the Bat-family, Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Alfred, even Damian Wayne, all on the verge of osteoporosis themselves.The art by Ian Bertram pays homage to Frank Miller's classic The Dark Knight Returns, with his heavy-bodied Batman and overly wrinkled Bruce Wayne. Even his depiction of Barbara Gordon brought to mind Carrie Kelly, the Robin from Miller's story. It's a great story that looks forward instead of backward and captures the spirit of how deep the need to be Batman goes to the core of his character.

Frank Miller cover
Francesco Francavilla takes a different approach to the idea of Batman in his tale, "Hero". Whereas Batman is usually immortalized in a battle with any of his Rogues Gallery, also seeming to fight the forces of evil, "Hero" shows him rescuing a family after a terrible car accident. In the span of four pages, Francavilla shows that being a hero is more than just bashing in the Joker's face. Batman's contribution to the city of Gotham goes much further than that.

"The Sacrifice" by Mike Barr with art by Guillem March, explores what would have happened had Bruce Wayne's parents survived the attack outside the movie theater on that faithful night. With the help of the Phantom Stranger, Bruce gets to see his life had his parents lived, one in which Gotham is overrun by criminals and many of Batman's friends and allies meet with terrible situations. It shows the heavy-handed necessity of the Batman, a being dedicated to keeping the city, and the world, safe from harm, despite the sacrifice that's asked of him. It's a touching tale, one that's reminiscent of Marvel's "Age of Apocalypse", where one small change, the loss of Charles Xavier, can have wide-ranging consequences.

Chris Burnham cover
The first chapter of "Gothopia", a multi-part story written by John Layman, appears in this issue. In it, Gotham has become a crime-free utopia, basically what would happen if Batman succeeded in his fight against crime. But that peace is thrown out of whack when Poison Ivy shows up and makes Batman start to question his reality. It's an interesting story, the longest of the book, and probably the only one that fits into the current continuity. The art, by Jason Fabok, is gorgeous, telling a sophisticated story through a wide range of beautifully drawn panels. Fabok's emotion is spot-on, his story-telling crisp, and his characters exciting. The pairing of the story and the art make this one of my favorite stories in the book, and also one of my favorite recent Batman stories.

Scott Snyder has been lauded for his portrayal of Batman in the Batman series and he hits a home run here with"Twenty-Seven". Another vision of the future, Snyder takes Batman 200 years into the future, with the Dark Knight discovering a way to ensure that his legacy lives on to protect Gotham City. Sean Murphy lends his artistic talents to this story, bringing to life a variety of twisted versions of the future. It's a nice way to wrap up the issue, by promising fans that the idea of Batman will continue, even long after the person known as Bruce Wayne is gone.

Tony Daniel cover
Even though "Twenty-Seven" closed the book, I wanted to save my favorite story for last. Author Brad Meltzer returns to comics with "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate", a re-telling of Batman's first adventure. The story offers two narrations, one being Batman's internal dialogue, the other a journal entry of "the Bat-Man" explaining why he does what he does. Meltzer delves into Batman's convictions and explains his reasons for crime fighting, for putting himself in danger every night. Some of his reasons are admittedly selfish, while others are part of the self-less nature we know. Meltzer's story is brought to life through the pencils of Bryan Hitch. Unfortunately, the art lacks when compared to a lot of Hitch's past works, but it's still lively and fun to look at.

Without a doubt, Detective Comics #27 is a fitting tribute to one of the world's most popular characters. Though it comes with a hefty cover price, clocking in at $7.99, DC manages to add a lot of value with seven wonderfully touching stories. They also did away with most of the advertisements, filling the additional space with pin-ups from a range of artists. Nowadays, most everything is touted as a "Collector's Item", but Detective Comics #27 is truly something that most people would want to keep, it's just that well made.

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