As any true Batman fan should know, the Caped Crusader made his first appearance in 1939 within the pages of Detective Comics #27, courtesy of Bill Finger and, allegedly, Bob Kane. Now that the New 52’s rebooted Batman: Detective Comics has hit #27, readers are presented with a “special mega-sized anniversary issue” celebrating 75 years of the Dark Knight, “featuring an all-star roster of creators” including Neal Adams, Scott Snyder, Mike Barr, and Francesco Francavilla. It even has a spine! But is it good?
Detective Comics #27 (DC Comics)
It’s difficult not to compare this new Detective Comics #27 to the recent X-Men: Gold, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Marvel’s Merry Mutants with its own “roster of all-star creators.” As anthologies, both comics feature stories that are mostly independent of one other, but whereas Gold focused on the X-Men’s past, Detective #27 looks more towards Batman’s future. Perhaps accidentally, in fact, there is a somewhat unifying theme of renewal throughout most of the stories.
The issue begins with “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” a completely unnecessary retelling of Batman’s first adventure from the original Detective Comics #27. It’s pretentious, repetitive, and worst of all, boring. Writer Brad Meltzer gives Batman dueling narration boxes, but confusion and pointlessness render the technique a failed experiment. I’ve never had many strong feelings for or against artist Bryan Hitch, but his “widescreen” style doesn’t add much to the story either, though Meltzer may be at fault for not writing to his artist’s strengths. The issue does not start strong, to say the least.
Luckily, “Old School” comes next to wipe that bad taste from reader’s mouths, with a charming story by Gregg Hurwitz, writer of the soon-to-be-cancelled Batman: The Dark Knight, with visuals by Neal Adams, easily one of the most important Batman artists of all time. The story is a refreshingly humorous, metafictional look at the evolution of Batman comics from the Golden Age to the present. Neal Adams does an excellent job of paying tribute to early Batman artists like Bob Kane Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang, while Gregg Hurwitz gets a few laughs out of lampooning the shifting trends of comic book writing.
“Better Days” comes next from writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Ian Bertram. I’m a sucker for superhero birthdays, so while “Better Days” doesn’t come close to rivaling “For the Man Who Has Everything,” this story still put a smile on my face more than once, thanks mostly to Betram, whose style seems to rest in a strange and wonderful place between Frank Quitely and, surprisingly, Chris Ware.
“Rain” (listed in the table of contents as “Hero” for some reason) is only four short pages written and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla, but such a small amount of Francavilla is still better than no Francavilla.
Unfortunately, “The Sacrifice” is another disappointment. The art by Guillem March is impressive, but we didn’t need Mike Barr to tell us another “It’s a Wonderful Life”-like story about “what if Bruce’s parents survived?”
John Layman and Jason Fabok, the current creative team of the Detective Comics ongoing series bring us Gothtopia, which, at 27 pages, is by far the longest story of the issue. Fortunately, it’s a good one, and the first of the 3 part “Gothtopia” storyline. It’s an interesting Elseworlds-style tale of a Gotham city with a 90% drop in crime, and Batman fights what little crime there is alongside his partner and lover, Catbird. But when the suicide rate rises to 15 times the national average, it quickly becomes clear that something is wrong with the “Safest City in America.”
Finally, current Batman writer Scott Snyder teams up once again with artist Sean Murphy for “27,” which runs on a brilliantly meta premise: a new Batman comes along once every 25 years, with two years to actualize as the old Batman dies away. It takes a bit too much time explaining the premise to tell a real story, but I hope Snyder will revisit the world of Batman: Year 200 in the future.
- Solid artistic showcase
- Excellent production
- Great variety of styles and tones
- Starts off poorly
- Treads too much familiar ground
Is it Good?
Batman: Detective Comics #27 is far from perfect, but there’s enough good stuff in here to justify the $7.99 price tag.