While it may not seem especially important when considering the fact that the series for which DC Comics gets its name is steadily reaching towards its inevitable one thousandth issue, Detective Comics Comics (not a typo) is celebrating 950 issues of Detective Comics with an “oversize anniversary special,” penned by regular series writer James Tynion IV with pencils by Marcio Takara, Alvaro Martinez, and Eddy Barrows. At 38 pages (not including ads) its nearly double the size of your typical Rebirth-era DC comic, and costs just $3.99. That may or may not sound like a bargain (although we can all agree that Marvel would probably charge at least another dollar for something this size), but the more important question remains: is it good?
Detective Comics #950 (DC Comics)
Even in – or, perhaps, especially in – a time in which an ongoing comic book series is lucky to go on for a year without being renumbered, sometimes with the same creative team intact, it seems there’s nothing the Big 2 superhero publishers love more than an anniversary issue. Detective Comics, as DC’s second longest running series (after Action Comics, of course), is certainly no stranger to this. After the series reverted to #1 in the wake of the New 52 initiative in 2011, the 19th issue of that series celebrated what would have been its 900th issue had it retained its original numbering with a “special 80-page spectacular.” Then, in 2014, Detective Comics (volume 2) celebrated its 27th issue with an oversized, special edition, anthology-style issue as a tribute to the fact that Batman first appeared in the original Detective Comics #27, way back in 1939.
Has it been overkill? Maybe. Yet the fact remains that this is a solid issue that should satisfy anyone who has already been enjoying Detective Comics since Rebirth started.
I qualified that statement not to limit who reads this comic, but to be clear about who it appears to be aimed towards. By all means, if you’re a longtime fan of the Bat family, I would whole-heartedly recommend starting Tynion’s run from the beginning at issue #934 and taking it from there.
There’s another qualifying statement. Here’s the thing: Tynion’s Detective Comics run, from the beginning, seems to have been geared more towards hardcore fans of the Bat books than anything else that Rebirth is offering. While Tom King has proven that he knows his way around Gotham City with his Batman run over the course of the past six months or so, pretty much anyone could pick up his run from the beginning and enjoy it without worrying too much about what’s happened in the past. Even Scott Snyder’s All-Star Batman has been quite accessible, despite Snyder’s years as DC’s foremost writer of the Caped Crusader’s adventures.
Tynion’s Detective Comics run, at least by comparison, does not appear to be overly concerned with accessibility. Yet that’s actually one of the strengths of the run so far. This run, thematically and functionally, has been built upon relationships: Batwoman’s relationship with her father, Spoiler’s relationship with Red Robin, Batman’s relationship with the city itself, and even Azrael’s relationship with the God that he so strongly believes in have all come into play. Yet it’s because the readers have such long-standing relationships with these characters that seeing the characters interact with each other becomes so rewarding.
With that in mind, Detective Comics #950 does not attempt to bring in new readers, nor is it a nebulous celebration of Batman himself. If it’s a celebration of anything, it’s a celebration of itself, and of everything that this series has been doing right since Tynion took over. Really, it’s just another issue of ‘Tec, which just happens to have a little bit more room to work with.
The first story within these pages, and the one that takes up the most space, is a prologue to the “League of Shadows” story arc entitled “Shadow of a Tear.” Penciled by Marcio Takara, it’s an Orphan (Cassandra Cain)-centric story that uses third-person omniscient narration – rare for contemporary comics – to really cut into the heart of who she is. Because Orphan says so little, she’s been a difficult character to crack, so this opportunity to step into her shoes and learn more about her is a welcome one. It may be a bit of a cheat, since for so long she’s managed to establish her own identity through action and how other characters behave around her, but Tynion doesn’t let himself get too on-the-nose. Plus, while this is indeed a prologue, teasing a new story never gets in the way of Orphan’s spotlight here.
The next story, “Higher Powers,” penciled by Alvaro Martinez, focuses on Azrael and Batwing, as Batwing tries to understand how Azrael manages to be victorious in a seemingly impossible situation. Tynion’s tackling of religious themes are interesting. It would be weird for him to advocate for a particular religion in the pages of a DC comic book, and he doesn’t, but it’s still enough to make you wonder if there is an actual, literal Christian God that exists in this version of the DC Universe.
Finally, we’re left with “The Big Picture,” penciled by Eddy Barrows, a flashback scene between Red Robin and Batman. There’s not much to say about it because it’s so short, and it takes a while to get to the point, but the end is a real kicker.
Art-wise, you’d be forgiven for finding Takara, Martiznez, and Barrows all relatively comparable, but I don’t mean to sound reductive. While it all retains a certain “DC House Style” that has been written about before (and which DC seems to be moving away from a bit), it’s never looked better. As a whole, DC Rebirth has been bringing out the best in its creators, and that’s just as true for artists as it is for writers.
Is It Good?
Detective Comics #950 is essentially just an ordinary issue of Detective Comics that just happens to be nearly twice as long, but by no means is that a bad thing.