This review will cover every story in Detective Comics #1000. After the individual story review, there is some brief comments on the comic as a whole. Let’s dive in.
‘Batman’s Longest Case’
By: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
After an epic five-year run-on Batman, it makes sense to include Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, whose contribution to this anthology goes back to Batman’s publication origins. ‘Batman’s longest case’ is a nice celebration of Batman’s origins as a costumed detective, and an acknowledgment that Batman’s work will never truly be finished. It works well as a standalone story, but also fits comfortably into the small pocket on continuity that is Snyder’s work on Batman, Justice League, and Dark Knights Metal. On a more personal note, it’s great to see Capullo draw Batman’s classic suit verses the more modern redesigns the character has received in recent years.
‘Manufacture For Use’
By: Kevin Smith and Jim Lee
Kevin Smith isn’t considered one of the greats when it comes to Batman writers. His work on the character is memorable for all the wrong reasons, and doesn’t rank amongst the Dark Knight’s best outings. However, Smith has done some solid work in the comics medium and ‘Manufacture for use’ is the most recent example of his storytelling skills. Smith’s contribution to Detective Comics #1000 is a sort piece whose subject is Batman’s ability to endure the worst trauma, and shape it into something positive. Although the script isn’t always subtle, Smith’s story has a solid concept behind itself that conveys a strong message and interpretation of Batman’s legacy. Jim Lee’s art for the story is excellent as always, with Smith even finding room in his dialogue heavy script for Lee’s uncanny ability to craft pages with dynamic figure work.
‘The Legend of Knute Brody’
By: Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen
Dini and Nguyen’s story is a short comedic tale about Gotham’s worst criminal henchmen. Dini is, of course, one of the most memorable writers on Batman: The Animated Series and its many spin-offs. The former show balanced humor with the darker elements of Batman, and ‘The Legend of Knute Brody’ shows the influence of the Batman cartoons. One could easily imagine this being an unused script from a Batman cartoon. It’s a fun little comedic romp in the Batman Universe drawn with cartoon-like energy (Nguyen was a great choice for this story) that echoes the versatility of the Batman character. He is primarily know as a dark avenger of the night, but Batman works great in comedy.
‘The Batman’s Design’
By: Warren Ellis and Becky Cloonan
Warren Ellis hasn’t written many Batman comics in his career, but this story makes a strong case for his involvement in the franchise. ‘The Batman’s design’ reads very much like an Ellis comic, with the simplicity of the tale evoking the writer’s work on Moon Knight. Batman maneuvers some thugs into a situation where he has complete control, something conveyed excellently in Ellis’ storytelling. Form matches content in a brutally effective Batman story that highlights the character’s meticulous and occasionally sadistic behavior. The art in this story is evidence for the importance of good coloring, with Cloonan’s clean linework being elevated by (Insert name)’s moody pallet.
‘Return to Crime Alley’
By: Dennis O’Neil and Steve Epting
Dennis O’Neil is a comics legend, who spent his career redefining many classic characters. Among them was Batman, so it’s fitting to have O’Neil write a story for this collection. ‘Return to Crime Alley’ brings Batman into an ethical conflict with Leslie Tompkins, evoking some excellent Batman stories from the past. It’s a shame that O’Neil’ script feels less like a story, and more like the synopsis of a better, more well-defined narrative.
O’Neil is teamed with penciler/inker Steve Epting and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser. The artistic pairing of Epting and Breitweiser creates a visually stunning issue. ‘Retrun to Crime Alley’ makes a strong case for moving Epting off of Action Comics and onto a Batman title.
By: Christopher Priest and Neal Adams
This is the weakest story in this collection. Priest’s narrative echoes the hairy chest Batman of the 1970’s, but it’s a very underwhelming story. There’s nothing notable about ‘Heretic’ beyond the amazing artwork from Neal Adams. It’s by-the-numbers and feels like half a story. ‘Heretic’ is an unsatisfying read and arguably the weakest part of this anthology special. On a more positive note, at least Neal Adams got to draw Batman in a story that feels pulled from the era in which he first drew the dark knight. As someone who grew up reading’s reprints of Adams’ Batman work, I got chills.
By Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
As much as I’m enjoying Bendis’ Action Comics run, it’s great to see him team with Alex Maleev on a Batman story. The duo brought a film noir vibe to their character-defining work on Daredevil, an aesthetic and tone perfectly in line with Batman. The moody and noir-tinged ‘I Know’ is a Batman tale set in the future; long after Batman has retired from fighting crime. Bendis’ script is a well-written tribute to Batman’s first origin story and the character’s keen intellect. The writer’s dialogue is excellent (he writes a great Penguin) and the story is well structured. Actually, it’s some of Bendis’ most economical storytelling since he came to DC. Maleev’s artwork excels in creating atmosphere and detailed character expressions. His depiction of the Penguin may be my new favorite version of the character.
‘The Last Crime in Gotham’
By: Geoff Johns and Kelley Jones
Geoff Johns and Kelley Jones’ story is a short vignette; a tale of melancholy that meditates on the hole at the center of Batman’s life. Batman thinks about the family he could have, and the important role they could play in his life. It’s an odd story in the context of this collection though, as it doesn’t, unlike many of the other stories, have a clear place in continuity. Knowing where Bruce is in his career as Batman would have added more context to the story and deepened its impact. Where the story doesn’t falter is the art of Kelley Jones, whose stylized figures and brushwork make ‘The Last Crime in Gotham’ one of the most appealing stories in this anthology.
By: James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez
Tynion did fantastic work with the extended Batman family in his Detective Comics run. Therefore, it’s fitting that he’d tackle the subject of Batman’s proteges in his story, ‘The Precedent’. Tynion’s short comic delves into Bruce Wayne’s mixed feelings regarding the adopting of Dick Grayson, not only into the Wayne family but into his war on crime as well. ‘The Precedent’ highlights the constructive and positive force Batman can be, and the important supporting role the figure of Robin plays in the larger Batman mythos. Martinez is drawing a dialogue-heavy script but produced strong page layouts. The final page is an especially powerful image.
‘Batman’s Greatest Case’
By: Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, and Joelle Jones
This story is an odd little number that may put off some fans. Part of the plot feels decidedly un-batman like – though I think it’s rather amusing. Some of the character voices aren’t quite right, and the witty banter isn’t up to par with the writer’s better work. However, the story structure is smart and King’s approach to Batman is heartwarming. Batman’s loner status has been in a state of flux, as despite many writers’ attempts to highlight that facet of the character, corporate demands have built a large family around the character. King takes this concept and runs with it, with decent results. Joelle Jones and Tony S. Daniel draw some gorgeous pages — though I question the use of two artists for such a short story.
By: Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke
Similar to its sister publication, Action Comics #1000, Detective Comics #1000 ends on a preview for the title’s future. It outdoes the preview story in Action Comics, in that it reads as a complete story with a meaningful point. The script gets readers into the head of the Arkham Knight, exploring how the character views Batman while teasing out the larger motivation that will define the villain’s vendetta against the caped crusader. Tomasi’ captures an interesting voice for the character and succeeds in building anticipation for Detective Comics #1001. Similar to the story Tomasi wrote for Acton Comics #1000, the writer adds captions to beautiful splash pages drawn by his artistic collaborator — in this case Doug Mahnke. Each image gives the reader a sense of history, while also furthering Tomasi’s larger story.
Despite some lackluster stories, the anthology is an enjoyable read that allows readers to sample the different facets of Batman’s character that have developed during his eighty years of existence. Not every featured story is as strong as they could have been, but at least the artwork on each story is solid. The stronger sections of Detective Comics #1000 are worth the price of admission alone.
Overall score for Detective Comics #1000: 3/5 – Not perfect, but essential for any Batman fan.