By Brad Meltzer, Bryan Hitch; Gregg Hurwitz, Neal Adams; Peter J. Tomasi, Ian Bertram; Francesco Francavilla; Mike Barr, Guillem March; John Layman, Jason Fabok; Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy
Before delving into this massive 96 page anniversary issue, I have one thing to say to fellow Bat fans…GO BUY THIS!! There is no point in burying the lead here; Celebrating 75 years of Batman’s legacy, DC has assembled several fantastic, creative contributors for this book.
There are seven stories within this enthralling comic that are definitely diverse, but each depicts why Batman is such an indelible icon. Writer Brad Meltzer and artist Bryan Hitch open the book with a strong re-telling of the plot from the original Detective Comics #27, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate”. Meltzer is able to incorporate into the story Batman’s asides where he details his reasons for continually donning the cowl. There are some great lines, but he overdid it a bit by placing the “I do it…” line in almost every panel in the second half of the story. The other bookend tale was done by current Batman star Scott Snyder with art done by Sean Murphy (check out their work on Vertigo’s The Wake!). I don’t want to spoil too much, but the team presents a futuristic narrative where an aging Bruce Wayne explains to a man why there has always been a need for Batman and how he has kept someone behind the mask for so many generations.
It was a brilliant move to bookend the issue with a classic story and a storyline set far into the future. This further drives the point home that Batman is able to be reinterpreted and adapted for any genre or time. This actually ties into Gregg Hurwitz and Neal Adams’ “Old School”. Batman faces off against the Penguin and Scarecrow, simple enough story right, but what makes this narrative stand out is how it’s structured. Batman is depicted in his various comic incarnations over the years as the story progresses. There’s 50’s/60’s Batman, Adams’ signature design and even his take on Frank Miller! Seeing Neal amazingly illustrate so many versions of the Dark Knight, as well as matching the page layouts of each period is such a treat. Hurwitz uses this fever dream framing device to masterfully explain the transformations within the context of the story and celebrate the longevity of the character. It has a very touching ending and a bit of shameless product placement for a Batman: Black and White statue.
Francesco Francavilla’s tale is probably the weakest of the all seven. The only thing noteworthy is that it ties in with his and Scott Snyder’s run in Detective Comics #871-881. It’s a cool shout out, but I would much rather have read Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen’s narrative, which was noted in the solicitations, but never made it to print. Mike Barr and Guillem March’s “The Sacrifice” is another short story that has Bruce go on an It’s A Wonderful Life-type story with the Phantom Stranger. It may be short, but it’s poignant.
“Better Days” is another story with an old Bruce Wayne. Peter J. Tomasi sets up it as the Bat family celebrating Bruce’s 75th birthday (very cool seeing Barbara Gordon as she looks in Batman Beyond). What truly stood out to me is a single close-up panel that encapsulates Bruce’s strength of will and sense of responsibility – gorgeously simplistic. There are some great Dark Knight Returns references throughout.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s “Gothtopia”, which is the arc in the current Detective Comics run. Jason Fabok’s Bat-suit design is amazing! For his artwork alone, I’m sold for the next three issues. Part one of this storyline presents an intriguing alternate reality for Gotham, but by the end, things, of course, are not what they appear…
This may be a long review, but this is an iconic issue and each narrative merits some attention. With so many Batman homage, references and Easter eggs, one can tell this book was crafted by people who truly care about the character and his mythos. Also worth mentioning is the great pinup art within the comic from various artists such as Kelly Jones, Graham Nolan and, my personal favorite, Jock. Detective Comics #27 is a must-buy! You know what, buy two copies, one to read and another to keep protected because this is one you will want to hold on to and re-read. Here’s to adding another 75 years to the Dark Knight legend!