So, why all the hubbub about the 900 and an 80-page special? The main reason is clear – it’s because this is the 900th issue of Detective Comics (or would have been, if the New 52 hadn’t happened in DC)!
DETECTIVE COMICS #19
Writers: John Layman and James Tynion IV
Pencils: Jason Fabok, Henrik Jonsson, Andy Clarke, Mikel Janin and Jason Masters
Colors: Blond, Juancho, Dave McCaig & Brad Anderson, and Brett Smith
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics Cover Price: $7.99
Previously in DETECTIVE COMICS: Oswald Cobblepott, probably better known as the Penguin, has lost his criminal empire to a former henchman called Emperor Penguin, who has made sure Pengy is behind bars so he can exert his own particular influence over the Gotham underworld. Also, Mr. Zsasz, a mass murderer who keeps track of his number of kills by scratching a notch for each one in his own skin, is on the loose. Finally, Kirk Langstrom’s Man-Bat formula has been causing problems in several Bat-family titles, and is about to do so in this one!
A “WTF” WORTHY OF THE NAME
Originally, books solicited by DC Comics were part of what was called the “WTF” month, which was later dropped. Each issue that hits the stands in April is supposed to have a big shock somewhere in the issue. Detective Comics #19 delivers, and then some!
There are five stories in this issue, starting off with “The 900” from John Layman and Jason Fabok, the book’s usual creative team, then moving to “Birth of a Family” with Man-Bat from Layman and Andy Clarke, “War Council” featuring Bane by James Tynion IV and Mikel Janin, “Birdwatching” from Layman and Jenrik Jonsson, and “Through a Blue Lens” with several of Gotham’s police force by Layman and Jason Masters. There are many full-page posters sprinkled throughout the comic.
Layman, creator of Chew for Image Comics, has done a great job of taking over this title, and particularly delivers some amazing surprises in the book. The biggest of them appear in the first story, “The 900,” the title obviously an allusion to what originally made this book with picking up.
The Man-Bat formula has been released in the 900 block, located between 9th and 10th avenues in Gotham City. Many residents in this area have succumbed to the airborne contagion, and Batman must intervene without the help of his former helpers Batgirl and Nightwing.
The Dark Knight gets help from an unexpected Bat-source, then must deal with a particularly nasty transformed individual. My jaw dropped open when I saw who it was – Zsasz himself! Those scratches made him easy to recognize even with the big bat ears!
“Birth of a Family” continues the story, with Francine Langstrom, Kirk’s wife, deciding to take matters into her own hands.
Then comes “War Council,” and Mr. Tynion, who writes Talon for DC, introduces Bane to the Court of Owls, a set up for future issues of his own title.
The Penguin begins the process of leaving jail in “Birdwatching,” in which former aide Mr. Combustible remembers just whose lieutenant he is.
The final story is “Through a Blue Lens,” and we see that not all Gotham cops are happy to pick up after Batman. One of the force was transformed into a Man-Bat, and is recovering in a hospital. Most of his visitors applaud his ability to hold the Dark Knight off even though he became a monster, but not all. This was the most unsettling of the stories, and seems to be setting up a subplot I’m anxious to see continue in future issues.
THE ART MATCHES THE TONE OF THE STORIES WELL
Regarding the art, the cover is one of the fold-outs that many of the issues this month will feature. The thing that leaped out at me, though, was the use of a neon orange color in several places on that cover. It went well with the blood-red and darker tones of blue and black. When I looked over all the offerings out this week in the stands, this cover more than stood out!
Despite the multiple artists, I felt the art was very consistent from tale to tale. Different doesn’t necessarily mean bad, so I couldn’t pick out one that I didn’t like, which is quite a compliment for a book like this one!
As far as the posters (or pin-ups, as they used to be called), it depends on your taste to pick out the ones you like best. Me, I enjoyed Cameron Stewart’s version of Batman looking down into Gotham City the best, then the Dustin Nguyen tribute to The Killing Joke next to it. But I liked them all!
BOTTOM LINE: WORTH THE COVER PRICE, YOU BETCHA!
This was a good celebration of 900 issues of Detective Comics! Of course, it would have been nice to see that numbering restored, but I’m okay with this kind of recognition. It literally drives me batty to see a comic go on for 10-20 issues, then get renumbered when a company thinks they can sell more copies by leaping back to the numbering they just left a few months back!
Other than that, it’s a powerful issue with connections to previous ones and to other events taking place in the Batman universe. Hey, this comic had to celebrate 900 issues, be part of “WTF” and also move us forward in other stories. I think ya done good, folks!
Detective Comics #19 gets 5 out of 5 stars.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!