It’s a big anniversary shindig that finally answeres the question: Is Bruce Wayne or Batman his true face? Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Detective Comics #500 awaits!
Writer: Alan Brennert/Len Wein/Mike W. Barr/Walter Gibson/Cary Bates
Penciler: Dick Giordano/Walt Simonson/José Luis García-López/Tom Yeates/Carmine Infantino
Inker: Dick Giordano/Walt Simonson/José Luis García-López/Tom Yeates/Bob Smith
Colorist: Adrienne Roy/Tatjana Wood/Adrienne Roy
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Joe Orlando
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $16.00
Previously in Detective Comics: The story of Detective Comics started well before Batman did, and over the decades, a lot of characters made their appearance in the book’s pages. But the Caped Crusader will always be the heart and soul of the book, so we open with a remarakably vivid and frightening retelling of Batman’s origin in Crime Alley. It turns out to be a dream of Bruce Wayne, who awakens and sets out to fight some crime to take his mind off of his decades-old tragedy. Things start to get weird when Robin appears, even though he’s on a class trip to Europe and can’t possibly be in the streets of Gotham. Then, The Phantom Stranger steps from the shadows with a strange bargain for the Bat…
The Dynamic Duo finds themselves transported to Earth-Five, to a version of their city where crime is still running rampant. Batman attacks a crime in progress, only to find that he’s struck more fear than usual into the superstitious and cowardly lot before him, as if they’ve never seen a Batman before. And, indeed, they haven’t, nor has Lieutenant Gordon of the Gotham City PD, who tries to bring in the costumed maniac in his streets immediately. Seeking out Thomas and Martha Wayne’s address at the local library (they used to have those, they were like the internet printed on paper), Robin also notices something strange: There is no tradition of heroic fantasy on this world. No Robin Hood, no Hercules, and worst of all, no Krypton, as the star it orbits on Earth-1 doesn’t even exist. A combination of detective work and caping around the city (all beautifully drawn by the late Dick Giordano, by the way) finds Wayne Manor but there’s no record of Joe Chill anywhere in Gotham. Batman wonders if it’s worth letting his alternate self live a quiet, pampered life with both parents if it means that this Earth is entirely denied it’s heroic tradition, but soon the decision is taken from his hands.
One this world, Joe Chill is from outta town, and gets killed, with another criminal encountering the young Waynes and master Bruce in Crime Alley, only to stare down the barrel of… THE BAT-MAN!! Having finally balanced the scales for his lost family, Batman and Robin return to their home Earth wondering what might happen to young Bruce and his world…
…never knowing that their influence made Earth-Five’s Bruce as determined to be a hero as the original. Well, not the original, since this Batman is technically NOT the first in official DC canon, thanks to the existence of Earth-Two. But that’s a lot of cans full of a lot of worms that we really don’t have time for right now. The second story in this issue celebrates the anniversary of the book itself, rather than just it’s most famous star, taking us to a retirement dinner for a cop named Archie Evergreen, featuring a familiar roster of guests, all of whom used to appear in the book. Captain Compass, The Human Target, Mysto the Magician Detective, native American lawman Pow-Wow Smith, Roy Raymond the TV detective, Jason Bard and Slam Bradley all witness Evergreen’s murder and puts their heads together on the solution. Working together, our team figures out all the clues, but it’s Slam (who headlined Detective Comics #1 back in 1937) who gets to do the Columbo “sum it all up” routine.
It turns out that the murderer was… the victim? And, true to his reputation as a really smart cop, he used his faked killing to get all his detective pals to break a criminal syndicate, which is really sort of brilliant from top to bottom. There’s a really cute two-pager from Weein and Simonson parodying/tribuing Snoopy from ‘Peanuts’ with a tale composed of snippets of his comically silly writing, starting with “It was a dark and stormy night.” There’s a quick sotry of Elongated Man and Sue Dibny with exquisite art by José Luis García-López that may be the most beautiful thing in an overwhelmingly beautiful book and an eight-page text story by Walter Gibson, the writer of The Shadow stories of the pulp-era.
Then, this happens.
Good gosh, that’s a pretty panel. The whole story is that good looking, as well, with Hawkman and Hawkgirl investigating a mystery that involves a cameo by The Martian Manhunter, who also spent several years as the co-star of Detective. We wrap up with a Batman/Deadman team-up with art by Carmine Infantino, who redefined the comic and Batman back in the mid-1960s. Sadly, 80s Carmine isn’t quite as beautiful as it would be, but it’s the only visual sour note in a really strong comic book, leaving Detective Comics #500 with a very impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. Heck, the Joe Kubert Hawkman alone is worth the price of admission, but it’s a really well-done anniversary across the board.
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DETECTIVE COMICS #500
This one is chockfull of cool concepts, gorgeous art and tributes to detecitves past. It's a good'n.