Tuesday, September 9, 2014

'Detective Comics' No. 27 review

Thanks to one of my best friends sending me a box of fanboy goodness (four hardcover trades, including BATMAN: EARTH ONE and/or graphic novels, two CDs, two Michael Jordan biographies, two Eagles bios and several magazines and more -- basically enough for a couple birthdays and Christmases), I finally have a a preview/freebie copy of DETECTIVE COMICS No. 27, which retailers gave away on Batman Day (waaay back on July 23).

As a disclaimer, I'm always hesitant when a story is advertised as a retelling of an origin story or an expanded version of the same. The very rare ones are nothing short of phenomenal (BATMAN: YEAR ONE), some are intriguing and refreshing tweaks of the original origin (SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL or SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT, X-MEN: SEASON ONE), while others are well told, but don't add anything to what fans already knew (Dick Grayson's Robin in the New 52, various retellings of Captain America's origin and/or early days)  and the rest of simply "eh," if not downright forgettable.

So, ultimately I'm gun-shy of "another" modern take on an origin and I doubt it will stand on its own. Often, I'm left thinking "What was the point?" -- an opinion I have verified after reading such stories, especially those that fill in gaps within the established continuity.

Given all that, it's time to get into 'TEC No. 27 -- or at least the three stories included in my giveaway copy.


The first story is another reprint of Bob Kane's iconic, six-page first appearance of "The Bat-Man," as he was known in 1939.

What I first noticed this time is the Batman (to use his modern spelling) doesn't appear until the second panel of the third page -- a third of the way into the story. And when the burglars see him, what does one of them exclaim -- "The Bat-Man" -- nothing less than what countless other bad guys have said when they are shocked or surprised by the sudden appearance of the Dark Knight.

The hero spends the next two panels taking care of business (i.e. kicking ass). In the following panels, the Batman retrieves an important piece of stolen evidence -- one that will help him solve the case. Commissioner Jim Gordon is astonished by the Batman's presence, but he quickly leaves the scene before any of the officers' shots can hit their mark.

What can we learn from this page alone? That in the span of six panels, Kane establishes three crucial components to his now iconic vigilante: Batman doesn't hesitate to dish out some ass-kickin', he's a detective who pays attention to his surroundings and he's a man of mystery.

Writer Brad Meltzer handles the 15-page retelling of "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate." Melzer is the brilliant mind behind one of DC Comics' most powerful limited series, IDENTITY CRISIS. He's a master of handling characters and is equally adept at handling the Batman.

From the first five words of Bruce Wayne's journal entry of the Bat-Man ("Why do I do this?"), Meltzer sets up the structure of his retelling of Kane's story, but more importantly he has Wayne address why he's compelled to fight for justice as a masked hero. Three of his reasons near the end are especially brilliant and insightful: "I do it because people need to believe again," "... because I made a promise" and "... because of a reckless bat."

Scott Snyder's "Twenty-Seven" is much less straightforward. It seems like Wayne is having some strange dream or vision that puts him out of his own body while visiting the Batcave. I also expected the old man to be an ancient version of Ra's al Ghul, especially when this Bruce demands the old man to start talking -- "starting with who you are."

It turns out the elderly man with the cane is no less than another Bruce Wayne-type figure who is ready to introduce the younger Wayne-lookalike to all things Batman and the legacy he has the chance to embrace.

While quite esoteric, Snyder's story has a tremendous ELSEWORLDS vibe to it, given that the older man informs the younger one of the many men before them have continued the Batman's legacy in a number of variations of the original's costume in equally numerous situations.

In the end, if the rest of the stories in the full version of DETECTIVE COMICS No. 27 are as enjoyable as the three I read, it's well worth your time to track down a copy.

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