Editor’s Note: Due to the anthology nature of this collection, we will feature a synopsis and analysis for each short story, rather than breaking up the synopsis and analysis. Spoilers are sure to be revealed.
Story #1: “Blowback” by writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Brad Walker
Synopsis: Batman hangs upside down, tied up in a tank of water. As he begins to intentionally lose consciousness, he thinks over the events that led to his current predicament – sounds, environment, smells, and possible characteristics of his assailant. He begins to think of his many battles with members of his rogue’s gallery. As each villain flashes in Batman’s mind, he thinks about how the characteristics and tactics of each of them help mold who he is. He continues to go villain by villain until eventually, he slows his heart enough that he appears to die. “Dying” is the state the Batman wants to reach, as doing so causes his death trap to shut down, releasing him from certain actual death.
Someone is on the phone, claiming to have completed the “job.” He is paid a quick visit by Batman, who questions his whereabouts over the past twenty-four hours. The individual, known as Balsam, claims to have been home the entire time, talking to his divorce attorney (Batman remembers seeing a hand with an obvious sign of a missing ring on the ring finger). As Batman prepares to leave, Balsam sneezes (Batman heard a sneeze as he was trapped in the tank of water). Batman has caught his man.
Analysis: A nice story to begin the spectacular. We get a story by the current creative team of Tomasi and Walker. Tomasi does a decent job of providing a story highlighting Batman’s skills as a detective, remembering the sounds and events around him to capture the guy who attempted to take him out. In telling this story, Tomasi also does a nice job of highlighting the importance of the rogue’s gallery in making Batman who he is as a hero. Walker’s art, as always, is great. One thing that does seem weird, however, is that Tomasi’s story doesn’t lay in sync with the current events of Detective Comics, considering that this has occurred in practically all of the spectacular issues DC has published since Action Comics #1000. Foretelling perhaps?
Story #2: “The Master Class” by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez
Synopsis: Batman and some members of the Bat-Family meet up on the rooftop of the Aparo Building to examine the body of a dead cop. Batman uses the opportunity as a training exercise for his young cohorts. After some investigation into the cop’s history and the building surroundings, the Bat-Family find themselves face-to-face with the deceased’s ex-wife, who was hastily trying to load a suitcase into her car. She claims that the now-dead cop was trying to blackmail her and that her new boyfriend went to talk sense into him. The new beau – Waylon Jones, aka KILLER CROC – immediately jumps to his partner’s defense. After a brief tussle, the Bat-Family takes Jones out, and as both assailants are taken away, Batman tells his team how good they are as detectives.
Analysis: I really disliked this story. I will admit that part of this dislike is my general dislike for Brian Michael Bendis. However, one of the chief reasons for my dislike of Bendis is evident in this story. Bendis talks too much in his writing. While I am quick to be critical of an issue that has a lack of dialogue between characters, Bendis deserves every bit of criticism he earns for too much dialogue. It shouldn’t take a reader a long time to read through a nicely paced AND spaced story. This was not the case with this twelve-pager. It was not good and didn’t add anything special to the overall story. Half of the dialogue could be taken out and we would have ended up with the same story. This is bad writing. Furthermore, because there are so many words on the page, it takes away from the enjoyment of David Marquez’s art, which for what is seen, is pretty good.
Story #3: “Many Happy Returns” by writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky
Synopsis: Batman has a birthday problem that starts with a capital J. Each month – every month – since year one, the Joker leaves a “birthday” present for Batman. One month, it’s a dead guard. Another month, it’s kidnapped kids on a “joy ride” on a school bus. Another month, it’s teammates being sent to their watery deaths if not for Batman’s intervention. Without fail, a present arrives. This month, however, there’s a problem. It’s the last day of the month, and the Joker hasn’t sent Batman his “birthday present” yet. As time ticks away, both Batman and Commissioner Gordon brace for what could be coming. They know something is coming.
Suddenly, they receive word. The Joker has been spotted. He stands in the middle of an empty street, waiting for Batman to arrive. Batman swoops in and begins beating on the Joker, demanding to know where it is. The Joker laughs, leading to more hits from Batman. The Joker only responds with more laughter. As Batman pins him against a wall, the Joker tells Batman to say it; he wants to hear the words…”Give me my birthday present!” The present, Joker responds, is him. And together, he and Batman will be doing this forever.
Analysis: This story was absolutely outstanding in what Matt Fraction put together. We have seen this story in many forms in all the genres of the Batman Universe – the notion that the Joker and Batman are destined to fight forever. As a Batman fan, I can definitely accept this. But here is what makes this story from Fraction so good. The Joker makes a child out of Batman. By the end of the adventure, the Joker has Batman begging for his present, much like a five-year-old would beg his parents. It’s sad to see Batman in that state, but that is one hell of a way to tell it. Good job. Zdarsky’s art is not bad, but it isn’t anything great either. I do give kudos to the Batman ’89 reference with Prince. That was great. One thing that does irk me. I don’t know if this was Fraction’s idea or Zdarsky. Either way, I hate it… The sash on the tied-up cop… Happy birthday, lover? No. Just stop. Please. Stop.
Story #4: “Rookie” by writer Greg Rucka and artist Eduardo Risso
Synopsis: Lynne Baker goes through the required steps to enter the next class of the GCPD police academy. Once in, she quickly learns that all isn’t as it should and that some of her fellow cadets have a different understanding of the term “to protect and serve.” She witnesses the bribery and cheating just to get through completion of her training. Yet, she still believes in what she feels she’s called to do.
Things don’t change for Lynne as she becomes a beat cop. Her field training officer serves as a carrier for the Penguin. She feels she does the right thing in bringing the matter to her superiors but quickly learns that her fellow officers do not like a snitch, and they express their displeasure in her actions.
Lynne continues on the up and up, even as she once again sees her fellow officers planting evidence. She tells the detectives of the major crimes unit that she witnessed. This is the final straw, and the rogue cops look to tie up loose ends by taking out Baker and the detectives at her side. As shots fire, Batman swoops in, taking out the evildoers while saving the other three officers from their demise.
As the arrested officers are taken away, Lynne hears someone calling her name. It’s Commissioner Gordon. He (and Batman) have been keeping a close eye on her since she left the academy, and they think she would be a great fit as a member of the GCPD Major Crimes unit.
Analysis: This story reminds me of why I miss Rucka’s time on Detective Comics in the early 2000s. Much like his run at the time, Rucka’s story is told through the eyes of other characters, this time, Officer Lynne Baker. The reader gets a Batman story with little interaction with Batman. While not always a fan of Eduardo Risso’s art, I definitely appreciated it in conjunction with Rucka’s story. It gave a vibe of Year One, especially with the tones used and looked appropriately gritty, a look the story needed. This would have been a great Gotham Central story.
Story #5: “Ghost Story” by writer James Tynion IV and artist Riley Rossmo
Synopsis: Batman and Robin stand on top of a Gotham church looking down at a cemetery full of ghosts. Flying next to them is Boston Brand, aka Deadman. He came to them for assistance as a villain by the name of Specter Collector is using special gloves that allow Specter Collector to eat the souls of the dead that have not entered their final spiritual resting place. Brand convinces Batman to let him possess his body so that they can defeat their foe together. As they descend under the old church, Robin stands guard. We’re met with flashbacks of a young Bruce Wayne talking to his mom about the existence of ghosts in the world. He asks her if she will become one when she dies.
Back in the present, Specter Collector is wandering the built-in prison, and he begins devouring souls to “feed” himself. Suddenly, Dead-Bat pounces. The Specter Collector senses that Batman has a spirit within him and uses his special gauntlet to pull Deadman from Batman’s body. As the villain moves in to consume the spirited hero, Batman attacks, knocking him out and saving Deadman from demise. As Bruce re-configures the gloves taken from the Specter Collector to release the bounded souls to the afterlife, Deadman asks Batman why he never appears afraid of ghosts. Bruce responds by referencing the conversation with his mother many years ago. From that experience, he doesn’t see ghosts as scary.
Analysis: This was a great story from JT4 and Riley Rossmo. It was interesting, touching, and funny all at the same time. Especially touching was young Bruce’s interaction with his mother, Martha, and how her promise to be his ghost was enough for him to not fear the spirits of the dead. I would imagine that one day, Batman will have to get Robin over his fear of ghosts. I’m not always a fan of Rossmo’s style of drawing, but I feel it definitely fits the story Tynion was telling, particularly with his portrayal of Deadman. Everything looked fine with this story. However, I wouldn’t want to see the style in more serious Batman stories. That isn’t my taste. Kudos to Rossmo, however, for drawing Robin in the pixie boots. That was a nice touch and throwback.
Story #6: “Fore” by writer Kelly Sue Deconnick and artist John Romita, Jr.
Synopsis: It’s the middle of the night and pouring rain at the Eastlake Harbor golf resort as Bruce Wayne meets his host, Mr. Steele, for a round of golf. He uses the game to deep dive and learn about the people he wants to do business with. Steele wants to buy some land that Bruce owns. Bruce, however, is not looking to make a deal. Steele criticizes Bruce for who he feels he is as a man, not knowing the life of the individual the world knows as Batman.
Steele begins to criticize Bruce for turning down his offer. He feels people like them (or more precisely – him) should take advantage of their wealth and power. He boasts about the politicians and the GCPD officers he has paid off to be in his back pocket for use. He threatens Bruce to not make an enemy of him. Bruce, however, turns the table on Steele. He calls Steele stupid for lying and cheating, as well as standing in a rainstorm with metal clubs. He then asks “Jim” (as in Jim Gordon) if he has enough.
Seeing that he’s been set up, Steele attempts to leave as the GCPD approaches. Bruce stops him however by flinging one of his clubs at Steele’s fleeing legs. As the police take Steele away, Bruce heads to work as the sun rises above the city.
Analysis: For fans of Bruce Wayne (as I am), this is a fun story. While we definitely get glimpses of the Caped Crusader in the flashbacks of the story, Bruce Wayne is the main character, and in the end, he turns out to be the hero as well. We don’t get that a lot in Batman comics, so credit to Deconnick for putting this story together.
What ruins my enjoyment of the story, however, is the art. Once again, John Romita Jr. proves that his style of drawing just doesn’t cut it anymore as something enjoyable to read. One might think Bruce and Steele were being played by prehistoric men with how large their brows appear on certain panels. It’s not good and is a disservice to a great plot Deconnick put together.
Story #7: “Odyssey” by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Emanuela Lupacchino
Synopsis: It’s 1937, and Patrick Wayne is setting course with passengers and works of art aboard the new cruise ship the Odyssey. As the passengers look in amazement, Wayne states that he has to leave in order to return home as his wife has given birth to the newest member of the Wayne family – a son named Thomas. As the Odyssey’s passengers dance the evening away, as distress call comes in from a plane heading in the ship’s direction. It warns the ship to move if it can as it has lost control and can no longer steer itself. The plane slams into The Odyssey…
This is at least how the story is told by Bruce Wayne, who’s telling the story as a guest on a popular podcast. Everything was considered lost at sea, but now, for the first time, Wayne technology may have located the wreckage of The Odyssey. Bruce and his podcast host of detectives are going deep-sea diving to see if the ship, and all the missing works of art, is there.
As they prepare to dive, Bruce says that he’s going to stay aboard the ship as he’s not feeling well. As the divers depart under the waves of the ocean, Bruce begins talking on his comm-link as he searches the rooms. Below, the divers find what was once the WayneTrek Odyssey. They split up and search in different areas. They quickly realize that something isn’t right with the accepted story of The Odyssey’s demise.
Suddenly, one of the divers attacks another, grabs an item, and heads back to the boat to take care of the sick Bruce Wayne. He’s met by Batman, however, who with some assistance, is able to take the goon down. After clearing some things up, the treasure hunters realize that they have more searching to do.
Analysis: I personally found nothing special with this story from Wolfman. It wasn’t bad. It just felt like a story that was just there. It had obvious holes. How that map survives underwater all these years? How’d the goon get on the ship in the first place. Who was he talking to? The art was the best thing about the story. If you have wonderful coloring, you can almost guarantee the Jodie Bellaire is involved. I loved the brightness of being outside contrasted with the dark undertones at the seafloor. Bellaire is one of the best. I’m a little disappointed that Bill Sienkiewicz only contributed on inks. As good of an artist he is, he deserved more.
Story #8: “Detective #26” by writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham
Synopsis: The Silver Ghost stands to protect the city of Gotham from evildoers. Who is the Silver Ghost? He’s the private investigator who feels he needs to do more to stop the Gotham underworld from taking over the city. The Silver Ghost must protect the poor as he promised to as a young boy. Everything was in place for the Ghost to make his debut in Gotham. He had a great name, a good-looking car, and a wonderful costume. He was also putting together a top-notch crime lab to do all his scientific work. Who could do a better job of protecting Gotham? Who would be willing to take on the evildoers of Gotham if not the Silver Ghost? The Bat-Man would…The End.
Analysis: I felt disappointed with this story only because I expected more from Grant Morrison and didn’t really get it. I get the story and the point Morrison was attempting to make in introducing the Silver Ghost, but I’m not sure this is the place I personally want it. But it’s the story we got.
Story #9: “Legacy” by writer Tom King and artist Walt Simonson
Synopsis: On the Gotham Bridge, Batman prepares to battle Doctor Phosphorus in a final battle. Phosphorus is dying of cancer, and he’s threatened to go nuclear in Gotham if Batman doesn’t fight him one-on-one, no gadgets, and no armor. Flash forward and we find a man lying ill in bed; his loved one is at his side.
As the battle rages on, Phosphorus tells Batman that he’s going to die, even if he wins this current battle. His power has gotten stronger, and as Batman continues to battle him, the hero is slowly being poisoned by Phosphorus’ radiation. Fast forward again and we find the man – an older Bruce Wayne – give Selina one last smile as he continues to fade. Back to the battle, Batman continues to fight with great resolve. As their battle comes to an end, they fall into the Gotham River. Phosphorus tells Batman that he finally realizes that his life had meant something. It meant Batman’s death. Ignoring him, Batman tells the man once known as Dr. Alexander Sartorius that there’s a cancer program that could save him. Batman understands he’s going to die, but he also hopes that as Dr. Phosphorus lives, Phosphorus remembers that there was at least one person that cared enough for him to want to see him live.
Analysis: So, it seems that Tom King enjoys killing Batman. In the past few years, he’s done it three times: at the hands of a Poison Ivy-controlled Superman, at the end of Batman’s second annual of the Rebirth era, and now at the hands of Dr. Phosphorus. That being said, this was a nice story. King clearly shows Batman’s resolve to doing whatever to save the streets of Gotham – even sacrificing himself to do so. King’s story also highlights Batman’s commitment to the belief that all of his foes are worth saving. It was a decent story, but one that probably could’ve been told without killing the Dark Knight… again. Walt Simonson’s art was great. My one quirk, however… the long-haired, grey-headed Selina. It looked odd, to say the least.
Story #10: “As Always” by writer Scott Snyder and artist Ivan Reis
Synopsis: Jim Gordon reflects on his time standing at the Bat-signal and how (as always) Batman answers until the sun comes up. He thinks further of how for Batman (as always), all bad guys are the same in that bad guys do bad guy things. As Batman and the Justice League face a global-ending event (the disappearance of the sun), the grizzly police commissioner imagines the conversation among the heroes and Batman’s role in protecting the planet – and his city. Days later, Batman returns to Gotham with plans to save the world. Gordon asks Batman what the contraption is. Batman simply smiles and turns on the Bat-signal.
Analysis: This is another story that I found to be weak simply due to the style Scott Snyder is known for – finishing a story without really finishing it. Perhaps, like my bias with Bendis, I find it difficult to enjoy things Snyder puts out. The art, on the other hand, is absolutely beautiful. Huge kudos to Reis’ pencils and the work of Joe Prado and Marcelo Maiolo on inks and colors, respectively. The dark tones of the colors truly fit the darkness of the story, and the Bat-signal at the end was truly the light it was meant to be. Their work, however, wasn’t enough for me to truly enjoy the story.
Story #11: “Generations: Fractured” by writer and artist Dan Jurgens
Synopsis: It’s Halloween night when Batman arrives at the Gotham Museum to find goons (dressed as ghouls) attempting to steal works of art from it. One by one, Batman dispatches the assailants, while determining the whereabouts of the mastermind of the heist – Calendar Man. He finds him in the one place he wishes he didn’t – the Wayne Family Gallery. Calendar Man is there with a torch and intends to burn everything in this wing of the museum. Batman pounces and takes down Calendar Man before turning his attention to putting out the fire. As he reaches for an extinguisher, there’s a flash of light…
Time fractures and reforms…The Bat-Man stands looking around the museum but sees no sign of a fire. It must have been a false alarm. As he leaves and heads to his red sedan, he’s met with another flash of light. Standing before him is Kamandi. He’s been sent to summon Bruce’s assistance in saving the time. A voice in Kamandi’s gauntlet reminds him that the Bruce Wayne of this timeline has only been wearing the cowl for a few days. After some further explanation, guided by the old man talking to Kamandi – Booster (as in Booster Gold) – the two leave to find the rest of the team.
Analysis: We finally reach the story that leads to an upcoming story, Generations: Future State, and I find myself quite excited to see what is next. Could we be getting glimpses of what might have happened in 5G? We will see in a few months. The story itself is a nice setup. I was not expecting to see the Batman (or Bat-Man), or the ending for that matter. Kudos to Dan Jurgens for putting this together and for introducing what could be a very good story. Extra kudos to Jurgens for handling the art duties as well.
Story #12: “A Gift” by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Dan Mora
Synopsis: Bruce sits in a room at the Home Sweet Home Hotel looking over his remaining gear, thinking about the events of the last few days. It’s day three of the Joker War. He eventually arrives at a records storage facility for Wayne Enterprise and attempts to breaks in. A silent alarm goes off, grabbing the attention of Lucius Fox, who calls the police for assistance. The call for police assistance reaches Officers Nakano and Bart. They head for the storage facility.
Batman makes his way into the building. As he lands on the floor it begins to release Joker toxin. Batman was not expecting this nor some of the other booby traps. Batman makes it to the top floor where he is met by the cops, ordering him to stay where he is. As they approach, one of the officers step on a booby trap, activating the Joker’s laugh followed by several blasts. Officer Bart is killed. Batman is able to save Nakano before fleeing the building. Nakano finds the charred body of his partner and promises to make Batman pay for what he’s done. Back at the hotel, Bruce is sitting in thought on the recent events. He holds his black casebook in his hand before tossing it away in frustration.
Analysis: Kudos to DC for giving us this story. Usually, in anthology spectaculars such as this, readers get one story tying directly to an ongoing or upcoming story arc. This time, however, we get two stories. Tamaki’s story is a good lead-in to not only the events of the Joker War, but also the upcoming story arc in Detective Comics focusing on Damian and Batman’s Black Casebook. Tamaki and the creative team did a great job with pace and space. Bruce’s story on his life as a vigilante beginning at an early age is a nice concept to ponder when thinking about the development of the ethos of the Caped Crusader. Plus, it leaves some questions that will need to be answered in one of the two Bat-books, especially Nakano’s promise to take action against Bruce. Could we be looking at Ghost-Maker or the Mirror? Considering the story readers got about Mr. Teeth in the last Secret Files special issue, Tamaki’s story was a very welcome change. There’s not much to say about Dan Mora’s art other than that it is absolutely spectacular. Enough said on that note.
Final Thoughts: Great job, DC, on putting this special issue together. For me, despite blips with a few of the stories, this was the best of the spectacular anthologies that DC has given us over the last few years.
I will say this as well. Some of my favorite stories in this issue are written by women creators, particularly Tamaki’s story that brought the anthology to a close. I believe the time has long passed for one of the Batman titles to have a woman serve as the regular writer on the series, preferably Detective Comics. Let’s hope that we see that soon.
Lastly, I can’t say enough about how honored I am to be doing this review for this book, for this character, this monumental issue. One thousand issues. That’s a great feat that can only be claimed by one other hero. But here, on this site, and definitely to this reviewer, he doesn’t matter. Batman for another one thousand issues and for life.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue through Comixology.