Detective Comics 19
John Layman, Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke, James Tynion IV, Mikel Janin, Henrik Jonsson, Jason Masters
Spoiler alert! You have been warned!
I’ll admit, that eight-dollar price tag was really discouraging when I first picked up this issue. Now, we all know that I’m a huge Batman fan and I was going to buy this issue regardless of its cover price, but I can totally see lesser (or possibly more rational) fans passing on this particular issue. Especially considering that it has been one of the weaker of the Batman titles as of recent. But this issue could possibly change things for the better. John Layman had some strange and uncharacteristic dialogue a few issues back, has been telling an epic Death of the Familyesque scope story, and has had to do so while somehow managing to acknowledge every single little shakeup that DC editorial throws at him and still keep his readers satisfied. Well, let me tell you, this eighty-page giant of an anniversary issue (technically the nine hundredth issue of Detective Comics) has it all. And I can finally rest easy knowing that John Layman has a plan. And that he is a more than capable Dark Knight writer.
The art across the board is stellar. From Jason Fabok to Andy Clarke to Mikel Janin to Jason Masters to Henrik Jonsson, this art team really has something for everyone. The main feature story is a simple one-and-done issue, which is great, especially for people who just picked this up out of curiosity. Someone releases an airborne virus of the Man-Bat serum and infects a normally quite peaceful neighborhood in Gotham City, turning everyone into monsters. In comes Batman to save the day, but things are different this time. He’s much more brutal. Much more violent. And he has no help this time. Other than Alfred, Batgirl, Nightwing, and the rest of the family have completely written Bruce off and turned their backs on him. The only allies he has in the field are that of Batwoman, who isn’t really his biggest fan, and the original Man-Bat himself, Dr. Kirk Langstrom. After defeating the deadly serial-killer-turned-bat-monster, Mr. Zasz, Batman finally admits that he can’t stop this virus from taking over the whole city. So, as per usual, the tragic hero-turned-villain, Langstrom becomes the monstrous Man-Bat once again, neutralizing the virus and taking it all into himself. It’s sad, but we get a classic villain back and it’s a nice deus ex machina that doesn’t completely break the reader’s brain.
But perhaps the greatest strength of this issue is not the main story, though it was a quick and fun read that restores and solidifies the status quo of the Batman universe, but rather, the epilogue and backup stories. We learn in the final pages of the main feature that Mr. Zasz released the virus on behest of, you guessed it, Emperor Penguin. We also see him recruiting (or blackmailing) Poison Ivy into his ranks. Then we are treated to a story of the original Penguin, safely secured behind the bars of Blackgate Prison, securing his release through his usual behind-the-scenes judge-threatening. We are also given a little more insight into the relationship of Drs. Kirk and Francine Langstrom, which hints that Man-Bat may have a bride joining him in the skies very soon. But I think the best part of the entire issue was the guest-written backup feature by James Tynion IV, which shows Bane in all his glory, fighting a bunch of thugs in Santa Prisca and swearing revenge not on Batman this time, but rather, the Court of Owls. It’ll be really interesting to see just how far the gang war between the Penguin and the Emperor Penguin goes in the pages of Detective Comics, but I for one am almost more excited to see Bane tackle the villains that even Batman couldn’t beat in the upcoming issues of Talon. This issue was jam-packed with awesome, and even though it was pricey, it was well worth the cost.
My Rating: 4/5