5 out of 5
Anniversary issues are often as much of a wash as most annuals or holiday specials – they’re “celebrations” to make a buck; maybe bringing in a ringer artist and writer to prop up some otherwise ignorable material, or just somewhat poorly guided, culling together efforts from already busy people that are maybe disappointing as they’re just throwaway, one-shot stories, or whatever theme is lazily applied.
The thing being celebrated here – 1000 issues of Detective Comics, as fronted by Batman – certainly ain’t no joke, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be any different from usual anniversary specials. However, just looking at it / holding it offers up a pretty key difference: square-bound, y’all. That might clue one in to this being treated with some adult gloves. A cover price of 9.99 isn’t so unheard of for these deals, and that’s what we’re at here, but it’s an impressive amount of material – 12 stories, all about 12 pages or so, which is longer than your standard anthology offerings – printed on quality stock with the slightly thicker covers befitting it’s presitge-ish vibe. Prestige. When was the last time something was printed in that format?
And just flipping through and looking at the credits, this isn’t really a deal where you just picked out your favorite writer, rather everyone inside is a big shot, both artist and writer. Every big name who’s appeared on the Bat books, old favorites, and some hotshots that you’re just glad to see stop by. Fine, fair, but what of the contents? Batman Black and White, for example, generally has a pretty good roster and consistency, but it’s m.o. lends itself really well to the character, drawing in a noir vibe that most stick to. Lacking that – there’s no theme here – what happens? Apparently: all of these all-stars use their 12 pages to craft some amazing synergies of word and pictures. None of these stories are necessarily mind-blowing (or rather, they’re not surprising per each writer’s style), but they are all a lot of fun, and look fantastic. The length of the stories might be ideal, as it’s long enough to develop a beginning, middle, and end, but not long enough to require padding, and with no concern for cliffhangers or continuity or whatnot, you really have the room to write whatever story you’ve been thinking of, with enough buffer to give your artist room to be splashy.
I could take the issue to task for making the last two stories lead-ins to other series – Future State, Batman, and the ongoing Detective Comics – but the sequencing actually is just fine for this tactic, as we get all truly standalone material, and plenty of it, prior to these lead-ins, and the writers on these two (Dan Jurgens; Mariko Tamaki) did an appreciable job of making the material function like a good preview: you get something of an isolated story that also acts as a glimpse of what you might find in the other books. I’m game for that.
The majority of the time, I relent to buying these issues because of so-and-so featured person, and walk away pretty disappointed. Yeah, I was suckered in by Grant Morrison, and I’ll openly admit I’m not a huge fan of some of the others in here, but this was sincerely like everyone pushed the most admirable aspects of their abilities to the forefront, and just let it rip.