First of all: This is the 900th issue of Detective Comics! NINE! HUNDRED! That is IMMENSE! The book contains a “main” story and four shorter back-ups all but one written by John Layman (and the remaining one written by James Tynion IV). And with DC’s new focus on numerology, the number 900 plays a small, but important, role in the main story. The Layman stories all focus around a single night where a legion of Man-Bats are unleashed on one of Gotham’s most destitute districts. These bats, while similar to the ones seen in Batman Inc. are distinctly less powerful, but also far more numerous and less focussed. Drs. Kirk and Francine Langstrom look on at what horror Kirk’s wrought with a formula he only invented to cure deafness as the bat signal ignites the Gotham sky. There’s also a great, though brief, appearance by the extended Bat-family, including Batwoman, who continues to brook exactly zero of Batman’s attitude.
Layman puts in real overtime hours in four of the five stories present, and they’re all fantastic. From the city being filled with man-bats thanks to an airborne version of the formula to the backstory that reveals why the formula was created and who was behind its unleashing to a tale that gives Gotham at least four new factions to be afraid of, this book bombards the reader with an absolute metric TON of content, but it never loses sight of its main narrative thread, and all the threads lead back to one source.
Tynion, for his part, gives us a whole new look at the New-52’s Bane in all of his luchador masked glory. After an odd debut in the pages of Dark Knight, we see a bit more of Bane's backstory, having taken over the prison he, presumably, grew up in to an unlikely encounter with the Court of Owls, Tynion hews close to the Bane we already knew from comics, but breaks plenty of new ground that will apparently continue in the pages of Talon.
The artists can’t be downplayed here either with series regular Jason Fabok holding it down on the main story with his fluid, hard-hitting visuals brought to vibrant life by Jeromy Cox’s colors. Mikel Janin, Dave McCaig and Brad Anderson also give their A-games for the Bane story, showing just how massive the masked grappler is, but how menacing the Talons can be even without the size to match. The book also contains some great full-page poster art from a myriad of talent.
There’s very little to dislike about this book, but what there was really stuck out. First and foremost: the main story has an editor’s note to another story far too frequently. There are five in all, which might not sound like much, but two are regarding the same thing and two are on the same page. And none of them help the reader gain a better understanding of who these people are or what they’re doing. The book also references the Family being distant ever since Death of the Family, even though we’ve seen numerous examples of this not being the case, and it comes off as a little schizophrenic.
While I mostly enjoy Jason Fabok’s art, I can’t help but notice that it’s quite similar to David Finch’s, particularly in the face region, which is not always Finch’s strong suit and isn’t Fabok’s either. Every now and then a face will just look...off and it’s very off-putting.
As much as I enjoy the Bane story overall, Bane’s actual reveal is extremely underwhelming, he’s merely suddenly there, even though the character is one of Batman's most feared villains and has barely been heard from. The story also makes it abundantly clear that, thanks to certain outside parties, Knightfall basically never happened, or if it did, happened VERY differently. As flawed as that story was in the middle and end, the beginning is one of the absolute most defining Batman moments and it’s sad to see it swept aside.
Those complaints do not ruin what is a very entertaining, VERY over-sized Detective Comics event. I haven’t been keeping up with Detective, but had absolutely no trouble jumping into this issue with its great stand-alone story and the new characters/factions that are introduced are absolutely intriguing and I hope have plenty of stories planned for them. The book may not say 900 on it, but it certainly reads like it is. It’s short on massive revelations or moments, but long on great plot setups and solid storytelling.