By C.J. Bunce
Sometimes you want to just sit down and view a single TV episode where you walk away at the end of the hour having been energized with a complete end to end story. I remember countless episodes of the X-Files with the monster of the week and these stand out to me from the episodes that followed the long-term plot of Fox Mulder’s lost sister or uncovering the mysterious smoking man’s real story. I have the same thoughts about standalone issues of comic books. Most series today have multi-issue story arcs and they are usually relevant and continue the intrinsic and historic serialized nature of monthly comic series dating back to the origin of comic books. But when I was a little kid I’d flip through the short supply of comics at my local Kwik Shop and sometimes you’d be lucky and get an issue with a single beginning to end story and sometimes you’d start reading and have no idea what is going on. I still get excited about a book when I get a great end-to-end story. Detective Comics #19–the 900th issue of Detective Comics is one of those reads.
When the old DC Universe ended in August 2011, Detective Comics was at issue #881. Detective Comics was set to become the second DC Comics series to reach Issue #900 after Action Comics. Then the New 52 renumbered everything. No matter. DC Comics knows when it has something to celebrate, so to mark the occasion it is publishing a good ol’ 80-page giant issue. As part of its across-the-line gatefold cover series, it cleverly manages to include the number 900 as part of its cover, as well as integrate the number into its storyline in a meaningful way.
Strangely enough, after putting down Detective #19, Batman #430 popped into my head. I recalled it being one of those in-betweener issues, where there was a prior multi-story arc and before a switch in creative teams to move the series on in subsequent months. A good standalone read. It was the next issue after the death of Robin–the original Robin killed off by DC Comics: Jason Todd. The famous “A Death in the Family” series was spread across Batman #426-429. It was 1989 and I was collecting the series off-the-newsstand at my local mall’s Waldenbooks. Thinking the big story was over I remember being curious about what would happen next. Batman #430 was a good surprise–Batman was enmeshed in another pursuit but acknowledged the recent trauma–basically it was saying life must go on. Yet the very human Bruce Wayne behind the mask was anything but unaffected by his loss. Batman #430 was written by Jim Starlin with art by Jim Aparo–the Batman team I remember the most reading Batman as a kid.
Detective Comics #19 finds Batman again at a similar crossroads, in light of last month’s death of Robin–Damian Wayne–in the “Death of the Family” storyline. How much has Batman changed in 24 years? Today’s Batman does seem older, more focused. In Detective Comics #19, Batman never looked better, both from the perspective of how he is written by John Layman, and drawn by Jason Fabok. Like Batman #430, Detective Comics #19 also has a powerful Batman cover. In fact Canadian artist Fabok is drawing an incredible Batman these days. Looking at some of his pencil work reminded me of looking at Michael Turner’s pencil work on Superman/Batman. It’s almost like Fabok is studying (channeling?) Turner’s Batman, both from details that never survive inking and coloring, and Turner’s choice of profile shots. No surprise that Fabok has worked on Superman/Batman, too, and for Turner’s Aspen Comics’ Soulfire series. We may have another Turner in the works.
Detective Comics #19 includes a ton of content–and Batman fans will no doubt find something they will like, from a pin-up by Francesco Francavilla to a complete Batman story featuring Bane drawn by Mikel Janin to a Man-Bat story. The book features several pin-ups scattered throughout–something I loved as a kid and still appreciate–and five stories: “The 900,” by John Layman and Jason Fabok, “Birth of a Family,” by Layman and Andy Clarke, “Birdwatching,” by Layman and Henrik Jonsson, “War Council,” by James Tynion IV and Mikel Janin, and “Through a Blue Lens,” by Layman and Jason Masters.
With Detective Comics #19 being a double-sized comic, it carries a comparable price of $7.99. If that puts you off, my suggestion is picking up this one instead of two other Bat-books in April. Detective Comics #19 goes on sale this Wednesday, April 3, 2013, and will be available at comic book stores everywhere.