Some spoilers follow…
Four of the five stories in the 900th overall issue of Detective Comics occurs around one event: the spread of an airborne virus that turns people into humanoid bats. That’s the time when the Man-Bat makes his debut in DC Comics’ New 52 continuity.
I could come up with 900 reasons I enjoyed this comic, but one major reason is that it’s a relief to have a Batman, looking for the viral origin in the 900 block, who isn’t on the edge of insanity. Unlike a certain Gothic-style best-selling comic I won’t mention, “The 900” (John Layman, Jason Fabok) feels more like a action-adventure and more like the Batman I was acquainted with in the 1990s cartoon.
Some of the Bat-family is present also: Alfred aids from the Batcave, and some cameos from Batgirl, Nightwing, and Batwoman. They’re all there to remind us readers that this is a post-Damian Wayne Gotham. Kathy Kane, she of Amazonian build, is just there to remind Batman that they’re not buddy-buddy. Grab those back-issue comics today!
Batman’s original concern was Victor Zzzzazsszzz, but even the Zsasz-man gets freaky, too. The population eventually returns to normal, but not without a cost: a geneticist named Kirk Langstrom, the creator of the virus he once believed could cure deafness, is now on the loose as Man-Bat.
DC isn’t settled with doubling the villainy. There’s an appearance from the Emperor Penguin, who’s set up as some grand mastermind. Thankfully, the issue’s over before I get fatigued from so many bad guys.
I’m reminded of Judge Dredd and Mega-City One while reading this story. Alfred’s Control, the Bat-family are esteemed Judges, and there’s a monstrous variety of antagonists. Reading so many Dredd strips have left an impression on me.
Dr. Langstrom’s accompanied by his wife in “The 900.” If you want your heartstrings tugged, then the next story, “Birth of the Family” by Layman and Andy Clarke, profiles the Langstroms. Unsurprisingly, Langstrom is a noble man in horrible circumstances. The most important part of the story is one decision Mrs. Langstrom makes at the end.
Another story features the perspective of the Gotham City police looking “Through a Blue Lens.” Some officers debate whether Batman is a hero or menace. The twist is that they’re in the hospital because their comrade, who fought Batman as a man-bat, is being treated. As a back-up, it’s okay.
Then, there’s a villain I’d never expect to exist in the gritty, super-tough New 52 DC Universe: Mr. Combustible. His story, “Birdwatching” by John Layman, Henrik Jonsson, Sandu Flores, et al., is a pleasant surprise as he interacts with both the Penguin and Emperor Penguin. The guy is called, “Jarhead,” by the Penguin. Does he have a face? Is he an android? Whatever. The more freaky villains, the better.
BTW, chunky Bane is thick in anger against the Talons. His story, “War Council” (James Tynion IV, Mikel Janin, et al.), doesn’t intersect with the man-bat incidents, but DC needs to trot out one of their superstar villains and plug the Talon comic.
If you like comic book pin-ups then several pages of Batman art will satisfy you, pretty picture lovers. The artists contributing are Alex Maleev and Nathan Fairbairn, Chris Burnham and Fairbairn (with Talia Al-Ghul and Damian Wayne), Jason Fabok and Emilio Lopez (with enough rope to make rope-lover Todd McFarlane proud), Andy Clarke, Francesco Francavilla, Cameron Stewart, and Dustin Nguyen.
So there. I don’t have 900 reasons to like Detective Comics #19, but it’s a welcome break from the incessant gloom of the Requiem or Scott Snyder’s stories in general.