REVIEW: The Detective Comics #1000 stories ranked

From Batman’s Greatest Case, by Tom King, Tony S. Daniel & Joelle Jones, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.

By Zack Quaintance — Well, here we are, the second GIANT-SIZED celebration of a seminal DC Comics character in as many years, commemorated once again by a set of vignettes that clearly aimed at capturing 80 years of fictional superhero history via narrative. Detective Comics #1000 has arrived, bringing with it a set of creators old—Denny O’Neal, Neal Adams, Paul Dini, Jim Lee, Kevin Smith—and new—Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Priest, James Tynion, Tom King.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and, as I did last year with Action Comics #1000, I’m taking on the unglamorous task of trying to rank these stories in order of my favorite (it’s comics, someone will always vehemently disagree). But first! A word about what I liked and didn’t….

The Good: I mean, we got 10 high-production and ultra-focused stories about Batman, who is one of the richest characters in all of American fiction. The good sort of speaks for itself. We also got plenty of appearances from his rogues gallery, which is without question the best in all of comics.

The Bad: Where were Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, or Ed Brubaker? Some of the most notable living Bat-creators of the past three decades were absent. I felt like this comic was lighter on history than Action Comics #1000, but I suppose Batman has been steadier in his depiction over the years. But, c’mon, we couldn’t have done one Batman ‘66 story? Just one...

10. The Precedent
James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez-Bueno
Inker: Raul Fernandez
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
This story features one of the most well-known partnerships in all of fiction—Batman and Robin—depicting mainly what they both contribute to each other’s lives. It reads quickly, especially for a writer as keen on dialogue as Tynion, and sticks to the basics. Beautifully-rendered by one of DC’s best rising artistic teams—Martinez-Bueno and Fernandez—this is a quick bit of Bat-mythos that flies right by.     

9. Manufacture for Use
Kevin Smith
Artist: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Todd Klein
It’s a credit to this whole issue that I found Manufacture for Use to be a weaker entry, because it’s not really very weak at all. It’s got Jim Lee depicting Batman running through his rogue’s gallery, which is worth the 10 or so pages alone. I just thought Batman’s goal (which I won’t spoil here) in this one was a little weak, or at least not as substantive as the story seemed to suggest. Still a nice little read, though.

8. Heretic
Christopher Priest
Artist: Neal Adams
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Willie Schubert
One of the higher concept stories in this collection, the Heretic has a complex point to make about Bruce Wayne and his money...but I’m not sure it entirely gets there. It looks great though (thanks to the team of Neal Adams and Dave Stewart), and it’s as smart as everything else Priest writes. It just felt like it needed more space, making it fitting this one ended with “The Beginning…”

7. The Legend of Knute Brody
Paul Dini
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Steve Wands
The Legend of Knute Brody gets to represent any and all goofy/campy takes on Batman over the years, and it does a decent job. It’s not as absurdist as Detective Comics got at its height during the late Golden and Silver ages. But it’s a fun romp that includes some of the Bat-family and some really clever work with the Bat-villains. It’s a nice touch of variety for this anthology, really.

6. Return to Crime Alley
Denny O’Neil
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letterer: Andworld Design
A sequel to a classic O’Neil-penned story from the Bronze Age—There is No Hope in Crime Alley—this one ranks as one of the most gorgeous story’s in the collection. In fact, it would higher if I didn’t find the ending to be so excessively cynical, an odd contrast to the far more optimistic ending in its prequel. But maybe that’s the difference between 2019 and 1976? Oof.  

5. Batman’s Greatest Case
Tom King
Artists: Tony S. Daniel & Joelle Jones
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
So who had Tom King in the pool for most uplifting vignette in Detective Comics #1000? I know I didn’t. But! In this one, King and his collaborators deliver a pithy and eminently readable paean to the extended Bat-family, one that ricochets between dynamics, working hard to spotlight the various members. This one was a nice palate cleanser perfectly placed toward the end of the volume, and it played with comics form well, as King is wont to do. I would also wager this one is set after the conclusion of King’s Batman run. Hmm...

4. I Know
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Letterer: Josh Reed
The best-looking story in this collection, I Know by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev is so good it actually ups my excitement for the duo’s forthcoming work on an entirely different property, the Superman Leviathan story (event?). This short extrapolates the kernel of an idea into excellent character work for both Bruce and his rogues while simultaneously giving Maleev a chance to gorgeously render so much of Batman’s world. Weyp.

3. Batman’s Longest Case
Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Snyder and Capullo are my favorite Batman creative team, following their all-time great 52-issue Batman run that wrapped in 2016. And in this short, they hop right back into the alchemy they had there. This short also pays homage to the title’s past—Slam Bradley!—en route to adding something new to both Batman and the DC mythos. I also liked this story as a rare instance in which Batman is fallible, or at least doesn’t know everything about his contemporaries.
SIDE NOTE: Call me a romantic, because I’m really liking the pairing of Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter that has become a thing across titles in recent months. We see it again here in something as subtle as how they’re standing together when Batman finds The Guild of Detection.  


2. The Last Crime in Gotham
Geoff Johns
Artist: Kelley Jones
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Rob Leigh
The most common wish fulfillment story for Batman over the years is one in which his parents are never murdered, he never becomes Batman at all, and he grows into a wealthy (if simple) philanthropist. That’s fine, but a bit backwards facing. What we get from Johns, Jones, Madsen, and Leigh here is a story that accepts traumas of the past, and instead idealizes Batman’s future. I don’t want to go into spoiler territory so I’ll stop there, but I will note I found this to be the most emotionally impacting work in this volume, a nice surprise to come across that took me a moment to orient myself within. Very well done.

1. The Batman’s Design
Warren Ellis
Artist: Becky Cloonan
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Look, I worship every Wednesday at the Church of Warren Ellis (The Midnighter is the’s awesome), so I was predisposed to like this one, but holy wow did it blow away my expectations. This is, quite simply, the best bit of visual storytelling in the collection. Moreover, it just perfectly balances so much of Batman’s character within the small space at its disposal, the mindset, the gadgets, the preparation, the motives, the’s all there. It may seem (on its surface) a bit too simplistic for some, or even a bit too cheery (weird as that sounds), but I’d urge a closer look. The Batman’s Design is smart and layered and exciting and just about as good as a short superhero comic can get. I’d say give these two their own 104-issue Batman run, but they’ve already told a nigh-perfect Batman story in just 10 pages.

And one more…

Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inkers: Jamie Mendoza and Doug Mahnke
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Rob Leigh
As with my Action Comics #1000 review, I took this last one out of the running because it had the unfair advantage of leaving itself open ended. All the same, I thought this was kind of an odd choice of vignette, because it used only one page splashes (which looked gorgeous!) and didn’t really have a narrative, functioning more as a teaser trailer for Tomasi’s next arc, which is just fine. I will, of course, be reading that (even if not being a gamer I have no idea whatsoever who or what The Arkham Knight is).

Overall: Detective Comics #1000 is a high-production celebratory jaunt. Like Action Comics #1000 before it, it checks most boxes for quintessential Bat-elements via narrative storytelling, rather than a dry history, tapping the greatest living Bat-creators to do it, with a few notable absences. 9.0/10

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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.