Batman fans are in for a treat with Tom King’s addition to DETECTIVE COMICS #1000. What sets his story apart from most traditional Batman stories is its unexpected tone. These stories tend focus on the theme of fear to move the narrative along, but King’s version is filled with hope. BATMAN’S GREATEST CASE highlights the importance of family in the midst of life’s tragedies, revealing a more humanized version of the Dark Knight.
King sets the scene with a conversation between Damien Wayne and Dick Grayson off-panel as Bruce Wayne makes his way through his parent’s cemetery. Damien asks his step-brother if he knows a secret about Bruce Wayne, to which Dick shrugs off. The reader then sees a wider shot of the rooftop and notices other present Family members.
King dives into the various conversions reminiscent of a family reunion. Seeing each character respond to the mystery of their gathering brilliantly shows the humanity of these larger-than-life figures. We see Jason Todd undergo an anxiety-filled trail of thought, wondering whether or not Bruce decided to kick him out of the group. Another scene features Barbara Gordon bemoaning her past relationship with Dick, who never seemed to tire of reminding her of his time as Batman. These conversations remind us even superheroes have worries and regrets.
What really brings this issue together is the dual storytelling. The reader watches the Bat Family interact one minute and then catch a view of Bruce in his parents’ graveyard. King continues telling the story this way even after Bruce shows up to meet the Family, revealing the graveyard scene to have taken place at a different time. This non-linear narrative style helps readers focus less on the events and more on the characters themselves.
King’s mingling of these thematic elements creates a balanced story that is neither too depressing nor cheerful. The Bat Family members offer more insight into Bruce’s persona than any monologue could accomplish by itself. Most importantly, we learn that what drives Batman the most isn’t fear, justice, or darkness; it’s family.
Tony S. Daniel, Joëlle Jones, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles do a great job of highlighting each character’s unique personality through the issue. From Dick’s tousled, messy hair to Cassandra Cain’s stoic yet distracted gaze, Daniel and Jones’ pencils serve as effective visualizations of their personalities. Morey complements these illustrations with a mix of bright and dark colors to show the extremes in temperament of the heroes.
The mini-issue is largely dialogue driven, and Cowles’ lettering greatly assists King’s storytelling. He effectively uses the dialogue boxes and bubbles to frame the characters, drawing the reader more into each panel’s subjects.
This story dives deep into the heart of Batman as told through those closest to him. King and the art team’s story of the necessity and joy of family counter-balances the mythos’ over-reliance on loneliness as a thematic element. It’s an enjoyable breath of fresh air among the darker Batman stories.
What did you think of this family-focused issue? Let us know in the comments below!