The wait for Detective Comics #1000 is almost over. Before we get to that major milestone celebration issue Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke must wrap up there first story arc in Detective Comics. This first storyline has put Batman through the ringer and has only gotten more intense with each passing issue. And with Detective Comics #998 Tomasi took an odd turn of bringing a young Bruce Wayne into the story to confront Batman. What exactly this all means is anyone’s guess. Let’s find that out now with Detective Comics #999.
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inkers: Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne and Jaime Mendoza
Colorist: David Baron
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman denies the person in front of him is him. The young Batman takes of his cowl and says he is his gift to Bruce. Young Bruce starts fighting but Batman won’t fight back. Young Bruce says that Batman has dived too deep this time and forgot this is all part of the fiction he created.
Young Batman says he will make Batman remember the truth by any means necessary. As he pummels Batman the Young Bruce turns into the present Bruce. Seeing his older self Batman finally decides to fight back. The other Bruce says Batman is drowning and it is his job to wake Batman up from this.
Batman still doubts everything and tries to find logic in this. The other Bruce that while the good old days weren’t as good as they think there was some purity in the period before they became Batman and declared war.
The fight spills out into the Wayne Manor study with both Batman’s transforming into Bruce. The copy Bruce reminds the real one that they almost died in their first year of battle because of their own overconfidence. He continues to say that Bruce survived because Alfred save them and some luck.
They then crash through a window and go outside. Bruce is back in his Batman costume with young Bruce next to him.
Young Bruce takes Batman to the graveyard were the graves of their parents are. There is a third grave site with Bruce’s name on it. Young Bruce admits that there were three people murdered the night their parents died. He states that Bruce sacrificed being Bruce Wayne to save everyone from suffering like he did.
The real Bruce admits he still wished he could’ve had more time being a kid. The young Bruce, who is standing in the grave, says that it’s okay because there are countless children who got to live because of Bruce didn’t.
Young Bruce says it is time and tells the real Bruce to be the best and never question his mission. Bruce then grabs the shovel and starts burying his younger-self as a tear comes down his cheek.
Back in the real world Bruce, who is locked in a tank, starts saying “Gotham Needs Me!” Alfred tells Bruce to calm down as Damian Wayne drains the tank. Bruce starts breaking through the tank as he activates what Alfred says is the Stealth Sequence.
Bruce finally breaks out and quickly gets on his feet. Bruce reflects that the program worked perfectly.
Damian questions his dad on what is the program’s purpose. Bruce reveals it is intended to kill him. He goes on to state he does this on his birthday every year to remind him of the oath he took when he became Batman and kept it a secret from everyone. He admits that that there will be one night he won’t be strong, fast or smart enough and this program reminds him of the cost that comes with wearing the cowl.
Bruce then shows Damian an image of 182 people that were murder in Gotham City this year. Damian and Alfred state this number is down from the previous two years, when those numbers were 214 a year ago and 231 two years ago. Bruce puts on his Batman cowl and says that one year the number will be absolute zero.
Sometime later Bruce visit Leslie Thompkins at Park Row Community Clinic. Bruce jokes that there is a place called restaurants people eat and Leslie should leave her inbox alone and get some food. Leslie asks if Bruce is doing the same. Bruce says he admits he is the same but not tonight.
Leslie wonder what this is all about. Bruce says that tonight feels like a good night for two old friends to get drinks together since they don’t do nearly as often as they should.
As they walk outside Bruce offers to give Leslie a whole new clinic to fit her needs.
Bruce and Leslie then meet Alfred at the car. Alfred drives them to the restaurant Leslie and Alfred decide on without Bruce’s input. End of issue.
The Good: Peter Tomasi has pushed how much both those close to him within the DC Universe and readers should be concerned with where Bruce Wayne is in his life. That concern has never been greater than with how things turned out in Detective Comics #999. While some may dismiss everything in Tomasi’s first story arc turning out to be just a dream, this all played into the greater narrative going on around Bruce’s dedication to his mission as Batman.
Throughout the battle between Bruce and his simulated-self the ongoing question of Bruce’s sanity comes into question. TOn one hand there is an admiration to how dedicated Bruce is to never letting go his dedication to being Batman in order for others to be safe. This is something we have always known about Bruce. Batman isn’t just some job he enters when he puts on the cape and cowl. Batman is who he is 24/7 with Bruce Wayne being the mask he wears when needed to advance his mission. And with Detective Comics #999 Tomasi puts over that fact.
On the other hand, for Bruce to come out and say “Bruce Wayne” died when he was a kid is a depressing thought. Because while Bruce has put all his energy in being Batman we have seen him build a family at the same time. Though his family is tied to his life as Batman they also see Bruce, not Batman, as a father figure.
We even see this with how Damian Wayne reacted to learning what his father has been doing every year on his birthday. While he wanted to still sound tough in front of his dad, Damian was clearly concerned that Bruce was going to far. Tomasi got that across with carefully choosing what Damian’s dialogue with Bruce was during this scene. In doing so Tomasi was able to re-establish this the father-son dynamic that has been dormant for several years now. With this knowledge Tomasi set some intriguing groundwork to explore Bruce and Damian’s relationship.
Out of this character piece for Bruce, Tomasi also brings up an interesting twist to what Batman’s true mission is. Not only is it to bring order back to Gotham City but Tomasi puts the murder rate to be, as Bruce terms it, “Absolute Zero” as part of that mission. This is not something that has been talked about much but makes sense with who Batman is. Seeing the actual number of murders stated to be going down by each of the last few years shows that Bruce is doing what he intended to when he became Batman.
With what we learn in Detective Comics #999 that “Absolute Zero” number also puts an interesting time table around him. Because as we saw throughout this process Bruce put himself through he is fully aware of his own mortality. Even as he is out with the Justice League saving the multiverse eventually, as he states, he won’t be strong, fast or smart enough to stop a threat he likely is not aware of. We are already seeing that be the case in other comics like Heroes In Crisis and “The Price” crossover with Flash that Batman is taking on too much for his own good. By spotlighting this Tomasi now sets up an even bigger angle to explore during his Detective Comics run as Batman is also battling father time to be able to stay ahead.
Ending this story with Bruce going to meet with Leslie Thompkins was a smart idea. Leslie’s death in the simulation was the thing that set this story in motion. Through her death Bruce remembered how important she was to him, even if it was a simulation. Reconnecting with Leslie is an important thing for him to do as she, like Alfred, is one of the only ties to his life before Batman. Having her around, and supporting her efforts with her clinic, will help humanize Bruce as he immerses himself even more in his life as Batman.
Doug Mahnke once again delivered excellent artwork for Detective Comics #999. Everything that happened in this issue took on a greater sense of importance because of how Mahnke drew everything. The clash of the two Batmen had an intensity that all culminated to an incredible visual of Bruce burying his younger self. Mahnke also added further weight to Batman’s mission with how much detail he gave all the people murdered on the wall Batman, Robin and Alfred were looking at.
The Bad: As well written as Detective Comics #999 was I would not blame some readers feeling cheated that all of this turned out to be a dark simulation Bruce created for himself. This result does take away from the impact of seeing Leslie Thompkins die in the first issue of this story.
This story is also very similar to the character exploration going on over in Tom King’s current Batman story, “Knightmares.” In that story we are seeing Batman be broken by looking at different parts of his life. The similarities of these two stories in Batman and Detective Comics does make it feel like there is not something distinct going on in each series.
Overall: As Detective Comics #999 came to a close Peter Tomasi was able to put over what being Batman means to Bruce Wayne. The strength of Tomasi’s writing is made better thanks to the incredible artwork Doug Mahnke turned in for this issue. All of this sets Detective Comics #1000 to be a wonderful celebration of Batman’s 80-year history.
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