One complaint I have with the otherwise awesome Batman franchise is that the hero goes by the epithet “the world’s greatest detective,” and yet, in recent years, doesn’t seem to do much real sleuthing. I guess I’m a bit old-school; when I think detective, I think of clever deductions and riddles and so forth, while in today’s crime-drama obsessed culture, detective work always implies magnifying tiny objects on a giant computer screen. As it so happens, Batman has a giant computer screen in his Batcave, and that conveniently seems to solve most of his cases for him. What I loved about Detective 27, a sort of ‘alternate history’ take on Bruce Wayne, is that it’s set around the late 1930s , a time when Bruce’s greatest tools are his eyes and his mind.
It begins, auspiciously enough, with the assassination of Abe Lincoln. As it turns out, the assassination was masterminded by a segregationalist cabal led by, if I remember correctly, a pointy-chinned, nasal-voiced villain named Josiah Carr, a pun on “Joker.” To combat this nefarious group, a counter-conspiracy is launched by a group of detectives including Allan Pinkerton and Teddy Roosevelt. Each detective is given a number as their name. Fast forward several decades to when Bruce Wayne is inevitably indoctrinated into the detective club; he’s given a number too, Detective 27. This is a rather clever pun, since the character Batman first appeared in the Detective Comics issue 27 (were you aware Detective Comics is where DC gets its name?).
It’s revealed to Bruce that a horrible crime is about to be committed in Gotham, and it’s one that will kill thousands of people unless he solves this mystery quickly. The elements were put in place by Josiah Carr’s men decades ago and are only now coming into fruition.
Here’s another clever twist introduced in Detective 27: Bruce Wayne never becomes Batman! There’s a funny moment where Bruce stands before a window wondering what symbol would inspire fear–and longtime Batman fans will be waiting for the bat to thump against the windowpane–but nothing comes up.
Detective 27 is a graphic novel I’d highly recommend reading. It’s currently out of print, so to find a copy you’ll have to do some sleuthing of your own. It’s written by Michael Uslan, and includes numerous easter eggs for history afficianadoes as well as Bat followers. The penciling is provided by Peter Snejbjerg, whom you might recognize from his work with Starman. It’s colored by Lee Loughridge who, I believe, has colored much of the Fables series.
What was your opinion of the graphic novel Batman: Detective Comics 27?