I have one glaring problem with this issue. This whole time the top banner on the front cover has read countdown to #1000! The big milestone! An impressive number for a title to reach no doubt. IF that is the case why is this story ending on issue #999?! We will come back to this later.
Both covers for this issue were good covers, but I wasn’t overly impressed by either of them. Detective Comics has been on such a roll of having at least one outstanding cover, that these really are not that impressive, but then again not every cover can be so no big deal.
Now for the issue itself. While the timing may be a bit off, it is actually an impressive issue that gives us the only real answer that could justify all that Bruce/Batman has been going through. If this were some outside villain, the villain would instantly be in a class with, or perhaps exceeding, Joker, or Bane when he first appeared. That is not to be. Instead we have the one true antagonist capable of tasking Batman and pushing him beyond his limits – BATBOY! (aka-Batman himself)
Evidently, every year, unbeknownst to all, Bruce set up a test of what is essentially a VR video game designed to push him and drive him in ways he cannot anticipate. This is meant to sharpen his edge, make him greater than he was before. The difference this year is he removed whatever safety restraints there were and set the machine to essentially kill him.
This Is One Demented Billionaire
While Bruce was still inside the machine, he faced a child-like version of himself. Bruce refuses to fight his mini-me, so the “boy” ages with each punch until Bruce can finally let loose.
There is some great fighting and dialogue between Bruce and mini-Bruce throughout these pages. Perhaps the best is the final scene where Bruce and the boy once more are standing in front of graves. Two are for Bruce’s parents, but the third, still empty, is for Bruce.
The imagery and what happens next are positively brilliant. It is something that has come up many times before. It has often been said that Batman is unique amongst superheroes because Batman is his true self, while Bruce Wayne is the mask. The imagery the creative team uses here underscores that and just seeing it the way they executed it was moving.
A New View On Life
The interesting thing with this issue is the last few pages, the epilogue. Instead of Batman buttoning down or doubling up on his resolve, which he kinda does as he goes up the elevator, the final pages are Bruce Wayne swinging by the clinic to visit Dr. Leslie Thompkins, someone Bruce thought he had lost very early on in this simulation. Bruce, along with Alfred, head out to eat at a restaurant together.
I think instead of seeing just a redoubling of everything Batman stands for as shown in the Batcave, I think Bruce took away from that final grave scene a sense of loss. He tells boy Bruce that he wishes the boy had more time to be a kid and live more. Boy Bruce has such a beautiful response to Bruce: “So many other children have gotten to because we didn’t.” I think Bruce is continuing his post marital disaster by continuing to understand and appreciate those around him, and this time, making sure they know what they mean to him as well.
What About #1000?
Finally, going back to my first point. This was a great issue that further developed Bruce and Batman, but it concluded the story! It had an epilogue and everything! How do you build up to issue #1000 and then cut the story off right before #1000?!
I have no doubt we will get something awesome next issue with about x40 different variant covers, but it just boggles my mind how you end it an issue short of the goal. Oh well, in a few weeks we shall see what they come up with.