It'a always a great prospect to purchase a single-issue comic that is a special edition as ascertained with this one's price and 80-paged packaging. In this case, Detective Comics also officially marks its 900th-issue run with #19 featuring once again the stylistic tandem of writer John Layman and artist Jason Fabok since the New 52 release of this title, collaborating with yet another scintillating roster of artists, as well with writer Jason Tynion IV who penned the War Council premise.
For anyone who follows New 52's Detective Comics religiously, surely one knows about the Emperor Penguin storyline. But even if you are not familiar with this villain, Issue 19 is still a fun and exciting read for any novice Batman fan who happens to just pick up a New 52 for the first time. You couldn't start with a more intriguing anthology of short stories than this one. Another bonus feature in this issue is the five to six full-paged artworks within as drawn by some of the topmost artists in DC today.
The cover itself is also two-fold, featuring Batman and the Man-Bats floating ominously in the Gotham skyline. Aesthetically, Issue 19 is easily accessible with a compelling action-sequenced feel to it that could make your reading experience a thrilling one. This is Batman after all, and I never expect less from anything that includes him in the fold. As for the stories, we are given enough enticing premises that would lure us into looking forward to the next chapters. Issue 19 opens with The 900 which, though still a part of the ongoing Emperor Penguin storyline, focuses on Dr. Kirk Langstrom, otherwise known as the "Man-Bat." My first exposure to this character was in the pilot episode of Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series. But Layman has re-told his origin story in a more positive note, painting him as a reluctant hero who sacrificed his very legacy for the sake of curing Gotham from the bat-serum infestation that started on the 900 block.
It is shortly followed by Birth of a Family which gives more backstory to Dr. Langstrom's research as told in his wife's perspective. It's also worth noting that this issue picks up from the aftermath of the Joker's attack on the Bat-family (as well as following another shocking plot twist that is too painful for me to talk about here) where we see Batgirl and Nightwing avoiding Batman themselves. The stories War Council and Through a Blue Lens respectively feel like the start of something terrible and optimistic. In Tynion's War Council, we see Bane being informed about the Court of Owls and what he plans to do about it before confronting Batman. His hellbent determination to destroy that ancient council does sound a bit tricky. But in doing so, he knows he will conquer Gotham for good. It's a prologue that promises that DC will shake things up with the other Batman-related titles and not just in Detective Comics. I do have some doubts about how it will unfold though, but only because I do not like Bane as a villain.
As for Through a Blue Lens, Layman explores the humanistic element of Gotham city; the dedicated GCPD officers who are often unsettled by the increasingly horrific activities and crimes in their city, and are quite antagonistic with the way they relate to Batman. A female officer defends Batman from her peers, and it looks like for the first time she's not alone in her department, and she may have found a like-minded ally who shares her beliefs about how important Batman is to Gotham City.
The Birdwatching story is the one that seems to be more in-tune with the Emperor Penguin main arc for Detective Comics. While the other four can be considered self-contained stories with thinly interrelated events, this one showcases the original Penguin we are all familiar with, and his plans to take down the one who calls himself an Emperor. I won't deny that this sounds very exciting already. It'd be nice to see the rogues gallery go after each other for a change than fight against Batman (in saying that, I suppose Bane vs. the Talons of Court of Owls would be just as riveting, hopefully).
* Definitely worth the additional few bucks.