Batman: Detective #27 graphic novel (2004)

It’s a bit of a misnomer to have Batman in the title of this graphic novel. Bruce Wayne is the hero of the book, and he’s perhaps his world’s greatest detective. But Bruce never dons the cape and cowl. (In fact, there’s a funny explanation of why inspiration never strikes) Instead he becomes a more conventional detective, the 27th in a line of a secret society of detctives whose mission it is to prevent a group of evil-doers from creating destroying a major city.

As you might have guessed, this is an Elseworlds book, so everything Batman-related is just a little bit distorted. From a fun take on Alfred to use of familiar vllains and motifs in the story ("Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?") to the big revelation at the end, writer Mike Uslan enjoys playing with our familiar takes on the characters. He also mixes the fictional characters in with historical figures – Babe Ruth appears, as do Franklin Roosevelt, Charles Darwin and Theodore Roosevelt, among others. The effect is clever, making the book feel like an alternate reality just outside our window, as if with just a few small changes, this could have been our world.

Uslan creates versillimitude with this take, but it still feels a little bit stale. There have been so many Elseworlds books created in the last fifteen years that it’s very hard to come up with something that feels completely fresh. In a format that depends on freshness, this is a real problem. Uslan’s take, while clever, just doesn’t have the extra splash of freshness to make it really special.

Peter Snejberg’s art is perfect for this story. So much of the twists and turns of the plot depend on facial gestures, and he’s one of the best at using slight exaggerations to convey a character’s thoughts. His take on Superman – portayed here as a sort of 30s take on heroism, complete with belt and lace-up boots – is a real treat.

Overall this is a solid, professional book that’s a fun take on its characters. It’s definitely not the best Elseworlds book, but Uslan and Snejberg deliver a solid and entertaining story.

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