Review: Detective Comics #500

Detective Comics #500 cover
Cover by Dick Giordano, Joe Kubert, Walter Simonson, José Luis García-López, Jim Aparo, Carmine Infantino, Bob Smith, Thomas Yeates and Bob LeRose

Detective Comics #500
Published and © by DC, March 1981

Title: “To Kill a Legend”
Synopsis: With help from the Phantom Stranger, Batman travels to another Earth, hoping to save that dimension’s Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Writer: Alan Brennert
Artist: Dick Giordano

Review: Alan Brennert only wrote a few Batman stories, but his track record was superlative. This tale, ably penciled by legendary inker Dick Giordano, is one such gem. Brennert “gets” Batman, and, despite its interdimensional nature, this story offers a quintessential character study. A fine anchor for a strong “anniversary” issue.


Title: “The ‘Too Many Cooks …’ Caper!”
Synopsis: Slam Bradley leads a cast of other detectives in investigating the murder of one of their own.

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo

Review:  Len Wein’s story is solid, though a bit crowded. Jim Aparo’s art is excellent, as usual.


Title: “Once Upon a Time …”
Synopsis: Batman saves a party from several masked robbers, then swings away into a “ dark and stormy night.”

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Walter Simonson

Review: This Snoopy-inspired exercise turns a story cliché into an arresting, visually driven two-pager. Well executed. 


Title: “The Final Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe!”
Synopsis: The Elongated Man investigates the final mystery of the creator of the detective story, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.

Writer: Mike W. Barr
Artist: José Luis García-López

Review: This Mike W. Barr story is pretty silly, but José Luis García-López’s art is very nice, especially the opening page.


Title: “The Strange Death of Doctor Erdel”
Synopsis: Hawkman and Hawkgirl investigate the cold case of Professor Mark Erdel, the scientist who first saw J’onn J’onzz.

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Joe Kubert

Review: Probably the weakest story of the bunch, but it’s hard to complain too much when Joe Kubert is drawing Hawkman.


Title: “What Happens When a Batman Dies?”
Synopsis: When Batman is poisoned, Deadman helps the Caped Crusader return from the great beyond to crack the case.

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Bob Smith

Review: Cary Bates’ first-ever Batman story is decent. The art is a mixed bag, but the magenta-on-yellow afterlife pages are striking.

Grade (for the entire issue): A-

Second opinion: “(Alan Brennert’s story) is the best Batman story of the ’80s so far.” – FantaCo’s Chronicle’s Series Annual #1, 1983 … “A real nostalgia-seeped bonanza. … Recommended.” – The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003

Cool factor: The Alan Brennert story is a gem.
Not-so-cool factor: No Neal Adams? No Marshall Rogers? Understandable, but one can dream!

Notable: Giant-sized, 80-page issue. … Includes a short, text story – “The Batman Encounters – Gray Face” – by Shadow-creator Walter Gibson, with illustrations by Thomas Yeates. … Also includes a one-page text feature, “The Guest List,” which discusses the creation of this issue and this issue’s cover.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a 15p British variant of this issue. … According to MyComicShop.com, there is also a Mark Jewelers variant.

Character quotable: “I wonder how normal people manage to cope?” – The Batman, with a telling bit of internal monologue

Editor’s note: This review was originally published by Comics Bronze Age on Aug. 9, 2010.

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