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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: Detective Comics #872

Detective Comics #872
Scott Snyder (w), Jock (a), Francesco Francavilla (a)

Wow.  Now this is a Batman book.  For the last few years, Grant Morrison's Batman stories have been my favorite Batman stories I've ever read, convincing me that no one could ever write a Batman story like Morrison can.  And it's true -- NO ONE can write a Batman story like Morrison.  But then along comes Scott Snyder with a Batman story of an entirely different flavor, one that I didn't even know that I wanted, forcing me to add another Batman book to my monthly purchases.

What works with Snyder's Detective is that he's offering a different Batman, which makes sense since we are working with Dick Grayson, an old friend but a new Batman.  Some of the best moments that come from this book are when we see how Dick's Batman deals with people differently than Bruce Wayne's Batman.  I mean, the cops actually like this Batman?  They're not terrified that he may just growl at them and break their collarbones if they make the slightest misstep?  And, yes, we already know that Dick's a different kind of Batman.  We saw it in those first sixteen issues of Morrison's Batman & Robin, but I would argue that series focused more on the change in the Dynamic Duo's (ahem) dynamic.  Snyder's Detective has its focus firmly rooted on Dick Grayson -- who he is and how he's dealing with this new situation of being Gotham's Batman.  Dick's relationships with the supporting cast are the most satisfying parts of the story.  This issue we get Dick and Barbara playfully jabbing at each other the way that only lifelong friends can, Dick and Tim's big brother/little brother dynamic, and Dick and Bullock actually cooperating with each other, each relationship working to shed some light on Dick's character as well as set up some key plot points.

Snyder gives us great character moments, but he doesn't forget that Batman is a superhero, and superheroes mean BIG ACTION and palpable danger.  Snyder sets up some great action moments, but it's Jock's art that really takes it to the next level.  The issue opens with a chase sequence that makes a one-wheel motorcycle seem cool (but to be fair, most everything that Batman has looks awesome when Jock's drawing it), we get a great splash page of Batman jumping out of Oracle's space needle-esque headquarters, and Jock breaks out his horror style with heavy blacks and reds to give us a genuinely terrifying final page cliff-hanger.

A sense of true danger is something that I think has been missing from the Batman books.  Sure, there's been plenty of danger in Morrison's Batman stories, but I've never been too concerned about whether or not Bruce would escape and save the day because Morrison's take on Batman gave us a Batman who was prepared for EVERY eventuality and EVERY situation.  We're talking about the kind of Batman who has robot doubles of the Justice League in storage on Pluto just in case the Justice League disappears.  We're talking about a Batman who came up with a backup personality just in case he got shot up with weaponized heroin in an attempt to break his mind.  The man killed Darkseid and fought his way back to us from the distant past for god's sake!  It was never a question of if Morrison's Batman could survive, but how he was getting out of this one.  Dick as Batman is compelling because we get a genuine sense of danger by virtue of Dick not being Bruce.  We know Dick is capable.  We know that Dick can be Batman.  But we don't know how he's going to make it out of being drugged up while being mobbed by a group of blood-thirsty crime fanatics.  We're reasonably certain that Dick will make it out of there since he is the lead role in this book, and of course, he is Batman, but because he's new to the role and because we've never seen these kinds of villains before, there is certainly a level of concern to be experienced when we watch things go south for Dick at the end of the issue.  It's that kind of danger, that kind of concern that makes a compelling cliffhanger, and it's those kinds of moments that have me eagerly awaiting the next issue.

And let's not forget the Commissioner Gordon backup!  I love that Dick's story and Gordon's story are intersecting, and I can't wait for the moment when both of these plots come to a head.  Francesco Francavilla's art is muted and clean, providing a nice counterpoint to Jock's frantic, sketchy linework.  This installment centers around Gordon telling Barbara that James is back in town.  I'm not entirely clear on the dynamic concerning Gordon's family, but a look at his wikipedia page makes it clear that no one really knows what James's deal is and why it's so unsettling to have him back in the picture.  We've got a great mystery developing, and Snyder has me excited for more Commissioner Gordon detective work.

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