Thursday, July 14, 2011

Comic of the Week

It's hard to come up with more good things to say about Scott Snyder's work on Detective Comics, but I'm going to have to try. In issue #879 there is no Batman, there are no costumes. What there is, is Jim Gordon getting answers no father, much less one who's a cop, wants, but must get about his son. This moves along at a surprisingly quick pace for a talky issue, intercut with some creepy Joker scenes. Is Jim Jr. as bad as the Joker? The connection drawn between them is clear, with Jr.planning on "sharing" his psychopathy with Gotham's babies. Francavilla's art is once again on point here, creating the ominous mood.

This is not really a cop story, though. It's ultimately a family drama, and a dark one at that. The parallel cutting between the Gordon story and the scenes of the Joker in Arkham are handled with precision. Whether or not Jim Jr. is actually working with the Joker or not is irrelevant at this point. The point is they are connected in spirit. So, as Jim Sr. rushes to stop his son, we get the Joker's narration over what I think is the best page in the book. A page that perfectly captures the tension between father and cop, innocence and loss, expectations and hopes.

Tension is the word for this entire issue, if not the entire Jim Gordon story that has been unfolding for several issues now. It would be interesting to see all the bits and pieces of this story, which started as a back up and has had threads pop up in mostly Batman centered issues, be collected in one trade, to be read uninterrupted by other plots. As it is, Snyder and Francavilla manage to keep the mood going, issue by issue, piece by piece, so that each one works on it's own, while still building on the previous pieces. By the time we get to the last page of this issue, with a reveal that was set up back in the brilliant issue 875, we're right there with Jim Gordon, nauseated at the confirmation of all his suspicions.

I've been lamenting the loss of Dick Grayson as Batman come September, and particularly Snyder's take on the character. But now, my concern is whether or not Snyder will be able to tell stories like this in the Batman title. I think his versatility as a writer would be better served if he were left on Detective where he could conceivably tell Batman stories without Batman from time to time. Either way, I'll be reading any Batman related work he does. There's just nobody else doing it better.

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