Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Detective Comics #871 – A Review

Detective Comics #871

Publisher DC Comics

Writer Scott Snyder

Art on Batman Jock

Colors David Baron

Art & Colors on Commissioner Gordon Francesco Francavilla

Format 30 Pages Story and Art

Price $4

DC has been promoting the new creative team coming onto Detective Comics and I have certainly been a fan of writer Scott Snyder’s work in comics so far. In fact I have tagged him as a future star in the field. Jock is certainly an artist whose work I love and have enjoyed since Losers. Francesco Francavilla is an artist I have known since the great series from Boom by Chip Mosher and Francesco, Left on Mission. So the stars were all aligning for me to be enjoying this first issue of Detective and they did not disappoint. If this is what we can expect from Detective Comics from now on then the Batverse just got a whole lot better.

The story is broken into two parts with the main part drawn by Jock and features Dick Grayson as Batman. The second half focuses on Jim Gordon and is drawn by Francavilla. What I loved about the stories is that while each was their own thing they are obviously set in the same time and place. It is shown with an ease and grace that makes the relationship both obvious yet elegant in the way the parts are part of one whole. It is done by using birds. In the Dick Grayson part of the story we have Dick looking out of his balcony window and wondering why he is seeing Vultures. In the back up story a crime is committed at the aviary where someone has released all the birds. So it becomes obvious where these vultures were coming from in the first half of the book, but it is subtle and elegant in that it is never pushed as a connection, it is just there for us to see. It is a great device that allows us to understand both stories are taking place at the same time.

The first part of the book about Batman is longer and starts with a story telling device that I’m not fond of. The device is having the captions tell us one thing and the pictures convey another thing. I understand the need to drive both elements of the story at the same time, but for me it interrupts that perfect marriage of words and pictures that I love. In this instance it worked. The reason it worked is because that style was only used for the first three pages and then the narrative lead into the words and pictures merging back into a single whole again. The reason I normally hate that style of storytelling is that often it never ends, but here Scott used it to set the mystery and then move into introducing us to Dick Grayson.

The brilliance of the story is the way Scott has weaved in characterization, acknowledging the rest of the Batverse, throws in some new elements for us (a state of the art crime lab being offered to GCPD via Wayne Industries) and then develops Dick as Batman. This Batman is every inch a Batman to be reckoned with and at the same time a very different Batman. I love how Scott has managed to balance and establish Dick as Batman, but also as his own man. The actual story and mystery is laid out with such fluidness and elegance (which is what this book has in spades) that I was just drawn in and enjoyed the read from beginning to end. Jock’s work conveys all the right elements and he spots his blacks in a way that keeps Batman as a true creature of the night.

The backup or second half of the story is done just as well. It features Jim Gordon and a mystery surrounding the return of his son who has not been seen or mentioned for quite some time (back to Batman Year One per a quick internet search). Francavilla is a great artist to be matched with Jock. While they have very different styles, they both know how to spot blacks and set a great noir tone to the stories. The fear that Gordon is feeling is palatable as the story progresses. One is left wondering what the mystery with his son is, did he die horribly as a child, is he back for som sort of revenge and why did he show up at the aviary prior to the birds being released? This is what you want out of a book with a title of Detective.

I’m purposely ignoring giving this an almost page by page analysis because I want you to go out to the store and buy this issue as we are seeing the start of what should be a great run on a Bat book. For me this is a happy circumstance that marries the guy who I have wanted to be Batman for years with a writer who thinks things out and plots a story like no one else in the business.

When you read this book you know that Scott has a beginning, middle and end for this story. At the same time you can see him laying the foundation for Dick Grayson and how he is Batman now. I loved the simple beginning of Dick talking his childhood and about red and blue pins denoting what type of town the carnival was going to be in and how Gotham was a black pin. The Flying Graysons had to up the ante for Gotham as Dick has to remember that he has to up his game to be Batman. For some reason I have a feeling we will hear more about this element and of course the story is called “The Black Mirror”. It is hard to not read a lot into Scott’s story because he doesn’t waste anything. He has dialogue when needed and none when the picture tells the story.

The story and mystery itself involves corrupt cobs, murders, a mysterious manipulator, Batman showing off some ultra cool moves and right now being a little out maneuvered.

Overall Grade A + - If you aren’t reading this book you are missing what could become a classic.

I can overstate this enough about Scott; his work is executed to a “T”. If you don’t believe me think about how DC has been promoting the heck out of this run and they signed him to an exclusive almost right away. Heck Stephen King was more than happy to attempt his first comic book script on Scott’s American Vampire book. Scott in addition to be very talented appears grounded and I don’t see him every getting an ego that is out of whack. He also respects these characters. Too often I see writers wanting to tell a story and they cast these characters into their plays and could care if it all fits or not. They are the writer and the character will do whatever they tell them to do, after all they are just fictional characters, right? Not in my book. Scott gets it and seems to be one of us who love these characters and respects them. I’m guessing he wants to tell stories about these characters and not the other way around. It maybe a fine line to some, but I can see it clear as day at times. For me Scott is in that mold of making comics into more of literature with pictures, as such other books like Scalped, Echo, Locke and Key and a few others.

Summary – buy it – read it and I hope you love it too. Batman done right.

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