Detective Comics #871
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jock & Francesco Francavilla
Colors: David Baron & Francesco Francavilla
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
$3.99 / 40 pages / DC Comics
I've been waiting for this one since July, and normally, I'd be worried that the final product couldn't live up to the expectations I've set for it. But in this case, I just wasn't. We've all heard from Scott Snyder on how excited he was for this title, and his work on American Vampire has given me no reason to doubt he wasn't up for it. On the art side of things, I couldn't be happier with Jock as the regular artist, and Francesco Francavilla on co-feature art duty. Previously, I'd been lapping up Greg Rucka's Detective Comics work with a spoon, and dropped off as soon as he left the title. But this is how you get me back.
So, what did I think?
Detective Comics #871 delivered on every single promise made, and then some. The best thing about the current Batman era, in my view, is the ascendancy of Dick Grayson as Gotham's Batman. Snyder continues that here. It's Grayson's book. But unlike the stories over in Batman and Robin, the only other Batman book I'd been reading, this is a good old fashioned detective story, which is obviously appropriate to the title. Right off, it's clear that Snyder knows Grayson very well. From his nickname for Alfred, to a great moment on the roof with Jim Gordon, we're getting a Dick Grayson story. He's entirely competent, but he's not Bruce Wayne, and I'm completely OK with that. There's none of that grim stoicism of Wayne, and even though Dick is clearly playing the part while in the cowl, he's his own man; his own bat, as it were.
The story concerns a rash of outdated supervillain tech, potions, and gadgets hitting the street and causing crimes all around Gotham when it falls into the hands of the wrong people. Dick tracks down the source, in his own way, and finds that the case goes deeper and deeper with each new lead. We don't know who's behind it yet, but like his mentor, Grayson isn't going to let them get away with it. There's also something going on with birds.
Jock has been my favorite sequential artist for a while, and while I'm not one of those readers who needs to see an artist do a big superhero book to prove their worth, there's no doubt he fits right in here. I've learned, much to my chagrin, that Jock's style is not for everyone, but looking at these pages, it's hard to think how readers could not be impressed with the mood he's set for this Gotham City. He does a fantastic spooky Batman, and uses every bit of black in that cape to his advantage. The cowl looks like actual cloth wrapped around someone's head. At the same time, the action sequences are dynamic and exciting. If everything Jock drew took place in a rainstorm at night, we'd never get sick of it. Jock even gets a chance at a comedy moment with the introduction of the fingertip "Bat-Taser". He was hitting on every single level, and the work was elevated by the colors of David Baron who kept the palates sparse and eery. Some pages are green, others are red. When they rip all that away, and leave you with an empty white background, the visual punches you in the face like an exclamation point to the eyes. I could look at these pages all night.
If all that weren't enough, Francesco Francavilla came along batting clean-up with an equally stunning set of pages for Snyder's Commissioner Gordon co-feature. The story brings back a character I haven't thought about since I read Batman: Year One, and I made the same face Jim Gordon did when I realized what I was looking at. With Francavilla, we're seeing a guy bring the total package. He's drawing, inking, and coloring himself, and he killed on this. I've seen and admired Francavilla's pinups for a while, but the inky shadows and acting in this story have me chomping at the bit for the next installment. When was the last time you said that about a backup story?
There are a lot of things that can be done with a Batman comic book. As we've seen throughout the years, almost everything has been done. What Snyder, Jock, Francavilla, and company are delivering here is some street level, grounded detective stories, focusing on the characters, and who they really are. I was 100% satisfied, and can't get the next issue of Detective Comics in my hands soon enough.
Story – 5 / Art – 5 / Overall – 5
(Out of 5)