Pick of the Week
What did the
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- Pick of the Week - 05.08.2013 - Thor: God of Thunder #8
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- Pick of the Week - 04.24.2013 - Uncanny Avengers #7
Art by JOCK and FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA
Cover by JOCK
Size: 40 pages
You’ve got to stick the landing. All the set up and planning, and wonderful starts, surprises, and pretty pictures aren’t going to matter at all if you don’t stick the landing. Detective Comics #881, apparently right under the wire, did just that.
It was just a little over a year ago, chatting in the DC booth that Scott Snyder told me that he’d landed Jock for his upcoming Detective Comics series. I don’t even remember if he’d been announced as the writer yet, but from that first conversation, it was clear that he had exceptional affinity for the characters, and a clear vision for what the book would be, from top to bottom. It was great news, and I couldn’t tell anyone. We’re talking about one of the best up and coming writers in comics, teamed with my favorite interior artist, doing a version of Batman in Detective Comics that sounded exactly like what I wanted.
Basically, there was a lot of room to screw it up.
But that’s not what happened. From the first issue, to this one, we saw a wonderful run on Detective Comics, as Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla teamed up to really get into the history Dick Grayson, Jim and Barbara Gordon, and Gotham City itself, in a way I haven’t seen in quite some time. As a whole, it was a symphony of plotting and character work, bringing everything together at the last minute, with insignificant moments coming back to light, and tying up in one neat bundle. More than that though, throughout the run, I was impressed by the incredible thoughtfulness given to the portrayal of these characters, which was enhanced by having Bruce Wayne out of the way. His shadow is enormous, and when these characters were allowed to breathe and be explored without him there, they shone as much or more than any others in DC’s stable. It didn’t hurt that Snyder was playing directly off the events of Batman: Year One, which might be the best, and most grounded Batman story ever told. Yet it was done with care, much more than just namechecking and fan service. James Gordon was dragged out of the mothballs, made real, and he took the stage with vigor, standing shoulder to shoulder with boogeymen like the Joker.
There was a frantic energy in this issue, which was fitting. There was a lot to get done and not much time to do it. The story skirted the edge of helpful coincidence which can often bog down a mainstream superhero story, and replaced that with careful plotting and the planting of narrative seeds to be revealed at just the right time. My eyes opened wide when James explained that he was involved with the Joker’s visit to Barbara’s back in the Killing Joke, and then a sighed with relief to find that wasn’t really the case. I was up and down on pincushions, and then at just the right moment, the hero shows up, but not after Barbara Gordon has her moment in the sun. In a sort of non-patronizing fashion, Dick didn’t show up to save her. She did fine on her own, and made her choices. Dick showed up in time to save everyone else. Basically, when turning these pages, I just kept thinking “yes, yes, yes!” because it was all working. This team of talented artists delivered. They stuck the landing, and gave us the sense of an ending, instead of more questions. There is little more satisfying than that when you read ongoing superhero comics.
I don’t have much more to say about the creative team assembled here. I do know that I really like all of the people involved, and none of them let me down for a single page. If you pay attention to Snyder, Jock, and Francavilla on Twitter, you’ll see them continually cheering each other on, and you get a sense of incredible pride in their work. They knew they had something special. They knew they had the team to get it done, and they knew it would take fans by surprise, leaving a lot of smiles along with the genuinely creepy vibe the story created. For some reason, it worked to switch back and forth between the two artists, who aren’t all that stylistically similar. For some reason, it worked that the big bad in this story wasn’t the Joker, but just one guy, who was very determined, very smart, and quite psychopathic. The reality of that threat coincided with the reality that these artists brought to the table. These guys aren’t there to draw alien laser fights. These guys are there to draw people, being human, and being kind of awful. Jock’s Batman cowl is rumpled and textured. Francavilla drew some of the best talking head pages I’ve seen in ages. Snyder knew what material to give them, and in the end, the total package was a complete success.
Things are changing, and the time for this book is over. I really have an affinity for Detective Comics over Batman, in terms of titles, but now with Snyder moving over to the latter, we’ll have to see what sort of changes are in store. Maybe it will be fun to see him tackle a different kind of Batman story. Greg Capullo is certainly a different type of artist. This is just the beginning for Snyder’s career, but this is an arc we’re going to look back on for a good long while, as one way to do it right. When you think of it that way, I’m sad to see it ending, but it certainly has me excited for what may come.
Scott Snyder’s not paying us. I swear.