Pick of the Week

January 27, 2010 – Detective Comics #861

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.3
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 32.0%
Users who pulled this comic:
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Jock
Co-feature Art by Cully Hamner
Cover by JH Williams III

Size: pages
Price: 3.99

If you’re familiar with my particular comic book tastes, this Pick won’t surprise you. I don’t expect anyone else to feel exactly the same way, as there were a multitude of excellent books released this week. Yet longtime iFanboy fans will know that I’m much more a fan of creators than I am of characters. For example, my favorite superhero character is Hawkeye, and the news today showed Clint Barton clearly back in his original (plenty goofy) purple outfit. That’s pretty cool sure, and I’d love to see some great stories with him now. But what really made me take pause today was realizing what was happening in this issue of Detective Comics. It was written by Greg Rucka, probably close to if not actually my favorite working comic book writer, and drawn by Jock, easily in the running for my favorite artist in comics. I knew right away that this book would have to have to suck in a new and incredible way to not have instant Pick of the Week contention. If Jock and Greg Rucka had worked on a Deadpool/Ambush Bug crossover, I’d probably be writing about that right now, but it happened they did Detective Comics #861.

So I’m reading the issue, flipping through the pages, enjoying it plenty. On pages 1-5, there was a yacht chase, and I hadn’t seen one of those before, so that was fine, plus Jim Gordon using nautical terms like “heave to” which was also pretty cool. Then came page 6. For those of you out there who didn’t read the issue, or didn’t appreciate page 6, let me clarify. Page 6 was Jock drawing pages from what was essentially Greg Rucka’s impromptu return to Gotham Central. By page 6, this was a lock. In the same way that X-Men Forever makes Ron giddy, this issue had way too many of my favorite things.

Suppose you’re not actually me though, and want to know what’s going on. Personally, I think the pretty pictures by the amazing British artist are enough, but there is actually a pretty good classic Batman story here. Yes, I said Batman. In this story, Kate Kane and Batman are both working opposite ends in the search for a villain named The Cutter. In case you were curious, he does cut — he cuts up young female college students, it seems.  =He’s pretty creepy, a fine one-time villain, but he’s also not the point of the story. In the meantime, we get to see more of Kate Kane navigating the world between family and crime fighting, and going about her investigation in a completely different way than Batman. Even her touchstone on the GCPD is Maggie from MCU (if you didn’t follow that, you missed out on Gotham Central), as opposed to Batman’s Jim Gordon. I really enjoyed the parallel structure of the issue, and at 20 pages of content, a wonderful starting chapter, if only just for readers with exactly my tastes.

(UPDATE! It turns out I misread this somewhat. The stories are actually working on two timelines, not simultaneously. However, it should be noted, I am cool with that. All the things I loved about this issue stand thematically.)

I should also mention the second feature, the continuing adventures of Renee Montoya (also from the pages of Gotham Central among other things) as The Question.  I’m sure this is a fine story, but unfortunately, it always does feel a bit overshadowed by the events in the Batwoman story. The fact is, if this was its own series, I’d buy it and enjoy it, but following directly after the first part of these Detective issues seems to take away from the story a bit. Maybe they should run the Question stuff before the Batwoman stuff. Or maybe I’ll just read them first from now on. Either way, it was good, and I’m glad it was there.

The real star of this issue is Jock’s art. I’m not sure if he’s for everyone or not, but from the moment I first saw his work in The Losers, I was in love, and from the hot classic car and wide angle lens of page one, I was smiling. I can’t think of any other artists who so effectively capture that extreme fish eye rounded distortion in their wide shots. The art is almost messy, and completely emotional and kinetic. It’s a blend of Michael Lark, Sean Phillips, and a third ingredient that is Jock’s special magic. Any given face on any given panel doesn’t necessarily look well done, but when you take in the composition of the pages as a whole, and really pay attention to the expressions and mood of the panels, Jock is as good as anyone out there. Take a closer look at the first page, and check out Batman in the background of every panel, and the subtle storytelling of his takedown that even I didn’t notice the first time. Batman blends into the shadows in the first panel, and I didn’t see him until I looked at the page for the fourth time. The double page spread at the end of the story was the real capper for this issue though. Maybe he was taking a lead from his predecessor J.H. Williams III, or maybe it was his just his own ingenuity, but those were two incredible pages, and flowed with precision into the final page of the story. I’d say I want Jock on more work, but the fact is, I kind of enjoy the rarity his pages appear. That being said, I’m psyched for the rest of this story, not to mention his upcoming Hellblazer graphic novel.

It does feel like we’ve played favorites with this book, and some people will say it’s a Batman thing, or a DC thing, but for me, it’s a Rucka thing. Greg Rucka has experienced a real renaissance over the last year or so, and every time an issue of Detective Comics comes out with his name on it, it takes me right back to some of the best comics I’ve ever read, and a lot of them were written by him. Put him with an incredible talent like Jock and there was no question this week.

Josh Flanagan
I admit I got overly excited by page 6.


  1. Look, I’m Marvel Comics Fan #1 over here and I can’t bitch about this pick. I didn’t even get a chance to read this issue and I know it’s awesome, ’cause they’ve *all* been awesome.

  2. It’s like a dynasty is going on.

  3. I feel like if gotham central returned now, with Rucka Bru and Lark all becoming big names that it would sell.  

    Ah, I can only dream….



    And now it would be with Jim Gordon!!!! 

  4. Really? it should be the pick of the week ever week…meh

  5. Page one of this book is so awesome. Great issue. Almost my POTW, but Fantastic Four left me amazed like usual.

  6. (I made it to my LCS rather early today, so they didn’t have all the new issues out yet, because they we’re doing the box pulling first, so I never even saw this comic, else I might have gotten it too.)

    Gotham Central was a great run.  I’ll have to run by and pick this up tomorrow.

  7. alright I’m finally convinced to check this out

  8. I’ve stated time and time again that I’ve actually been disliking this run so far, but this was the first issue I enjoyed since the first Rucka/Williams issue.  I’ll admit, that’s probably mostly based on the fact that the identity of Batman was a little vague, so I told myself it was Bruce.  I’m still wishing Bette had a better role in the DCU than "Blonde Bimbo #3."

    Not a pick of the week contender though.  As of right now, Atom and Hawkman has it, but I’ve still got Green Lantern, Chew, Superman: Secret Origin, Fantastic Four and Batman and Robin sitting in my stack… 5 of my top 10 books… 

  9. Rucka just posted this on Twitter:

     "I’ve got to ask: Detective 861 – How many of you thought the Batman bits were set at the same time as the Batwoman ones?" 

  10. Can’t wait for this, every issue is absolute gold. The downside?  It’s never, ever long enough…

  11. This issue lost my vote with the villian.  That was a fucking awful costume, if you can even call it that.  The writing and art were excellent and the backup was pretty sweet as well.  Just couldn’t get over ‘cutter’.  WTF?

  12. AHH, HA HA! "Deadpool/Ambush Bug crossover"  Ha ha whooo!!! that’s SO funny!!!!

    (sorry josh, just being a tool)

  13. Detective Comics has been absolutely wonderful, creatively speaking, every step of the way. I just don’t give a damn about Batwoman. At all. I really do love the art and the way it’s written, but Katie Kane just doesn’t strike a chord with me. I picked up the first 5 issues of this run, and when I realized that I wasn’t looking forward to finding out what happened next, and that I had no recollection of what happened in the last issue before I opened up the next one, I had to drop it. It doesn’t sour me on Rucka or Williams (or even Jock for that matter), so I will pick up any other project that any of them work on besides a book starring this character.

  14. Batwoman for President!

  15. @Josh – I’m not sure if noticed this or not but the Batman in this book is definitely Bruce. There are two different timelines happening here. Batman’s story is happening in the past since Gordon is referred to as ‘Captain Gordon’ by a cop while Batwoman’s story is, obviously, happening in the present. It was interesting but a little confusing as I tried to reconcile these two timelines and was fairly unsuccessful. So, for me, it was a 4/5 book.

    My pick was SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN but I think it has been every time a new issue comes out. 

  16. This issue was a clinic in parallel storytelling. Just fantastic!

  17. @JeffR-Yeah, it was a bit hard to tell that it was two different timelines until someone said "Captain Gordon", then it finally made sense why Batman’s costume had the yellow Batman symbol on it. Then everything clicked.

    I agree with @vadamownens that the villain design is lacking considerably. But overall, I enjoyed this book. Not my pick though. So far, GL #50 is ahead, but I still have to read Punisher #13 to make sure. 

  18. @drake I’m thinking Daredevil for me, but I’m not done with my stack yet.  That issue was awesome.

  19. As noted in the italicized addition to the above post, I misread the story somewhat, but even with that course correction, the things I loved about the issue are unchanged.

  20. I really hope DC doesn’t sleep on getting this book into HCs/TPBs, because I’d love to read this one day, but i don’t intend to pick it up in singles.

  21. Wow, I’m surprised that GL #50 wasn’t the POTW. While Batwoman was really, really good, GL #50 was amazing….

  22. Reading it again, GL #50 is fun, pretty and made me giddy…but I don’t know where it’s going with the whole Parallax thing. So many questions, not sure how Johns will incorporate all of it into the next few issues of BN.

  23. It wasn’t very clear to me that there were two timelines being explored simultaneously. However, the fact that Batman wasn’t wearing the post-NML suit dropped enough of a hint that something was up with the timelines.

  24. Wow, you predicted that Josh would pick a book by his favorite writer and favorite artist working together for the first time?

  25. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, this issue didn’t ship to us.  Fiddlesticks.

  26. Also, say what you will, but I think this issue could have benifitted from the Red Robin devise of simply having a caption box stating "then," and "now."

  27. I’m almost thinking it wasn’t supposed to be clear that there were two timelines.  I’m not really a fan of Rucka, but I know that he’s above accidently making it look like one timeline when it’s two.  I just wonder why he’d blow the future reveal on Twitter, unless there was actually in the book somewhere and I missed it.

  28. Yes, it was in the book, just not as clearly as people would have liked.

  29. What I missed was 2 things.  One, the yellow around the batman symbol, representing the past.  But I disregarded that, because character design isn’t really that consistent, and I don’t tend to use it as a marker. The other thing was Jim that Jim Gordon was called "captain," and I didn’t catch that.

    Previously, Rucka had said he was being vague about who Batman was, so I just went with it.

    I have to think that Rucka was being vague on purpose, but I don’t know. I don’t think he "spoiled" anything, but was maybe a bit more subtle than he intended.

  30. Yeah, I missed the Jim as "captain" comment as well.

    Nonetheless, I love this writing style. Batman-then was looking for a girl and Batwoman-now is looking for a man. What we are about to witness in future issues is a transformation of sorts for this villain, the Cutter, that spans these timelines. How this obsession began with this woman’s complete disappearance to now. Where women don’t completely disappear, only parts of them. Is the Cutter trying to remake this woman from the past using pieces from women today?

    Rucka Rocks! So does Jock! 😀

  31. Every time I see Detective Comics gets praised I feel foolish. Should’ve stuck with the new run by Rucka with the Batwoman issues, and now this issue does sound pretty amazing. I could just tell from your review josh that this was porn for you. In that, it has your two favorite people in comics and working on a character(s) they are born to work with. Great pick and great review of it.

    But….My pick was Green Lantern #50 just because it was a balls to the wall, amazing comic book. If I read Detective, maybe it would’ve been a harder choice. But Geoff Johns killed that book this week and Mahnke should get a f’n Eisner for that issue alone.

  32. I caught the yellow symbol as well as the "captain" line, not to mention Batman was acting VERY Bruce-ish, but I just assumed the entire book was set in the past.  I know Batwoman first appeared in her modern form back in 52 (Commissioner era Gordon), but I don’t think it was ever established when "Go" was set.

  33. Nothing wrong with this pick, but man what an awful villian.  I know I’m nitpicking but there it is.  Would have gone with GL or FF but this is a 5-star book nontheless.

  34. I wondered which Batman this was meant to be, but it never occurred to me that I was watching two different timelines and did not pick up on any of the cues *at all.* I feel like the longer I read comics, the worse I get at it.

  35. The whole Jock thing pushed me away. I liked it, but it would’ve been so much sweeter with Jim Williams working the pencils.

  36. @Jimski I wouldn’t worry about that too much. It was surprisingly subtle. In fact, after being conditioned to believe that giant errors in lettering can happen in Batman comics (looking at you, BATMAN & ROBIN #7), I thought that ‘Captain Gordon’ was a slip up and not intentionally. Took me a while to figure it out. The double timelines were actually more distracting to me as I kept hoping for something meaningful to happen with them and then the issue ended. Still, I’m sure it’ll pay off.

  37. That is the second time today I’ve heard someone say they didn’t like Jock!

    What is with you people?!

  38. Heathens. The lot of them.

  39. Jock’s work has this energy I love. It’s like a less detailed Matthew Southworth from Stumptown.

  40. @Josh – I’m guessing there was no B.P.R.D./Hellboy or Vertigo title that your reading that came out this week?

  41. @ShaunR

    GI Joe Cobra came out this week. I’m VERY surprised it didn’t get the pick of the week considering that I think everytime it came out and Conor and Ron had the pick, it was POTW.

  42. @Josh/Conor: 

    Josh’s comment about The Question ("it was good") is about the highest praise I’ve seen for either of the Bat co-features. People just don’t seem to like them. In your opinion, do you think DC will eventually drop this whole, seemingly unpopular concept?

  43. I hope they drop co-features. They’re unsatisfying. And now that I’m leaving Detective with Batwoman I don’t even get to read the rest of the Question: Pipeline. That was a waste of $10 (10 issues).

  44. Jock does some amazing covers. His stuff for Azrael? Amazing. Any other covers he’s done? Fantastic.

    His interiors…..Eh. I’ve seen worse, not like I hate him as an interior artist. But what I’ve seen is so sketchy and the character models look so simple it just always looked rushed to me. I know he doesn’t rush his work, but it looks like it.

  45. I’ve seen quite a few people saying Manhunter is worth the $4 for Streets of Gotham. I say they’re insane.  I’ve apparently read every book with a co-feature (except Green Arrow/Black Canary, Booster Gold, and JSA All Stars) and Action/Captain Atom was the only one I managed to finish. Even then I didn’t think it was very good.  It’s hard enough for me to remember a 22 page good comic from month to month, let alone a 10 page mediocre one.  I think that they’re a great idea on paper, not in practice.

  46. Co-features don’t cost you anything. You’re paying $4 for those books either way. Marvel puts in reprint material, and DC puts in short co-features. This story was 20 pages instead of 22, and the co-feature was 10 pages.  Read it or don’t, but it’s not taking anything away from you.

  47. Co-Features are great. I love all the ones I read (except Captain Atom).

  48. "Co-features" more like "Shmo-features" HA!

  49. @Josh

    Where is the data to back this up? It costs cash to do these co-features, and I’m guessing more than some reprints. 

  50. What I’m saying is, the comics are going to cost $4 one way or another. They’re not going back down to $3, co-feature or no. They cost $4 at Marvel too, and there are no co-features over there. I could take them or leave them for the most part, but I don’t think they’re responsible for the $4 price tag.

  51. LOL @ShaunR


    There were a LOT of good books out this week. So far Chew #8 is my POTW… that oh sh!t ending was just killer!

  52. @josh

    Regardless or not of whether DC would charge $4 for the books with or without a backup, I have to view the extra dollar as paying for the backup. That’s how they are presenting it.  

  53. @miyamotofreak: It’s not how the are presenting it. They are presenting the back-up as giving you more for your dollar that you are going to be paying anyway.

  54. @Miyamotofreak: yup, that’s how they’re presenting it. This is why the co-featured books were the first regular DC titles be to price at $4. To me, it seemed like DC was attempting to ease the transaction to $4 books. It’s also why their was a big deal made over the introduction of the co-features. You are totally right.

    @Conor: We get that books will be $4 from now on. We get that the books will never go back to $3. But the co-features were a marketing plan to placate the reader when introducing $4 books. Considering all things it’s not a bad thing.

    By The Way: To me the co-features was pretty unsatisfying. Too little substance, too stilted in deliverary. I don’t want to read 8 pages every 4 weeks (if the books on time) like i don’t watch 12 minutes of an one-hour tv drama every week.

     And i don’t like how the reader is expected to care about them.

  55. well. i killed this thread

  56. Good job sir!

  57. I’m pretty sure I read an interview with Dan Didio over at Newsarama that said if they pulled a co-feature from a book it would go back to $3. Not saying this would happen, but that’s what the man said. 

  58. @edward : So the back up stories are transitions so that we could adjust to $4 books?

    I also think that if the main story goes for the whole issue, we would not really know the difference of the length of $3 and $4(especially if it’s good).

    The back-ups may well be incubators of future talents where it’s safe to hit or miss because of minimal attention.  

    I wish back-ups go as long as the main story so that it would attract attention. Arc starts are mostly JOPs and if the back-ups are in the middle of an arc, it feels really really weird because even if it’s a new story in the main, the back up sometimes leaves you. More so that the characters aren’t that familiar (especially with me).

    I actually suggest One Shot back ups. They can feature more talents that way. Variety never hurts. 

  59. @nathan: i agree with everything you’re saying. i have no problem with the back-ups. i’m just not interested in them

  60. @edward: yeah. and i want to be interested because they exert effort in making it.

  61. DC has to start charging $4 for units. It’s really six of one or a half dozen of the other whether you want to say that the second features are considered part of the package or not. I see Josh’s point about how "the price is $4, period", but it’s blindingly obvious that all of the $4 books have second features in order to justify (at least temporarily) the markup. To say that you’re not paying for the back-up features just because DC will not sell these comics for $3 without them, is like saying that the price of a car isn’t higher because there’s standard high-end rims on it. The buyer can still say, "Damn, I don’t care about those rims–I WISH they weren’t there so the price would be lower." It makes no sense to say "You aren’t paying for the rims!" because of course some of what you pay is justified by the rims. And the extra money we pay for Detective Comics DOES effectively go toward paying for the cost of producing that Question feature. In economic terms, that’s indisputable.

    It’s more of a mental choice whether you want to tell yourself you are or aren’t considering the second features part of what you personally are paying for. I’d pay $4 just for the Batwoman feature, so to me the Question stuff seems like a great bonus (I like the Question backup in general). But DC isn’t really "presenting" this any way at all. They aren’t SAYING "This is why it’s a dollar more". Nor are they saying "We need to charge more on average anyway". They’re just saying, "Here, $4 comic with a second feature in it."

  62. This was, indeed, a great issue.  The Jock art was fantastic, and when the backup started, I was disappointed because I wanted more. My POW this week, though, was definitely The Punisher by Remender and Moore.  Good god was that a damn fun comic book.  I had a smile on my face the whole time I read it and long after wards.

  63. Wow, until I just heard on the podcast and read here, I had no clue that there were two different timelines involved. Somehow I didn’t notice while reading it…guess I’ll have to go back and read it again.

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