Sunday, February 26, 2012

Batman: Detective Comics #879

Cover by Francesco Francavilla

Batman: Detective Comics #879 (July 13, 2011)
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller: Frencesco Francavilla
Colorist: Francesco Francavilla
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

I knew I shouldn’t pick up this random issue without having any of the others. But my profound love for Scott Snyder’s work colored my reason. And now I have to run out and pick up the rest of his run on Detective Comics. Let me just add that to my growing to-read list.

Anyway, Snyder does not disappoint: he wrote an eerie, compelling and dark story that was fully articulated. Standing alone, this comic book had a very strong narrative with plenty of suspense and dynamic characters.

Detective Comics #879 featured two subtly intertwined storylines: that of the Joker’s tense examination by an Arkham doctor and James Gordon, Jr., Commissioner Gordon’s son, as he attempts to prove that his medication is curing him of his psychopathy.

This is my first time reading anything featuring Gordon’s son and it’s quite a first impression: he’s a total creep and Gordon is totally right in not trusting him. In Gotham City, you should always be on your guard against overly friendly people, like James Jr. True enough, Gordon’s instincts are correct, and he discovers that his creepy son has dastardly plans for Gotham and Gordon’s running out of time. He’s roped Barbara into helping him and the whole family is pitted against one another in a game of cat and mouse. Meanwhile, the Joker is TERRIFYING.

Snyder knows how to write dark characters and he is one of the few comic book writers who can actually scare me. His Joker, in particular, was just the way I love him: sociopathic, unpredictable and incredibly smart. He’s dangerous and capable of anything, even as he’s strapped into a stretcher and wearing a Hannibal Lecter-esque mask.

Along with the Joker, one of the strongest elements of this issue was the fact that Batman was not in it at all. I didn’t even realize it until I went back to re-read it and it just proved to me how strong this issue was, along with Snyder’s characterization.

My one complaint about this issue was the coloring. The entire issue was colored in stark shades of red and orange, with the occasional blue hues. I know Francavilla was trying to illustrate the tense and unsettling atmosphere of the issue but it was kind of unpleasant to look at and even felt rather weak. Francavilla’s penciling, however, was very strong and enjoyable.

Now I just need to run out to my local comic book store and grab the rest. Snyder’s is hands-down one of my favorite writers, if not my favorite, and I genuinely wish more of DC’s New 52 were like this.

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