Detective Comics #871
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock and Francesco Francavilla
Colours by Dave Baron and Francesco Francavilla
I make no qualms about it, I’ve been pumped for this run to start. It was going to be my introduction to the DCU, which I haven’t frequented monthly for a few years. It was trumped by one week with Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Batman Inc. which shipped last week, and I found ten reasons to love. It didn’t stop me wanting to get my grubby mitts on this title too so before opening it up I gave myself a second to calm down, and make sure I viewed it in the correct and open light you should always read with. And so I did, and still thought this comic was a blast.
The opening sequence shows us the opening crime that Dick Grayson will become involved in. A young boy is bullied at his preparatory school. He snaps and fights back, resulting in the death of a child. But it’s not an ordinary case of school violence, this one involves the same serum that made the Killer Croc what he is today. It’s a vicious sequence that instantly sets the scene.
Snyder lays captions over this scene that detail some of Grayson’s history as an acrobatic performer. It’s a more serious narrative device that instantly lends the issue an almost scholarly tone. He continues to write much of the issue in this manner, not just telling us what we are seeing but taking opportunities to delve into emotional connections or personal backgrounds. Snyder is out to build every layer of this world and he’s making sure he uses his words carefully.
It’s the time that Snyder takes to connect Grayson and Gordon as professional colleagues that is a delight to read. With just short lines or looks he is building a new status quo for Batman and the GCPD. It’s really well done and a lot of fun to boot.
As Batman investigates the case, he eventually watches three people connected murdered. It doesn’t take long for this mystery to spiral down a slippery slope. Snyder is setting up a real series of mishaps for Batman to need to get to the bottom of. The fact that each of these problems stems from an element of a different Bat-rogue is an interesting concept. Someone is buying up various trinkets and then using them to enact terrible crimes. It means this case has many possibilities before it can be solved. The scope has been opened up.
It’s just a pity when you get to the end splash because you only want the issue to keep going. Which it then kind of does in the first instalment of the Commissioner Gordon back-up written by Snyder and drawn by Francesco Francavilla. It’s an 8-page ditty that also sets up theme, intent, and tone. Gordon is woken up to attend the scene of a crime. There he finds evidence of a very important person from his past coming back that’s surely going to make things mighty uncomfortable for him. If you haven’t read Year One yet then this could be a good time to do a little detective research. The back-up is a great little set up for things to come but it also offers up a surreal moment when Gordon returns home.
Francavilla’s art is exceptionally moody and very different to what Jock offers in the main story. Francavilla goes for colour as scene and so everything is dominated by bold blues, reds, and oranges. It’s a great way to make it all feel hyper-real and unreal at the same time. I enjoyed it, though can see it is different from what the usual fan expects. It helps I’m an avid supporter of Francavilla and just simply dig his work.
There is one final aspect I do want to mention, and it’s the birds featured in this issue. Grayson wakes up to find vultures hanging around outside his window. He doesn’t like it. Later, as he talks to Gordon on a rooftop, we get a glimpse of another bird. I’d tell you what kind but I’m no bird watcher so don’t recognise it. Later, in the back up, an eagle is outside Gordon’s place. Could these be bird spies, much like The Penguin has used before? It’s definitely food for thought and something to keep an eye on throughout the coming issues.
Verdict – Must Read. Snyder and co have just spent one issue laying all of their foundations. The scene is set, the players are in motion, and you can just tell from here on out it’s going to be a break neck pace as the criminal and the Bat spiral towards each other until their confrontation to end the whole mess. You are going to want to be in on the ground floor for what’s going to be a great year for Batman. If Batman Inc. is the Pop Art Bat then this one reads like Dashiell Hammett’s take on the character and the city. No punches are pulled from the very start, we get death, multiple problems, and a great one-two punch of our heroes, vigilante and police officer. It’s nice to read two Batman titles and get such different, though equally appealing and pleasing, concepts and delivery methods.