This is a guest post review by Taylor Pithers. Follow him on Twitter as @taylorpithers
The book is split into two distinct stories, drawn superbly by the above mentioned artists, that seem very different but by the end dovetail together for a spectacular crescendo. At heart, the overarching plot involves a serial killer but rather than going down the familiar “Batman tracks down bad guy, punches bad guy in the face, good guys win the day” route, Snyder takes a different tack. In a move that would make the Columbo writers proud, he lets you in on the secret fairly early on, which gets the sometimes pesky whodunnit out of the way and allows him to concentrate on the motivations of the main cast and why they act the way they do to certain situations.
Snyder does a great job of introducing new characters to the lore of the Bat. A circus of horrors-esque auctioneer who, in a move not too dissimilar to Morrison’s Black Glove concept, allows the more well-to-do members of Gotham’s society bid on various items that have some form of meaning to Batman/the DC Universe as a whole, including but not confined to the crowbar that the Joker used to dispatch of Jason Todd, is a creepy addition to the landscape.
One of the main concepts that is dealt with to a great extent is one of family, legacies, and how the next generation embrace or rebel against it. The most overt of these is the path of Dick Grayson, a man who has been bred to take over the mantle of Batman since adolescence though never thought the day would actually come. Dick is under no impression that he is Bruce but you can almost feel his need to hold up the legacy of the bat whilst struggling to be his own man almost jump off the page. The difference between the two is shown to great effect fairly early on in the book when Gordon remarks that he’s not used to turning around and Batman still being there whilst in conversation. There’s always a risk in this type of story that the main character gets too bogged down with upholding a name that a previous character has kept in such high regard and Snyder thankfully sidesteps that to an extent. Dick is his own man who makes his own decisions and is man enough to bear the brunt of them.
|Is this the best cover of the run?|
Sitting somewhere in the middle is Sonia Branch, AKA the daughter of Tony Zucco. Sonia is a legitimate businesswoman and CEO of GGM Bank. She is a prime example of someone who is trying so hard to escape from under the shadow that is her father, going as far as changing her name, but failing at every turn. To say anymore would ruin the joy of finding out the nuances of her character.
|Or is this the best cover of the run?|
Reminding us that the book is called Detective Comics, Snyder introduces some new tech to the bat universe and what could have been seen as a deus ex machina in the payoff works incredibly well as you believe Dick really is the world’s greatest detective and nothing gets past him (well second best but who’s counting?).
When this story was originally put out, DC was going through another one of its “lets see if back-up stories work” phases with a chunk of each issue going towards pushing Dick’s story forward and the other part pushing Gordon’s. Intelligently, DC decided to keep the format fairly intact so you get sixty pages of Batman, then thirty of Gordon and so on. This works really well and just as you feel like the secrets are going to be opened up before you, it flips and goes back to the other storyline, adding to the suspense and tension of the book as a whole. Kudos to DC’s trade department on that one.
The one thing that both artists have in common is the ability to pace scenes superbly and it’s a testament to both artists that in the last issue it took me getting to page three of Jock’s segment before I even realised the artist had changed. The cover art continues the high quality of the rest of the book, two of which are arguably the best covers this reviewer has seen in a long time.
Verdict – Must Read. Through mixing tried and tested concepts and characters with new ones Snyder, Jock and Francavilla have created a subtly disturbing book that is action packed, dynamic and believable whilst set in a world where men dress up as bats is considered the norm. Now that this hardcover has been released, we have a batman collection that will stand the test of time and go toe to toe with the pantheon of great Batman stories. All that and not a Miller in sight.
This book goes well with –
A cold night
Large steak, fries, and onions
Arcade Fire’s first album, Funeral