In the opening pages of DETECTIVE COMICS
#871, Dick Graysonís narration frames Gotham City in the context of his circus days and uses that analogy to speak of the cityís hunger.
But no hunger in this issueís pages is as evident or as insatiable as writer Scott Snyderís. This is clearly the work of a man whoís been waiting his whole life to write Batman stories, and when the big moment finally came, he was ready in spades.
One of the things Iíve always said in my constant praise of former DETECTIVE scribe (and longtime Batman writer) Paul Dini is that he has a magical ability to find every single character angle in every single scene and weave those threads together in ways that are fresh and never stale but still entirely true to the characters.
Snyder does that all over the place here, from Dickís initial internal monologue to his interactions on the following pages with Alfred and Gordon. And itís not just the character beats that Snyder masters. Heís also clearly a student of Batman history, with Dickís current case bringing up names like dirty cop Jim Corrigan from the pages of GOTHAM CENTRAL and old clues like Killer Crocís transformation from a guy with a bad skin condition to a monster in the orignal Loeb/Lee HUSH storyline.
My favorite thing about Grant Morrisonís Batman run was always how he wrote Dick as Batman. No other writer ever quite got it as right as Morrison did Ö until Snyder. Not only are Dickís voice and demeanor entirely on target, but the way his mind works as a detective is unique and fresh and entirely Dickís.
I wonít spoil the details of Dickís first big detective case as Batman, but a big part of the story involves the new high-tech forensic crime lab Wayne Industries has built with the intention of helping out a Gotham City Police Department that doesnít necessarily want it. (Thus the importance of Gordonís decision to come to Dick for help on this case.) Itís a brilliant way to keep Dick in touch (and in tune) with the latest cases, and it also keeps his Batman on the cutting edge of crime-solving technology.
Everything about this Batman is unique to Dick Graysonís history, heart, and humanity. As much as Iíve been bothered by the notion of more than one Batman in the pages of DC Comics, this issue won me over on page one and only got better. In fact, I liked this even better than either BATMAN: THE RETURN or BATMAN, INC. last week.
There, I said it!
So far, Iím more impressed with Dick as Batman than I am with the returned Bruce.
Well played, Mr. Snyder. Youíve got me hooked. Keep up what youíre doing here and Iíll be so busy loving what youíve done with Dick Grayson that I wonít even mind that itís not Bruce Wayne under the cowl.
The art by Jock is spectacular. (And even when itís Dick under the cowl, Jock still draws the glove fins exactly like Nolanís ninja sword-catchers on Batmanís movie gauntlets. Sweet.) Jock is no stranger to the pages of DETECTIVE, having most recently penciled the ďCutterĒ storyline in issues #861-863. (That was a Batwoman story that featured Bruce as Batman in flashbacks, and Greg Rucka gave both Bruce and Batman plenty of moments to be awesome. Hunt those issues down. Youíll love them.)
Jockís Batman looks fantastic (and appropriately more slender than how he draws Bruce), and the energy of his imperfect line work totally suits the violent, bizarre nature of the story.
Color man David Baron works lots of magic, too, from the warmth of an early (albet buzzard-filled) morning at the Wayne penthouse to the darkest corners of Dickís latest mystery.
As if the brilliance of the main story werenít enough, Snyder writes an outrageously creepy Commissioner Gordon backup with spooky art (and colors) by Francesco Francavilla. I wonít spoil the details, but something Gordonís past is back with a vengeance. Again, Snyder does some excellent character work in the dialogue.
After months of questionable (except for the Dennis OíNeil story in #866) fill-ins, DETECTIVE is back to the heights it was hitting under Dini and Rucka.
Those are big words coming from me, Mr. Snyder. Congratulations on what I hope will be a legendary run.