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DETECTIVE COMICS #873
Author: John Bierly
January 27, 2011
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OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Now at the mercy of the deadly Mirror House, Dick Grayson must fight for his life against one of Gotham City's oldest and most powerful evils!. Be here for the shocking conclusion to "The Black Mirror," the first arc by the highly anticipated new creative team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock!

With Scott Snyder at the helm of DETECTIVE COMICS, no corner of Gotham City is safe. In fact, the most horrific moment in issue #873 occurs between old friends in a sun-drenched hospital room, and it happens in a way that’s so character specific (for each of the characters involved) that you’ll feel your stomach drop with terror and grief. Snyder’s idea and Jock’s raw line work bring the sequence up to a whole new level of scary.

When last we saw Dick Grayson in these pages, he’d gone undercover at an auction for all things awful, with Etienne Guiborg -- aka The Dealer -- hocking items like the crowbar that killed Jason Todd to high-bidding Gothamites eager to buy a piece of perversion. But when Guiborg declared that Batman himself was present, every one of Dick’s organs immediately became a potential souvenir.

We begin here with an action sequence that sums up everything this new team does well -- gritty motion by Jock, wild splashes of color (in this case a bold, bloody red) by David Baron, and perfect narration by Snyder that exudes every little aspect of who Dick Grayson is. It’s obvious that Snyder steeped himself in circus terminology to prepare for writing Dick, adding accuracy and extra excitement to every word. As Dick fights off the hallucinogen pumping through his system, the wild red color splashes give way to sickly, spotty greens before we get to that bright, white, sun-drenched horror moment I told you about at the beginning of the review.

And it only gets wilder from there. When I read the first two issues of this “Black Mirror” storyline (which concludes here), I think I had it in my head that Snyder would have Dick use some fresh tricks from the new Wayne Enterprises forensics lab to take The Dealer down. Which is why I was very surprised when he chose instead to kick things into an outrageous orbit of awesome with a huge action scene drawn by Jock with a rocking mix of machinery versus monstrosity. It’s insane. It’s out of control. And I loved every second of it.

As the story concludes, the color choice for Dick’s penthouse walls makes you wonder if this mission hasn’t stuck with him a little more than he realizes. I won’t tell you who he’s looking at when the issue ends, but it brings home everything Snyder has said in interviews that he’d like to accomplish in this title -- Gotham City is ever ready to adjust its appetite to swallow whole whomever dares to throw a fresh kind of goodness against it. Beware, New Batman. Beware indeed.

My only complaint here is something beyond Snyder’s control, and that’s that the issue is only 20 pages long. DC Comics would like us to believe they’re doing us a favor by dropping the price back to $2.99, but they don’t like to mention that we’re losing two pages of story each month (or the equivalent of an entire issue per year) to get it. I didn’t mind paying $3.99 for 22 pages of the main story about Dick and another eight pages of Snyder’s excellent Jim Gordon backup, especially since the Gordon story was so neatly intertwined (both narratively and especially thematically) with the bigger picture of Snyder’s story. It’s what the book was always intended to be, and now everything’s being rearranged to appease the needs of the new price level. I think it’s a terrible disservice to the creators to constantly have to bow down to the latest gimmick, whether it be a price “decrease” that really results in readers paying more money than ever per page or the ages-old “We’re going to interrupt a perfectly good story to bring you our crossover with Ancillary Crisis on Several Earths or whatever the big latest event is.” And with the two titles featuring Bruce Wayne now delayed until March, it feels like DC is doing its best to give us a little less Batman every month.

But again, that’s all above Mr. Snyder’s pay grade. And I’m liking DETECTIVE way better than either of the Bruce Wayne titles anyway. What happens in these pages is more proof that this fresh, ferociously talented young writer can be the future of Batman in comics if DC will allow him to be. It’s far and away my favorite Bat-book these days, and we’re only just beginning. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Jock’s vital, vicious art is just icing on the cake. - John Bierly

GRADE: A

John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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