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DETECTIVE COMICS #875
Author: John Bierly
April 1, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: One bright Tuesday morning, the corpse of a killer whale shows up on the floor of one of Gotham City's foremost banks. The event begins a strange and deadly mystery that will bring Batman face-to-face with the new, terrifying faces of organized crime in Gotham. Be here for part 1 of the brand new 3-part "Hungry City."

I can't wait to burn my copy of DETECTIVE COMICS #875 and smash its ashes to atoms.

Not because I didn't like it.

Quite the contrary.

I just don't think I'll ever be able to sleep as long as it's under the same roof as I am.

Writer Scott Snyder and artist Francesco Francavilla work deliciously dark magic in these pages, crafting a white-knuckler that will send you skipping the edge of your seat and falling straight to the floor, begging for either mercy or, better yet, more.

We begin with Harvey Bullock ruminating over the fluid state of Gotham City and the importance of holding on to the little things that ground you while everything changes around you. The scene ends on a gruesome visual and thematic note before we catch up with Jim Gordon, who's still shaken after his prodigal son, James, scared him to death with nary a threat last issue. Jim knows there's something tragically and terrifyingly wrong with the boy, and so he throws himself into an old cold case to take his mind off things.

To say that it only makes things worse is a staggering understatement.

The less said about the events of this issue the better, because I want you to discover its secrets on your own.

I will say that flashbacks are involved, and that they flesh out something (and someone) Barbara mentioned to Jim a few issues ago. Catching a scumbag in the present brings up troubling memories of the past, blurring lines and raising questions.

When it's all over, we know what possibly, perhaps even probably, happened.

But like the best magicians, Snyder and Francavilla leave us just enough doubt to drive ourselves as crazy as poor Jim Gordon might be by the time Snyder's done with him.

The writing is aces, and the narrative is happening on all kinds of levels. Gordon's monologue about the snow in Gotham is beautiful and sad. A phone conversation between Jim and his ex-wife, Barbara, is a heartbreaking snapshot of two estranged people facing scary terms and tests to figure out what's wrong with what's supposed to be the one thing they ever did right. The reflection of James's large glasses peering out of the dark through the banister as he listens to his mom's side of the conversation is equally sad and unsettling, while the moments chosen by Snyder to illustrate key moments in James's troubling history are wickedly inspired (and drawn by Francavilla with a tenuous innocence that makes them all the more terrifying).

Snyder is a master of distinct character voices and unique angles for character interactions; we've known these characters for decades but he keeps everything feeling so fresh and new and energized. It's cool, it's creepy, and it's serious proof of what I've been saying ever since reading his first issue: Scott Snyder is the future of Batman, DC. Lock this guy into a 70-year contract and let him soar.

Francavilla really gets to stretch his wings in this issue, too, and it's work that I hope will garner him attention and awards. Not only do his colors in each panel perfectly evoke appropriate time period and tone, but he turns a couple of knockout two-page spreads into gorgeous sprawls of storytelling in the tradition of J.H. Williams III, but with his own unique twist.

We also get a full 22 pages here, which is a nice surprise in light of DC's recent page decrease/price adjustment. You're definitely getting your $2.99's worth out of this issue.

There's no such thing as enough praises being sung for this issue in particular or Snyder's run in general. And even though Batman appears only briefly, you'll be so wrapped up in Gordon's story that you won't even miss him. This is the kind of issue we'll be debating for years. What really happened? Snyder doesn't want us to know yet, and the final answer could be so dark that maybe Snyder himself doesn't even want to know. He and Francavilla point the flashlight in the general direction of some very dark places and ask us if we're willing to shine it the rest of the way. I hope we're all ready for what we find. - 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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