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DETECTIVE COMICS #879
Author: John Bierly
July 15, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: For years, Jim Gordon has been tormented by the possibility that his son, James Jr., might be a killer. Tonight, he'll get the answers he's been after. But is the truth about James even darker than the Commissioner, or even Batman, could have guessed?

If Iíve learned one thing from writer Scott Snyderís run on DETECTIVE COMICS itís that if you ever take a vacation to Gotham City, do NOT visit the Gotham Aviary! Spooky things happen there! And bad people! Bad, bad people!

This is another Gordon issue with no Batman in sight, but this is one of the best Gordon stories Iíve ever read, so thatís just fine.

But we finally do get to meet Snyderís take on The Joker, which I really appreciated. Some writers try too hard to make the Joker funny or witty, whereas Snyderís more natural approach reminds us why The Jokerís greatest strength is always remaining completely in control of the situation around him, even when heís bundled up like Hannibal Lecter in the decidedly un-hallowed halls of Arkham.

Iím a huge fan of Snyderís scene between Jim Gordon and Dr. Leslie Thompkins, for whom Gordonís son, James, has been on his absolute best behavior. He designed a new website for the clinic, heís a hard worker who goes above and beyond the bounds of his chores, and he loves running errands. Leslie admits heís a little intense but still urges Jim to relax a little and not worry so much about everything.

But Gordonís a good cop. And his concerns arenít born of worry. Family or not, theyíre born of instinct.

And that instinct kicks in hard in an agonizingly creepy moment where James simply thanks his dad for stopping by the clinic. Because you know that James knows that Jim knows that heís up to something, and that slithering little bit of manipulation is good for a heavy dose of the worst kind of goose bumps.

The Joker and Gordon stories run parallel for the remainder of the issue, which makes the proceedings even heavier because of Barbara Gordonís involvement. Every time you see her in that wheelchair, itís impossible not to get even more nervous about what The Jokerís up to in Arkham.

This is a fabulously creepy issue that I canít recommend highly enough. But if you havenít read it yet, please stop reading this review now, because I want to get into some heavy spoiler territory.

Last chance to stop reading.

Still here?

Okay.

I really donít know what to think about Jamesís plan to use his errands for Leslieís clinic as a secret delivery system for a reverse-engineered chemical weapon thatíll drive infants insane. On paper itís as scary and as creepy and as outrageously diabolical a plan as one could imagine, but on the other hand I felt it seemed a little too comic-booky for James.

Thereís certainly no doubt that a child raised by Jim Gordon would be brilliant and resourceful. Just look at Barbara for proof of that. But I still feel like Jamesís bloody basement torture of an old tormentor at the end of last issue is far more suited to Jamesís particular brand of creepy than a plan more along the lines of something the Joker would do.

But that sends me thinking in yet another direction. Maybe it fits after all. Maybe James resents the fact that his father spent more time chasing freaks and villains than he spent being a dad, so a part of him is striving to become the very thing his father has dedicated so much of his life to catching.

Think about it. Is this guy so seriously screwed up that heíd actually poison babies just to get his fatherís attention?

Itís a lot to think about it, and Iím still rolling it all over in my head. For every part of me that thinks it doesnít feel right, thereís another part thatís even more creeped out by this story than I already was.

What do YOU think? Let me know on the BOF message board!

(Eagle-eyed readers will also catch a couple of dialogue nods to Christopher Nolanís Bat-films and Ed Brubakerís THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.)

Snyderís story seeps across every page like a plague thanks to the deceptively simple and infinitely creepy art of Francesco Francavilla, who does everything here from pencils to inks to colors. Purples, oranges, and yellows rule the palette here to spectacular effect, with all the competing hot and cold splashes making you feel clammy and claustrophobic. Francavilla is an absolute master, and I hope this bookís critical success leads to tons more work for him.

Snyderís already gotten the gig of a comic writerís lifetime, and it will continue into the pages of BATMAN #1 when DC re-launches its titles in September. And Snyder will finally be writing Bruce Wayne, which is beyond exciting.

In the meantime, donít miss out on the amazing work heís been doing on DETECTIVE. Iíve been saying since his first issue that this guy is the future of Batman in comics, and Iím glad DC was smart enough to see it that way, too. - 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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