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DETECTIVE COMICS #880
Author: John Bierly
July 28, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: It all comes down to this! The Joker is on the loose in the catacombs beneath Gotham City, more vicious and frightening than ever. But even as Batman closes in on The Clown Prince of Crime, he begins to suspect that the city may be the target of an even deadlier threat – one that could shake Gotham City to its core.

DETECTIVE COMICS #880 begins with a discussion about architecture, so let’s talk about levels. Levels of storytelling. Levels of terror. And, finally, “level” as a verb…because this story will level you.

What has The Joker done to Commissioner Gordon? He maimed his daughter, Barbara, for life, and made Jim look at photographs of the vile act while physically humiliating him. He threw a baby at Jim’s second wife, Sarah Essen, so that in the act of catching the infant she’d drop her gun just long enough for him to saunter the two steps it would take to put a fatal, point-blank bullet in her face. If Gotham’s twisted buildings are a reflection of the dark heart Jim believes beats beneath its streets, then writer Scott Snyder gives us the The Joker as the city’s greatest architect. And the buildings he flicks with his bleached, bloody fingers just won’t stop crumbling atop Jim Gordon’s beleaguered heart and head.

Now Jim’s first wife, Barbara, has come to town, and The Joker is freshly escaped from Arkham. Coincidence? Please. Will Jim arrive in time to rescue yet another loved one from the Clown Prince’s knives and toxic lint?

We get our answer in the first few heart-stopping pages, but the questions are only beginning. What we find as the issue unfolds is that everybody -- from the Gordon family to Batman -- was too late figuring out which questions needed asking in the first place. Well, almost everybody.

#880 goes for the jugular, from more heart-rending Gordon family drama to Dick Grayson’s cornering of The Joker as a Batman who’s not fooling Bruce’s most dangerous enemy for a second … in more ways than one. (Let’s just say he uses the word “bird” a lot, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.)

As always, there’s great energy and precision in Jock’s jagged, jerky lines, with each panel punched to the max by one of David Baron’s wildest color palettes yet. Labs are cold, dungeons are dank, terror comes in flashes, and all of it’s dangerous. The splash of bats across pages 18 and 19 delivers gut-wrenching revelations that only one character is truly ready to accept. You won’t believe who it is, nor will you be ready for the price such knowledge might bring. >[? Scott Snyder is a nice guy. He’s a thoughtful craftsman who studies every angle of a character and finds fresh ways to bring those traits to light (or dark) without ever betraying any of the bits that them tick. That’s why it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. Surely a guy as friendly and as positive and as upbeat as Snyder wouldn’t have it in him to take this story to such outrageously deranged places, would he?

Would he?

Would he?

Read DETECTIVE COMICS #880 and find out. This story's only got one more issue (due August 10) before DETECTIVE gets relaunched in September (under Tony Daniel, with Snyder moving over to BATMAN #1), and though my heart's not ready to let this book go, my blood pressure can't wait for it to be over. - 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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