It’s hard to not oversell the latest issue of Detective Comics, because it is honestly one of the best series I’m reading right now. With every issue Scott Snyder escalates the sense of dread and danger as Batman closes in on the sinister “Mirror House.”
The issue starts with a high-speed chase as Dick tries to corner his newest lead to the perverse auction house. The unexpected (and self inflicted) death of the suspect gives Dick a way into the Mirror House’s next event, which soon proves to be more deadly than he anticipated. But before we reach the grisly conclusion of this issue, we do get a bit of a breather with some great interactions between Dick and Barbara Gordon in her new digs as Oracle. It’s also fun to see Dick and Tim meet up for a little while. It’s very short, but it does a great job of showing the two former Robin’s playing off each other.
Beyond the simple enjoyment factor of this story, I’m starting to realize just how good Snyder’s writing is from a technical standpoint. Just like last issue, he was able to subtly weave together the main feature and back up feature to show they are happening at the same time. Something I’ve also noticed is how many themes from the current Batman initiatives he’s worked into this story. Returning to previous storylines/ideas (the auction scene refers back to the death of Jason Todd and the No Man’s Land event), the visual motif of the gas mask (ala Dr. Death, recently revived for the Modern Age), and the idea of Gotham suffering from a spiritual corruption in its upper ranks (like Batwoman’s arch foes the Church of Crime) are all in vogue right now and present in this story arc. The fact that Snyder manages to blend them into his own story so well is a true credit to his abilities as a writer.
I’m not crazy about Jock’s style of art. Don’t get me wrong; he isn’t a bad artist. But I’ve never gone out of my way to get something solely on the grounds that he illustrated it. That being said, this issue is probably the best work I’ve seen from him. The action scenes are dynamic and have plenty of detail (something I feel he gets lazy about). More importantly is his work at the end of the issue, which starts out creepy and slowly morphs into pure nightmares as the Mirror House descends into chaos. I don’t know how I feel about Jock with superheroes, but I could get behind a horror story with him any day.
The Commissioner Gordon back up feature continues to deliver a solid finish to the monthly issue and clarifies a lot of the emotional weight of last month’s installment. The mysterious figure from Jim’s past is revealed to be his estranged son, James Gordon Jr. While this chapter has a lot of great dialogue between the Commissioner and his daughter, Barbara, it’s a little light on plot development. One of the things that keeps throwing me about the current drive to revisit the older elements of the Batman mythos is I can’t tell when writers are referring to previous stories/ideas and when they are inventing things themselves. A cursory glance at the Internet proved to me that Gordon’s son existed previously in the comic canon, but I couldn’t find anything more than that. From what I can tell, Snyder is making the most of this blank slate and doing a fine job of it. I think this story line will be at its best when the Gordon feature gets top billing in February, but even with the limited space of a back up feature I don’t think we’ll be let down.
Final verdict? This is one of the best things DC is publishing right now. If you aren’t reading it, go out and buy it NOW.
Detective Comics #872:
Reviewed by Erik