No words can possibly attempt to explain what Scott Snyder has done for Detective Comics or more importantly Batman in general. He single-handedly took all of the BS that has piled up recently, whether it was Grant Morrison’s disillusioned, confused, and overly beaten stories or Tony Daniel's stories where he puts so much into one book that he cuts vast corners and in the end makes his story resemble something that we could and possibly will forget, Snyder has taken all of that and made us forget about all of that mess. That’s not to say that Morrison’s, Daniels, or whosever story is irrelevant, it’s that Snyder doesn’t attempt to do any of that and instead he takes a different approach. He is telling a Batman story that cuts deeper and takes us to a place we haven’t been in awhile no matter what it is, Snyder compensates fully for our needs. In short, Scott Snyder IS the Batman writer we have all been waiting for, or what I should say is that Snyder is the Batman writer I’ve been waiting for and if you feel the same way you should know that already.
Anyways, if you’ve read any of Snyder’s Detective books you’ll know exactly what your in for. This issue has everything that we’ve come to expect from him and it contains a lot of the same things that we’ve seen before in the best possible way. We have Dick talking about his time at Haley’s Circus although with a new twist that binds the book together in a weird twist that really takes you on one hell of a ride especially all of the stuff with James. We also have Dick trying to get out of a sticky situation in his own way which Snyder has also done well by separating and eliminating the connection to Bruce by giving Dick the space to become his own man and by silently and subtly silencing his critics (if there still were any). Another thing Snyder does well with all of his issues is he does one thing that a lot of other writers fail to do. He makes the villains he creates relevant, important, and scary. These villains aren’t some cheap trick that you can throw away like an old newspaper after you’ve read a few small articles Snyder makes you feel like these new bad guys could actually do some damage not only to Dick, or the side characters, but Gotham as a whole. It finally seems like villains are something to be reckoned with and most importantly feared and fought against for the sake of Gotham which kind of brings us back to the James thing where he seems to become the psychopath that we knew was hiding in some dark corner and what Dick learned at Haley’s Circus with the high diver.
It turns out that Commissioner Gordon was right about his son. James has taken a man (and presumably his family)hostage because this man once picked on James when both of them were little kids. And while his motives seem pretty clear I can’t help but feel/fear that there is something more to it and it makes me ask the question of whether or not Snyder, after bringing James back and all of the stuff we’ve seen in past issues, will keep it cut and dry or if there will be something more. But besides all of that, James seemingly becoming the psychopath that we kind of knew he was and Dick’s Haley's Circus story kind of connects because in Dick’s story he says that he once new a circus performer who’s act was to jump from a platform high up into a small pool of water. The performer tells Dick that the trick is to plan and gauge everything before you jump. And while I’m not sure of the logistics of jumping from a high rise into a small pool of water, the lesson that Dick learns and is still learning is essential to the story especially when it comes to James and Commissioner Gordon. Gordon wants to believe that his son has become a good person but still has his doubts, he doesn’t want to make that leap just yet so he recruits Dick to talk with James and get a feel for him. And while Dick doesn’t come to a conclusion with James, and we certainly know that Gordon was right about not taking that leap, Dick does realize that maybe he jumped too early when he thought that Sonia Branch was on his side. It turns out that Dick thinks that Sonia blacked out the cameras in the bank and helped transport the dead orca with her assistant’s body into the lobby and deliberately made Dick go after Roadrunner instead of Tiger Shark. Of course there is no evidence of this but Snyder is ingenious with this part of his plot because he doesn’t force you to believe Dick, he puts forth a question of whether or not we should trust Dick’s instincts. With that I think Snyder’s Detective work brings us back down to the streets of Gotham where everything is dangerous and anything can happen, where we don‘t know who to trust or who is trustworthy, where things aren’t exactly explained fully detail by detail and where a wrong choice can possibly kill you. And while thinking about it Snyder’s Detective run kind of remind me of the Superman “Grounded” storyline except it’s done good and they don’t cripple their hero. Snyder relies on Dick’s greenhorn status in the sense that Dick can only learn from his mistakes and can’t be brought down to a lower level which in the end makes Detective a much more interesting and intriguing book.
As for the art, you know your good if you go by one name and Jock certainly lives up to that status. I loved his work on Vertigo’s The Losers and the rough and jagged lines that is his signature style compliment the grittiness of Batman and Gotham as a whole. But that’s not to say it’s all rough, Jock can definitely pull off a great, crisp, clear and breathtaking scene of Batman fighting or soaring through the skies of Gotham and it’s no secret here that he is a well rounded artist. It’s just kind of sad to see that he won’t be working with Snyder for the foreseeable future, but I guess Greg Capullo is a nice replacement.
All in all, like it’s been said a billion times before I’ll say it one more time for you. If your not reading Scott Snyder and Jock on Detective Comics and you’re a Batman fan your missing out on a whole lot. Scott Snyder is quite arguably putting out the best Batman book on the shelves today and even though everything that Snyder is doing right now may not matter when the relaunch hits, Snyder’s stories are still one hell of a great read Batman fan or not.
Detective Comics #878:
Reviewed by Dane Haji