As if things couldn’t get any worse for Jim Gordon and Dick Grayson, Scott Snyder yet again puts both of them in very sticky situations. With the Joker loose, Barbara Gordon Sr. exposed to Joker Toxin and the ominous threat of James Gordon Jr., it seems like Snyder is stretching his story out very wide. And unlike other writers even though he does stretch his story out wide he totally makes them relevant, important, scary, and harrowing so much so that I almost didn’t want to turn the pages. Almost.
Snyder has a way with his stories where you are led to believe one thing and at the last moment he takes a sharp left turn. It’s no different with this issue because we know the Joker is loose and James Jr. is a pretty serious threat. So going into this issue, overly excited about Snyder writing a Joker story, I didn’t see the twist coming at all. We know how twisted Snyder can get with his villains and we know how substantial of a threat Joker can be so of course we expect Snyder to do something great with the character and for the most part he delivers in that respect. Snyder’s Joker, physically, looks disgusting and creepy you pair that with the fact that the Joker feels like a real threat and someone that can actually get into your mind and twist it, you have gold. And he does exactly that although he doesn’t use Joker in the way that we expected him to. And even though he doesn’t use him in the way we expected, it isn’t like other stories where The Joker is used as a lame plot device. Snyder finds a way to permanently smear his Joker on the surface of your brain and it leaves you with chills running down your spine.
Like I said before, Scott Snyder doesn’t use The Joker in the way that we expected and from what we can gather purely off of this issue it seems like The Joker was used to throw us off the scent of the actual story, and in that respect it becomes apparent that the major threat here is James Jr. By now, we all know James is absolutely crazy and a genuine sociopath but Snyder distracts you with the Joker which is kind of funny when you think about it because we were experiencing in real time what the characters were experiencing in the issue, James Jr. is a composite of Snyder and like James Jr., Snyder absolutely kills us. Snyder pulls back on James in this issue but plays with us because we know that James could possibly strike at anytime although our fears are replaced by new ones because of the Joker. But it seems like James likes to strike silently, cold and cunning, unlike the Joker who likes to put on a big show which in a sense makes him a little more sinister and scarier than the Joker and although his appearance in this issue is very brief, like the Joker parts, Snyder somehow makes James linger in your mind long after you put the comic down.
But this wouldn’t even matter if Batman wasn’t an integral part of the story and Snyder delivers in full here. Snyder makes Batman a detective again. Especially because we haven’t seen Dick as a detective very much. Dick proves himself as a worthy detective albeit with the help of Tim, Gordon, and Barbara and in this issue it definitely seems like Dick is the prodigal son that we are led to believe as we see Dick echo the traits of his mentor. Gordon also feels like a detective again we see him help Batman in more ways than just a background character especially since the fates of his family lies in his hands and Batman’s hands although he does seem a little doubtful about their actions since he feels that no matter what good he does for Gotham his family seems to suffer but Dick reassures him that there is good in Gotham. That scene was very well written since it establishes a repertoire between Dick and Gordon akin to Bruce’s relationship with Gordon and it shows that although Dick may be questioning his position as Batman he hasn’t given up on the cowl or on Gotham City just yet.
As for the art, this is Jock’s finest effort yet. If you thought that it couldn’t get any better Jock surprises us with yet another great showing, like his Joker. Jock’s Joker is one that is sculpted in a way in which we have never seen before even though it is slightly reminiscent of the Heath Ledger Joker from The Dark Knight. Joker seems monstrous and ambiguous, its kind of like he’s not there and it seems like the Joker is changing his appearance panel to panel so that you can’t pin him down for a second and Snyder’s words are the icing on the cake for that. But Jock’s art is fantastic all around and it’s what we’ve come to expect, his pencil scratched, rough cut and raw style. It seems like Jock stepped up his game horror wise, I mean seeing that one page with Barbara Gordon Sr. after she’s exposed to the Joker Toxin is one of the scariest and grotesque scenes I have seen in a long time. But the thing that really sticks in your mind here art-wise is Jock’s cover. I loved the black on white Joker made up of bats, and the red smile is so perfect that I couldn’t stop looking at the cover. The art in this issue is some of the greatest art in comic books today and is so horrifically beautiful that it should be treasured by every comic book fan.
Overall, I don’t need to say it, you know this issue was great with the only drawback being that all of this may not matter come relaunch. But as for right now words can’t describe how great this issue was, there isn’t a single word or line in this issue that would disappoint in the very least and just when you think Snyder and Jock have reached their peak they surprise you in new, exciting, and horrific ways. It’s been said a thousand times but Snyder’s stories are some of the best Batman stories in a long time.
Detective Comics #880:
Reviewed by Dane