Last week, the Batman Incorporated status quo began officially in the Bat-titles with Bruce Wayne admitting that he funds Batman and that that operation will be expanding to include vigilantes around the world under the Batman brand. With Wayne off doing that, Dick Grayson remains the Batman of Gotham with Damian as his Robin, and “Detective Comics” looks to spotlight Dick as Batman with a focus on mysteries and Commissioner Gordon sharing the spotlight somewhat in his back-up strip and occasionally taking the lead on the title. In many ways, it feels like a return to a ‘traditional’ Batman comic with a crime involving the serum that gave Killer Croc his powers and the relationship between the new Batman and Commissioner Gordon continuing to grow. Snyder balances the new status quo with the expectations of a Batman comic to deliver a rich, compelling debut issue with weird, bold art by Jock and lush, moody art by Francesco Francavilla.
While there is a mystery that’s investigated here surrounding a child that got his hands on the serum that transformed Killer Croc, that mystery allows Snyder to establish the relationship between Commissioner Gordon and Dick, both as Batman and as one of the sons of Bruce Wayne. Dick doesn’t feel at home yet in the penthouse, stepping into the role that Bruce once fulfilled. Even with Bruce’s return and approval, it doesn’t feel right yet, and that’s an interesting approach to the character. The difference between Dick in and out of the cowl is stark. When he’s actually Batman, you wouldn’t know that he doesn’t feel comfortable, Snyder telling us more about the character and how seriously he takes his job.
The two scenes between Dick and Gordon are the best of the issue. First, Gordon takes Wayne Enterprises up on their offer of use of a free lab for the GCPD because the case may involve crooked cops, allowing the two to talk a little. With Dick as a former cop, Gordon treats him almost as a colleague, but also as the punk kid that took his daughter to the prom. It’s a relationship that’s unique and could definitely provide fun, entertaining scenes in the future. As Batman, Dick acts a lot like Bruce did, but Snyder reminds us that Dick isn’t Bruce when Gordon shuts up the Bat Signal and then notes that he’s not used to Batman “still being there when I look up.” The two scenes effectively show how Dick is different from Bruce through the eyes of Gordon.
Jock’s art adds a dark mood to the comic, not going for a realistic looking approach, instead exaggerating and drawing scenes with a driving kinetic energy. His sketchy line work gives Gotham and its inhabitants a strange, unsettling feeling; Batman is more a mixture of shadows and shapes than a man, a dark presence that haunts the city, going where and doing what he pleases. Working with this, David Baron chooses his colors boldly, giving each scene its own overriding color filter and working within those parameters. A surprisingly effective choice is his use of light where it’s an overpowering, almost blinding presence in any scene. The contrast is obviously between the darkest dark and the brightest light in the city, leaving little in between.
In the back-up, the story is one that answers a question from the lead in an off-handed manner, while beginning a mystery that is very personal to Gordon. With only eight pages, the story only begins by the time it’s over, but it’s a strong, gut-punch of an eight pages. Francesco Francavilla provides the line and color art and also work in extreme lights and darks. Figures are defined by how much we can see of them with stark, suggestive art. Often, characters are nothing more than shapes that resemble people, bathed in overpowering blue, yellowy orange, or red. The simple colors add to the mood while also placing an emphasis on the line work.
“Detective Comics” #871 begins Scott Snyder’s tenure as writing of the title strongly with an intriguing mystery and very good character work, putting Dick Grayson and Jim Gordon at the center of the book. With Jock, David Baron, and Francesco Francavilla on art, the comic is absolutely gorgeous. If you want a Batman comic with the emphasis on the detective and a classic Bat-comic feel, Snyder and company deliver the issue for you.