Scott Snyder continues to impress as he heads into a new arc, “Hungry City,” ably aided by powerful visuals from Jock and David Baron. Although the visuals are vastly different stylistically from the last two (also superb) issues with Francesco Francovilla’s art, Snyders’ fantastic use of these characters remains constant -- and transfixing.
A giant killer whale (and that's not as redundant as it sounds as it's an abnormally large killer whale) is found in the lobby of a premiere bank. The bank is owned by Sonia Branch, the daughter of Anthony “Fats” Zucco, the man responsible for the death of Dick Grayson's parents. Though Branch is apparently on the up and up, the mysterious crime, coupled with the fact that her assistant is found partially digested inside the whale, sets Batman on the case. But a new breed of criminal, a hungry one with no code to speak of, proves to be a match for Dick, and the cliffhanger leaves Batman on supremely dangerous ground.
Snyder is doing amazing things here. In fact, it's the most I've liked “Detective Comics” since Greg Rucka's brilliant Batwoman arc “Elegy” in 2009; and it's the most I've liked any iteration of Batman (be it Bruce or Dick) in about as long as I can remember. This arc is less emotionally resonant that the last issues with Snyder and Francovilla, which is probably due both to differences in the styles of Francovilla and Jock as artists; and just the personal nature of the story. However Snyder ties the two stories and their intimate importance together nicely, and sets readers up for a potentially ravaging tale for Dick. The fact that in just a handful of issues Synder has managed to craft such personally investing stories for two so established characters as Jim Gordon and Dick Grayson is impressive to say the least. Under Snyder’s pen I feel compelled by Jim in a way I haven't in years, if ever. And I cannot wait to see if Snyder can do the same for Dick. From what I’ve read thus far, I have every confidence that these “Detective Comics” arcs by Snyder are going to be some of my favorite comics this year. Hell, they already are.
Jock's work here is some of the best I've seen him do, clean and clear, but still expressive and beautiful. He's well complemented by Baron's colors which are saturated but moody. The colors are evocative and bold, but never fussy or muddy, which is a good match for Jock's work, which can sometimes trend toward a sketchiness that can cause confusion. Together, these two capture the epic and the personal with equal aplomb.
Since Batman is a billion dollar property, it’s impossible to write comics that make me concerned that he won’t survive, even when it’s Dick in the suit. So the best comics can do on that front is be wildly entertaining, visually compelling, and emotionally investing. Snyder’s work on this book is providing that in spades. And “Detective Comics” has shot to the top of my must have list again in a few short masterful issues.