Detective Comics #881

by Kelly Thompson, Reviewer |

Cover Price
$2.99 (USD)
Release Date
Aug 10th, 2011

Tue, August 9th, 2011 at 7:10PM (PDT)


All of Scott Snyder’s plot threads weave together beautifully as a story that’s been building for months finally comes to a head in this last issue of “Detective Comics” before we head into re-launch. Graced with exceptional co-art by Jock and Francesco Francavilla, which could have been frustrating but manages to work nicely, Snyder pulls no punches as his epic story comes to a close.

In this issue, Barbara has been kidnapped by James Gordon. Batman (Dick Grayson) and Commissioner Gordon frantically search Gotham for her as she and James have a heart to heart years in the making. Technically, the plot here is heavy on the “villain explaining himself” trope, but Snyder smartly undoes the cliché and executes the trope in the most interesting way possible, the way it was originally intended. A villain explaining his or her “master plan” has become a trope because it’s overused and generally poorly done, but that doesn’t meant it can’t be done to great effect, which is what Snyder has here.

Snyder gives each of our major players – Dick, Gordon, and Barbara – good things to do in this issue as they approach James in their own ways. Even Barbara, who arguably gets the short end of the stick, in Snyder’s hands is revered as the genius who saw through it all in the first place, which feels both true and like a truth too frequently ignored. The result is a massively satisfying tale that teaches us things about every player on the field, and that’s all I ever really want in a comic: something that moves me and engages me, that helps me fall even more in love with a character I’m already in love with. Snyder’s epic arc on “Detective Comics” has done all those things in spades. I’ve never been more interested in Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, or Jim Gordon, and that’s all beside the fact that Snyder has built up an epic villain of unlimited potential in young James Gordon.

Snyder ties up his narrative nicely, and gives each of our leads a satisfying ending that feels natural to their arcs, but Snyder also manages to leave us with a delightful little barb stuck in our throats. It’s the kind of leave-behind that only master storytellers and those particularly gifted with horror can manage. It's a way to make us feel okay about things for the most part, but that then kicks us in the gut on the way out the door with the what-ifs and we’ll sees. It’s wonderful layered work, and damn fine comics.

Jock, Francesco Francavilla, and David Baron have delivered stunningly powerful visuals throughout Snyder’s run, and he’s supremely lucky to have had such a team at his disposal. They are at their consummate best here and their shared duties are well organized enough that the changes mostly feel natural instead of jarring. Each artist brought a distinctive style to the book over the last few months. Francavilla’s work felt personal and horrific, quiet and understated; Jock’s work was full of shock and awe, iconic moments and heroic moves. Individually they found ways to elevate Snyder’s story in the best possible ways.

This was quite simply a historic “Detective Comics” run by Snyder, Jock, and Francavilla. It makes the ending of this run and the re-launch next month all the more bittersweet, but if you’re going to go out, what a way to go out. It’s nice to know that the last running issue of Detective Comics prior to starting over at number one was one of the best runs the book has ever had. That can’t ever be taken away.

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