Best of the Week: Batman Detective Comics 874 Review by Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla

Detective Comics #874

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Francesco Francavilla

Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla bring us Batman Detective Comics #874 and, well it’s a slight departure from there the book was going, but that doesn’t hurt the plot any. DC had been doing backup strips in books, raising cost to $3.99, but market backlash caused them to slash that and make all books $2.99. The unfortunate side effect is that Snyder was doing a Jim Gordon backup strip about his son coming back to Gotham. That has now been moved to the main story, as we have interlinked plots between Gordon dealing with his son and Batman dealing with someone smuggling endangered species.

The plot opens with Gordon having a sit-down in a diner with his son. The scene is extremely tense, as we quickly learn that Jim Jr. is a psychopath who has hurt a lot of people, but draws the line at murder. The Commissioner, meanwhile, isn’t sure about that line, and they have a tense discussion where Jr. wants to turn over a new leaf, but we and the Commissioner believe otherwise. For obvious reasons, the art is extremely important here, and Francavilla’s direction and facial expressions are marvelous. You can see exactly what Commissioner Gordon is thinking the whole time from his facial expression, and get a lot of what Jim Jr. wants us to believe, but as he’s a self-proclaimed psychopath… The coloring with Gordon mostly in blue, sad and worried and Jim Jr. in orange, hot but sick really add to the depth of this story. I strongly urge readers to take their time with the art, panel layout (page two of Gordon rising to leave, coming out of the panel, but the inlay of his son convincing him to stay is my personal favorite part, as both characters change the layout, Commissioner Gordon to escape by breaking the panel, Jim Jr. changing the layout to a circle, pulling Gordon back into the story).

There’s also, which is rare for Batman comics, an adult discussion of causes of psychotic tendencies and drugs that help treat them. Of course, wanting help is a major issue here and readers are left wondering if Jim Jr. truly does.

Batman, meanwhile, is with Red Robin and still dealing with the effects of the Collector’s feat toxin in his system from last story arc. Feat toxin here lasting is an extremely effective device to weaken and confuse Dick. It adds an extra bit of intensity and drama to the story, while making feat toxin more than a plot device. How Dick deals with it and what he sees and, even more, how he fights through it all add depth to his character and make him a more compelling lead.

Red Robin with Batman is good, as well. Damian Wayne is a hot character, but is written very differently, especially with Dick who is forced to play off of him. With Tim, there is a more brotherly interplay, as they banter and worry after one another. Tim is a partner and Damian a sidekick, but, ironically, the partnership is the one that draws less attention away from Grayson himself.

Finally, the stories tie together in a manner carefully foreshadowed, but not fully revealed. This is a stellar comic, my book of the week, no mean feat when Fantastic Four #588 is the final issue and a 10/10 comic. This is just as good, with, stunningly better art and a more complex plot for the single issue (if not as interwoven a plot for the entire run).

Rating: 10/10

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