Wednesday, September 28

Detective Comics #881 (Oct 2011)

“The Face in the Glass”

This final issue of the eponymous series of DC Comics brings the saga of James Gordon, Jr., to its close. This is how Batman should be written – and will be, thank the stars, in the new DCU since Scott Snyder is simply switching off titles with Tony Daniel, so that Snyder will take up writing Batman while Daniel comes over to the new Detective Comics #1. I don't agree with that decision to roll the odometer back on this title, but that's a separate issue. Keeping Snyder on a Bat-book is one of the smartest moves that DC has made in the Relaunch, however.

Barbara Gordon is held captive by her brother (actually adopted brother, presumably cousin, since it turns out that the more recent explanation of the relationship between Barbara and her “father” is as established about a decade or so ago, that he is actually her uncle who took her in after the death of his brother … but does any of that really matter? – she thinks of herself as Jim Gordon's daughter), who subjects her to both physical and psychological torture, including taunting her that it was he himself who had given The Joker the idea of crippling Barbara: “I told him all about you, Sis. About Dad. I told him that, in my opinion, the problem with you was that you were always in a rush to grow up. ... Always racing around, to prove yourself – to be a hero. … I might have even mentioned that, for my money – and of course, this was just my opinion – it'd do you good to slow down a bit. … To take a rest in a nice, cozy chair for a bit. … Of course, I didn't realize he'd actually come to your house and … I mean, it's something I've wanted to apologize for, years now.” – “You're lying … … … you didn't.” – "You're right, I'm just kidding! The look on your face, though ...” Of course, I figure I'm not alone in finding Jr's story perfectly believable!

Anyway, as Dick desperately marshalls all his resources in a search for Barbara, to no avail, Jr. hacks into Batman's communications – and procedes to taunt him both with his own story (that of an absolute psychopath) and with the knowledge that Dick is the “new” Batman. He outlines the psychological game he is playing – based on the perception that Dick is very different than Bruce – “My guess is he shapes Gotham out of an obsession. Out of some pathological need. … But you new crop – you, and your friends, my father, my sister … you do it out of compassion. Out of empathy. … Out of weakness... and out of all of them, Dick, you're weakest. The weakest man in Gotham. … You see, this place is special, Dick. It is a city of nightmares. And I'm yours. I'm the face you see in the glass. A man with no conscience. No empathy.” He goes on to claim that he and others like him are the future – and he intends to make that future by spiking the baby formula of the city to “usher in a new generation of children, true children.”

Meanwhile, Barbara takes advantage of Jr's diatribe to get away from him – and when he finds her she stabs him in the eye with one of the two knives he's punctured her femoral arteries with! Which gives Dick a chance to track them down and open a big can of whup-ass on him. He had previously injected a “subdermal tracer into [Jr's] palm” – which just “finally kicked in …. James was right. I am a softy. And I do try to see the best in people … but that doesn't mean I'm stupid.” And as Dick saves Barbara from bleeding out, Jr's escape is brought to an end by his own father, the Commissioner – who shoots him in both legs, but saves him from falling to his death. “I told you. … Not this time, James. … I'm not letting you go!”

In a postscript, Jim Gordon visits Dick Grayson as he oversees the dismantling of the crime lab he had built and put at the disposal of the city, but which had gone largely unused. The question of whether Jr. really carried through with his plot against the children of Gotham goes unanswered … but the implication of the haunting stare of the baby in the last panel is that a decade or more down the line Gotham is in for some harrowing times.... “the end”

This longer-than-usual precis captures only a fraction of the goodness in this story. And without resorting to a bunch of scans there's no way to convey the atmosphere imparted by the art. Everything about this story arc has been so perfect – Snyder's writing, Jock and Francesco Francavilla's art. I've gushed in several previous posts – Snyder won't be working with the same artists on Batman, but I hope that they aren't gone from Gotham City for too very long. I've become a big fan of Francavilla's in particular.

This of course is not really the end … I'm more excited about the prospect of Scott Snyder taking up the writing of Bruce Wayne Batman next month than just about anything else that's coming. He has been so great writing Dick Grayson in the role, but I bet the greatness will continue.

Thanks for reading – and Cheers!

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