This month’s issue of Detective Comics does just that and does it with a style that commands to be called literature. In the modern age of comics there has been a real loss of the whimsical adventure of old and the higher intellect comics of the late eighties to mid nineties era.
Detective Comics #875 lands on the latter side, with a darkly themed, heavily noir tale, focusing on Commissioner Gordon and his troubled relationship with son James. I always enjoy when the Batman Universe shines its spotlight on Gordon, he remains one of the most interesting characters in the entire game.
Writer Scott Snyder and artist Francesco Francavilla work seamlessly to craft an in depth tale about family, murder, obsession and discovery. The arc plays on three separate stories that intertwine into a mess for Gordon, a mess that started last issue when his estranged son James returned.
Shrouded in mystery the checkered past of the Gordon family is starting to seep to the surface and none of it is good. The first of the three story lines is Gordon trying to find the Peter Pan Killer, a child murderer that escaped Gordon’s clutches years ago. Second is the return of James, which has driven a rift into his current family and the final is a look into the past and a crime that shook the Gordon’s to their core.
From the opening panel Detective Comics 875 is more crafted then presented. The opening inner monologue from Detective Harry Bullock is exquisite in its execution. The entire thing feels like the opening to a film, Francavilla’s art moves like a camera would. The whole of the story works that way, a cinematic view of Gotham City and the crimes it endures complete with stylistic writing and shadowed art.
It’s not easy feat to remove Batman from his signature book but Detective Comics 875 is one of the best issues of the last year and the Dark Knight only makes a brief appearance at the end. The end, it’s quite jolting, and Snyder effortlessly opens up new avenues for the series to explore concerning the Gordon family.
I can’t say enough good things about Francavilla’s art in this issue. The way he marries a fine art style with a pulp magazine detective feel is perfect. Often when you present writing this stylized it can falter if the art fails to bring the words to life. Francavilla has a great understanding of the themes and textures that Snyder wants in this story. He executes them on every panel so that the entirety of the comic takes care of itself.
It’s rare to see a marriage of writing and art that also transcends the genre, but Detective Comics 875 is one of them. If I had one complaint it would be that I wanted more, I’m almost disappointed that Detective Comics #876 will be back to Batman again. Whatever happens, I hope other artists across the board take heed of this issue and apply this kind of work to their own creations. Comics will be better off for it.