Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Jock
It all comes down to this! The Joker is on the loose in the catacombs beneath Gotham City, more vicious and frightening than ever. But even as Batman closes in on The Clown Prince of Crime, he begins to suspect that the city may be the target of an even deadlier threat — one that could shake Gotham City to its core.
The Joker is here and feeling sinister as ever! But given the amount of twists and turns that Scott Snyder has thrown at us, is this another case of Mistah J having a night out on the town or is there a wrench being thrown into works?
Or perhaps… a crowbar?
Let’s find out after the cut.
The Bat-books, as a whole, represent probably the single biggest over-produced element of DC’s properties. Obviously the Batman books sell because everyone – both comic fans and non-comic fans alike – loves Batman, especially these days. However, the downside of having a character everyone loves is that when you flood the market with titles, the books that are legitimately great run the risk of being washed away in crowd, and despite carrying the name of one of the most important comics in the history of the medium, Detective Comics is less recognized than Batman, or whatever Batman: Curse Of The Missing Panda mini might be on the market.
It might be a bold statement, but at this point that is borderline a crime. Outside Morrison’s work, Detective has always held the better Bat-stories, as if it were a prerequisite for the creative teams or even some kind of hidden secret about the market. From Dini’s shorter stories with Dustin Nguyen through Greg Rucka and JH Williams III’s epic Batwoman stories, Detective has been the home to some of the Dark Knight’s best and lesser-known adventures post-Infinite Crisis. With Scott Snyder and Jock/Francesco Francavilla on the title, the book has epitomized the term “slow burn”, focusing on Batman’s world more than his random adventures with X, Y, and Z to the point that now, and the end of the series, the story has reached a fever pitch to the tune of a furious roar as Snyder and Jock pull out all the stops for this finale.
For the penultimate issue, Snyder and Jock have brought the Joker. The interesting thing about a character like the Joker is that no one seems to want to write him the same way, as if it’s literally impossible for any one definition of the Joker to be “right” anymore. Part of this is obviously influenced by Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum/”The Clown at Midnight” stories which posits that the Joker has some kind of “super personality” that allows him to acclimate to any given situation. It’s this mentality that allows any given writer attempting to put the Joker into their story a wide bevvy of elements to play with, and Scott Snyder’s weapon of choice is certainly a mentally deranged one. Snyder’s use of the Joker here ties into his Gates of Gotham mini-series, which discusses the living, beating heart of a Gotham that is now viewed as a living breathing character as much as anyone else. Joker’s presence is symbolic, dark and enchanting as he both visciously beats on Dick while pining for days of his past. It’s the kind of scene that makes you both fear the character and feel for him, and it is nothing if not a testament to both Snyder and Jock’s collaborative talent that this is quite literally the best scene involving the Clown Prince of Crime all year. (Whenever a Top 5 Moments of Snyder’s Run on Detective is made, this will be right up there near the top.)
What really makes Snyder’s run on Detective work, though, is the unexpected mega-arc he’s been plotting quietly and discreetly since his first issue. Returning Gordon’s son to the book was at first an awkward maneuever whose true purpose would have to be revealed, but now that we’ve gotten to that point Snyder has ended up delivering one of the darkest and most sinister storylines that is as unpredictable as it is fantastic. Even when you think you’ve fully grasped what Snyder has up his sleeve, he still manages to throw a shocking twist in that, when illustrated by Jock’s impeccable grasp on visually plotting, becomes borderline iconic in it’s execution.Continued below
The unfair reality of the situation is that, with a book like and a story that has been developed like this, we are left on the edge of our seats to the point that I fear the future. Will the Detective finale be as good as this issue? In a book that has been a steady rise in quality over time, can Snyder and Jock pull it off in the end? And if they knock that out of the park, will Batman by Snyder and Capullo be bad in comparison? It’s tough to find a book that is this good, because all it does is develop hype to the point where there’s no higher you can go. However, Snyder, Jock and Francavilla have taken a book that was just good and brought it to a point where the book is required reading for a) future Batman writers, b) fans of the character, c) non-fans of the character, d) my grandmother, e) that random person next to you on a train, f) your cat Mitzy, etcetera. It’s just that damn good (and trust me, Mitzy will love it).
Everything about the issue works. The fight between the Batman and the Joker. The quiet moments between Gordon and his ex-wife. Barbara’s hunt for the clown through her Oracle networks. All of it is absolutely wonderful, and can only be demeritted on the grounds that if I create too much hype then I won’t be able to adore the final issue properly. Damn you, Snyder! Damn you, Jock!
Final Verdict: 9.5 – I fear the number 10, but we’ll see what happens in #881
It’s also a damn shame that the DC reboot is coming around the corner, but whatever is about to come will assuredly leave a stain on all the characters involved for future stories. Oh well. Que Sera Sera and all that.