Panels From Beyond the Grave #5

Here is another review from my pal, Bob(by) Ignizio. I'll whip up another comic review next week, but for now, enjoy the fifth panel from beyond the grave...

DETECTIVE COMICS (#881, October 2011)

Batman is one of the few mainstream superheroes who lends himself well to horror. Since Scott Snyder took over the writing duties on Detective Comics just shy of a year ago, he's taken a grittier, more noir-ish approach to the character with current Batman Dick Grayson actually living up to the comic's title and doing some honest-to-goodness detective work. The horror has come in through a secondary plotline involving Commissioner Gordon's son, James, who it turns out is a cold-blooded sociopath. Combined, these two separate threads have defined Snyder's run on the series, as have both artists he's worked with during that time. In issue #881, everything comes together for a satisfying finale.

As the issue begins, James has his sister Barbara (the former Batgirl, now Oracle) held captive, and Dick and Commissioner Gordon finally know without a shadow of a doubt that James is a serial killer. Dick races against the clock to stop this bad seed in the Gordon family tree. Meanwhile, James tells sister Barbara of his plot to put a drug into baby formula that will make the children exposed to it grow up to be sociopaths like him.

The scenes between James and Barbara are illustrated by Francesco Francavilla in a somewhat retro style that reminds me of Darwyn Cooke's work. The portions of the story involving Batman and the Commissioner are by Jock, who has an equally distinctive but more action-oriented style. Both styles not only work very well with their respective plotlines, but actually mesh with each other quite well.

When Dick and James have their final showdown, James makes a compelling case for why the former Robin and Nightwing just doesn't cut it as Gotham City's Dark Knight: he's too nice, too willing to see the good in people, and just not capable of waging the sort of relentless war on crime that Bruce Wayne did. The point is further driven home by the ambiguous ending of the issue. It's entirely possible that Dick failed to stop James from carrying out his plan. Only time will tell.

Dick clearly made some mistakes, but I'm not sure that I agree with James that he makes a lousy Batman. In fact, I've quite enjoyed his tenure under the cowl. But anyone who has been reading comics more than a month or two knew from the moment that Bruce Wayne “died” that he'd be back as the one true Batman sooner or later. He's been sharing the mantle with Dick since his resurrection, but evidently, Dick goes back to being Nightwing next month when DC comics relaunches all their titles. At least Grayson's final issue wearing his mentor's costume turned out to be a really good one.

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