I've been more excited for this comic book to come out than any other issue so far in the year 2010. I've done a couple of interviews with the writer, Scott Snyder, and both times we spoke, our interviews always descended into deep conversations about the character of Dick as Batman. The first time we did this it was before his first issue of American Vampire had come out and any work on Batman by Scott was literally a twinkle in his eye.
After the runaway success of American Vampire, which I like quite a bit, I was tremendously excited by the idea of Scott taking a turn with the mantle of the bat. He gets the character, not just as a fan, but as a very calculating writer.
Detective Comics #871 came out today, and is the first issue Scott Snyder has written. The art is by the incredibly talented Jock and the colors are by the very capable David Baron.
I've been reading Batman comics for a very long time, and not just the main titles, but most of the side titles as well. One thing you're quick to notice after you've read that much Batman is whether or not the writer is able to capture the voice of the character they're writing. Too often, you'll have a writer who writes as though he only knows the character's name and has no idea what his voice should sound like (Fabian Nicieza on Robin and Nightwing or AJ Lieberman's work on Gotham Knights) , other times you get a feeling that it's so much of a cartoon of the character you love because it reads like a fan-fic, aimed directly at fans (you know these guys).
Not as often are we treated to writers that not only grasp the voice of the character, but can give us something interesting and new as well. It's a rare mix of great writer and love of character that combine to give us the right voice for the character, a story that's interesting in the current continuity, and so completely unique to the character that it couldn't be told any other way.
With few exceptions (like Bryan Q. Miller and Chris Yost), the current stable of writers tend to write Dick Grayson as Batman with the Dick Grayson part as an afterthought. Snyder gives us a Batman that is so uniquely Dick Grayson that you simply can't tease Dick from this story. He has different mannerisms, thought patterns, reactions to situations, bits of humours, etc. And Snyder captures them all with an easy grace that makes it look far too simple.
To say this is the best issue of a Batman comic I've read in a long time is an understatement. Sure, it's the first act of three act story and it still has two chances to collapse in flames, but it's a very elegant and well laid out setup.
Unlike most backups in books, the Commissioner Gordon backup in Detective (also by Snyder) folds neatly into the imagery of the book proper, maintaining a continuity that makes me feel I'm reading the same story instead of two completely disjointed arcs. Like I said, elegant.
There are a lot of things a lot of people are rolling their eyes about as far as this new Batman Incorporated story device is concerned. Snyder is able to take what he needs of that continuity and sidestep the traps left by the rest of it to give a very clean Detective story that could only be happening in the here and now of continuity.
There is a skill to working on long-running titles for long-running characters and Snyder, in his first outing exercising that skill, knocked it out of the park.
Aside from all of that, the mystery in the book is intriguing and will keep me reading, with enough broad strokes of detail to help me remember the finer points over the month to month shipping schedule.
A lot of people continue to sing the praises of Batman and Robin, but Detective Comics is THE Batman book you should be reading. This is the Batman we all feel we deserve. And lets hope this team sticks around for a while, because this could be the team that defines the post-Morrison era of Batman.