Batman Review: Detective Comics #878

The threat of Tiger Shark doesn't quite manage to live up to its promise, but Jim Gordon's son sadly does.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Detective Comics 878

It’s been a rough week for writer Scott Snyder. The usually flawless comic book scribe hit a bump with both his Flashpoint: Project Superman title and Detective Comics #878. The two issues were disappointing and poor reads for very different reasons. Project Superman was just a mess, a bad idea executed with sloppy plot devices all leading up to an embarrassing “hook” ending. On the other hand, Detective Comics #878 isn’t bad as much as it is inadequate. Snyder has spent so many wonderful issues of Detective building up situations for real emotional impact, that his use of quick and easy answers in this book is a real let down. To be blunt, Snyder’s better than this.

The let down in issue 878 comes in three tiers including the main story and the two subplots. In the main hook Batman (Dick Grayson) is facing off against a villain named Tiger Shark. Thus far Tiger Shark seems like a fresh and interesting villain. The story arc kicked off in issue 876 with one of his victims being left in the belly of a killer whale dropped off in a bank. Snyder had built up something new and interesting with this guy. Then, when Batman finally meets him, he’s a typical self-involved smuggler with a kitschy costume and big claims of who he is to the world. He’s the ultimate predator, he’s this and that and by the end he’s just another villain.

Following that comes a smaller let down with Sonia Zucco, the daughter of the Zucco crime family, who insisted she was living her life in a way as to come out from under her infamous name. Snyder had built her up to be somebody we weren’t sure if we could trust, but we wanted to. Then, for no real reason, Zucco turned out to be the crime daughter after all, using lies and deceit to try and take out Tiger Shark. It’s an acceptable resolution but it felt unnecessary and, again, a letdown to what had gone on previously. If she was that way, why not let her be that way from the start? Why be coy? Zucco’s character felt like a plot device more than anything else.

The worst let down is Commissioner Gordon’s son James. Over the last few months, Snyder has re-introduced James in a wonderful way. Here’s a character that had almost been forgotten, brought back into the fold under a dark cloud. It was a tense situation, written with great effect by Snyder. James was accused of being and awful person, a killer and psychopath. By letting us see cracks in that idea, a new depth to the Gordon family dynamic opened up. A depth that could have been drawn on for so many stories involving how their dysfunctional family life worked against them. Snyder had opened up an entire new avenue to storytelling.

Then, he shuts it down, completely, by revealing that James Gordon actually is a murdering psychopath, one with a live victim tied up in his basement that James is torturing by slowly cutting pieces of him off. Not only that, but the victim is a guy who used to taunt James as a kid. Really? Not only does he become a cliché “saw” serial killer, but he also comes strapped with a clichéd back-story? Now we’ll watch as he kills people and he and Batman face off. I just hope there isn’t some bad slant where Commissioner Gordon helps James escape because “He’s my son”. That would just suck.

So the issue is lame, but it is also beautiful Jock’s art has slowly become some of my favorite in the medium. I love how he draws the human form; I love his Batman in particular. It has grit to it, a Vertigo series sense of noir and violence that I love. For lack of a better term, Jock draws in a very sinister style. I’m not writing Scott Snyder off, he’s way too good to do that. I’m just sad that one of the coolest story arcs in recent Batman history ended with a thud.