“Hungry City” continues its breakneck pace in “Detective Comics” #877, as Scott Snyder, Jock, and David Baron bring us exceptional comics reading that’s shaping up to be some of the best Bat stories in recent memory.
In this issue Dick escapes from a death trap at the hands of a new villain – Bixby Rhodes, aka the Roadrunner. And after hauling Roadrunner in, Sonia Branch comes clean and that plus Dick’s analysis of the dead orca from the previous issue lead Dick to the hideout of another new player, Tiger Shark.
It’s to Snyder’s credit that even absent a traditional “big bad” he manages to create a real sense of urgency in these pages. In fact, I felt compelled and intrigued by Snyder’s new villain, Roadrunner, and the set up for Tiger Shark. They felt like a strange breath of fresh air in Batman’s universe, modern villains that don’t have the kind of…respect perhaps for Batman that we’re used to seeing. Which fits. In a new world where many are Batman, where it feels almost as if anyone can be Batman, surely the shine will rub off the penny. The mystique will fade. And particularly to a new generation of cynical sarcastic youth, a criminal without much code to speak of, Batman becomes just one of many obstacles instead of the thing that goes bump in the night. And Snyder uses that to his advantage here. Too often a new villain feels like a phoned-in attempt to temporarily raise the stakes and the body count, but what Snyder does here is compelling and layered, even though I’m sure nobody we’re meeting in this issue is likely to be the next Joker.
Also on fine display here is Snyder’s flat out great writing. Synder nails each of the moments that he chooses, such as Dick’s internal dialogue – a clever bit about actual roadrunners which pays off nicely and feels so Dick and not Bruce that it’s delightful. Snyder also does a great bit with Roadrunner’s attempt to psyche out Batman, which may not have worked on Dick, but I found insightful and intriguing. But Snyder also gets the personal relationships, and manages to throw a little levity our way, like in Tim’s hilarious jokes at Dick’s expense and Dick’s ability to joke right back, albeit in a darker more grumbly fashion. It all showcases how well Snyder not only knows these characters inside and out, but also what a modern and savvy writer he is, a writer that can bring the badass, while still maintaining the basics of a good story.
Jock’s work continues to impress on this issue, melding the quite personal moments with the epic sublimely. Jock is one of the artists that really gets Batman and does him and his city justice. He frequently surprises with his ability to craft powerful iconic imagery out of the simple things. David Baron’s colors are fantastic in this issue, ranging from deep saturated pages of red while Batman tries to escape from a trap, to gloomy blues and purples as he talks to Gordon in rooftop rain, to murky greens as Bats explores ocean depths. Baron knows how to set the scene, and raises Jock’s already exceptional art up to a whole new level.
Snyder is doing seminal work on “Detective Comics,” work that others are going to build on and try their best to outdo. Comics will be better for it, but I’m not sure many that come after are going to be able to do it better than Snyder is doing it right now. If you read comics and you’re not reading “Detective Comics” right now, you’re screwing up.