This issue debuts the new creative team of Scott Snyder (American Vampire), Jock (The Losers) and Francesco Francavilla (the upcoming Black Panther: The Man Without Fear) on the Commissioner Gordon back-up. I’ve personally been anticipating this book very much since the announcement of this line-up. Their first issue delivered in full on that anticipation.
Snyder is most effective in his characterization. The two key scenes of this book are two different conversations with Commissioner Gordon; one between Gordon and Dick Grayson, the other between Gordon and Grayson as Batman. They have two completely different tonalities. In the first Gordon is the dominant player; he’s respectful of Grayson as a former Police Officer but also exercises a dry backhanded attitude because he was also the punk who used to date his daughter. That Grayson takes these slight barbs in cool stride is a nice touch. The second conversation with Batman has them on equal footing. It also works in contrast with the established relationship between Bruce Wayne’s Batman.
“I suppose I’m not used to it yet”
“Used to what?”
“To you still being there when I look up.”
The only complaint I would have is that the mystery didn’t really grab me. It was fine but I have less interest in the next plot development than I do the next dialogue exchange. Also I think the opener would’ve been more effective without the narrative caption monologue. It doesn’t quite sync up properly with the imagery to create an effective metaphor. Again, the character work and sharp dialogue more than make up for these faults.
So too does Jock’s artwork. Moody, minimalist and jagged, it reminds me of early Sean Phillips and Ashley Wood, as well as latter Moon Knight/early New Mutants-era Bill Sienkiewicz. David Baron uses a simple palette and gradients only slightly. It doesn’t overpower the work but, in fact, completes it.
The Commissioner Gordon back-up is superb as well. It contextualizes an element of the main story in a clever way. What astounded me was how it used a piece of Gordon’s history. I won’t spoil it but, how did nobody think of this before? Francavilla is in the contemporary school of artists like Chris Samnee and Gabriel Hardman, a sort of neo-classical school of art. You can tell he likes his Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, and Alex Toth. Francavilla also did his own coloring for this. It falls in line with the coloring in the lead but with less gloss. Kind of reminded me of the coloring in Criminal, which is a high compliment. The only complaint here is that there is a sequence that flashes between the present and a memory but I missed it in the first read because the color cues weren’t distinct enough. A minor quibble however.
Atmospheric and intelligent, an excellent start for this title’s new direction.