This was probably the easiest 5 stars I’ve ever awarded a book.
I’m not someone who follows Batman on a regular basis so I really appreciated the short blurb at the beginning bringing me up to speed on what’s been happening in Gotham leading up to this arc. Basically, Bruce Wayne was thought to have been killed. In his place, the original Robin, Dick Grayson, took up the mantle of The Dark Knight. Alongside Oracle, Commissioner Gordon and Tim Drake as the new Red Robin, Batman once again tries to bring a feeling of safety to the streets of Gotham.
Dick is still trying to get comfortable under the cape and cowl when Gordon’s son, James, resurfaces. Commissioner Gordon has his doubts of his son’s true intentions but wants to believe he’s cleaned up his act. How can you blame him? James even admits to taking steps towards becoming more mentally stable by entering into voluntary medical trials regarding a new drug tailored specifically toward psychopaths. Barbara believes he’s more the same than ever and refuses to see anything positive in his sudden reappearance still fearing what she had seen in him as a child.
The collection takes you through several stories all connecting through a larger arc dealing with James’ return. This is some amazing work here produced by Snyder and I can easily see it becoming an instant classic. As usual, when a graphic novel is this strong, you can’t give all the credit to the writer. The artwork provided by Jock (a pseudonym for artist, Mark Simpson) is simply stellar. It reminded me a lot of Frank Millar’s work in Year One giving Gotham that gritty feel that stayed away from a more polished representation of the Caped Crusader's city.
Speaking of Gotham, like China Mieville’s presentation of New Crobuzon, Gotham is a central character in this tale. With characters often referencing the dangerous and unforgiving nature of the city, at times almost feeling that there is a living, beating evil heart below the buildings in concrete, tainting everyone and everything existing on top. It’s awesome stuff. It makes sense that with Bruce Wayne’s recent creation of Batman Inc., he would leave the toughest city to someone he trusts the most.
I like Dick as Batman just fine even though I initially had my doubts. It made me realize that someone else can inhabit the legendary crime fighter and still get the job done. I even enjoyed the wise cracking and acrobatic style that he brings to the character, something that surprisingly worked on a traditionally darker, more serious role. Synder lets Grayson’s personality shine through the cracks without going overboard, something Kevin Smith implored a little too much of with his portrayal of a "happier" Bruce Wayne in his second effort, "The Widening Gyre".
I’m shocked that Gordon’s son, James Jr., had gone unused for so long as Snyder’s version of this character is downright chilling. More specifically, the scene involving father and son sharing a conversation in a local Gotham diner was unsettling. I wondered if Miller’s Kevin from Sin City provided any inspiration for the character. Granted Kevin didn’t have a speaking role but I can imagine if he had any lines, he would have a similar tone.
Look, if you read any of my reviews and you share a love of Batman, you need to get this. It might be a little early to say so but I would put it up there with Miller’s epics from the 80s in terms of quality, it’s just that good. What are you waiting for? Go get this now!