BF Awards 2011 - Best Ongoing Series: Detective Comics

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The next legendary comics writer has arrived, and his name is Scott Snyder. Just ask Batman.

With an opening statement like that, you’d think you were reading one of our Best Writer of 2011 spotlight articles, but you’re not. Those honors befell Jeff Lemire (mainstream) and Cullen Bunn (independent), though it must be said that Lemire only beat his close friend and DC Comics & Vertigo compatriot by a hair.

What Snyder has accomplished in a timespan of two years is mind-boggling. Bursting onto the scene with the awesome American Vampire, Snyder quickly proved he could handle men in tights too, delivering the best Detective Comics work since, uhm… Seriously, does anyone remember a time when “Tec” was this friggin’ good?

Let’s see. Greg Rucka had two solid runs worth mentioning, a long one spanning the first couple of years of the century, and the recent one starring Batwoman. In between, there were commendable efforts by David Lapham and Paul Dini and an arc or two by Ed Brubaker. Before all of the aforementioned, we were stuck with all those 90s crossovers that basically made strong individual runs impossible.

Indeed, the epic Snyder has woven stands tallest above everything we’ve seen in a long, long while. And here’s why:


Snyder’s writing may be superb, but he’ll be the first to tell you that his run would be nowhere without the talents of Jock and Francesco Francavilla. The two artists seemed like an odd pairing at first because of their diametrically opposed styles. Jock’s work is so sharp and edgy, it sometimes seems he’s drawing with a writing pen instead of pencil. That raw quality works very well for the harsh world that is Gotham City. The way he draws the victims of Joker toxin or how he uses tiny bats all over the background gives this book the creepy feel it needs.

On the other side of the spectrum is Francavilla, who uses rounded curves wherever Jock would’ve drawn a sharp edge. His linework is decidedly thicker too. But the real master stroke of Francavilla is his color work: he mostly drew the (flashback) scenes involving James Gordon, a true-blood psychopath who made you think “danger!” every time his twisted persona appeared on the page. But whereas you’d expect cold colors to underscore the looming horrors, we get warm reds, cosy purples and retro yellows,  tones that don’t fit a psychopath storyline at all – and therefore make it a twisted experience. In other words: the perfect aura for a Batman book.

Jumping back and forth between Jock and Francavilla make you feel as if you’re stepping into another world each time, which ensures everything stays fresh as the story arcs unfold.

The covers

For fervent readers of Scalped this comes as no surprise, but Mr Jock is a mean cover-drawing machine. Especially the one for issue #880 where the Joker’s face is largely comprised out of bats became an instant-classic right out of the gate. He made ‘Tec really pop on the stands. Oh, and Francesco’s cover to #875 wasn’t too shabby either.

The ultimate Dick Grayson Batman story

Dick Grayson had been wearing the cowl for a little over two years when Snyder took over Detective Comics, and it was he who penned the best Dick as Batman stories to date. He gets Dick so well (apologies for the inadvertent innuendo) up to the point where you wish he was writing Nightwing too (sorry, Kyle Higgins). Grant Morrison’s tales came close, but he wrote a way better Damian.

‘Tec was all about establishing Dick as a true Batman, away from Bruce’s immense shadow. That’s why the Joker doesn’t want anything to do with Dick – “You’re not my bat” – why the detective work is done in a new, high-tech forensic lab instead of the batcave, and why people from Dick’s past (James Gordon, Sonia Zucco) are so cleverly woven into fabrics of the story.

The villains

Snyder introduced us to a new Tiger Shark and to The Dealer to avoid the time-and-again usage of the standard Dark Knight rogues gallery. The new rogues also helped Snyder keep us entertained while the real story was unfolding in the back. Snyder built up the tension surrounding the sudden return of James Gordon until the shocking climax in issue #881 where he revealed how James had been playing his cards from the very beginning.

Issue #880

I already dubbed the cover an instant classic, but so is the story inside. The Joker’s dialogue is splendid (and splendidly lettered), and the way the curtain finally falls down to unveil James Gordon as the psychopath we feared him to be but at the same time deep down hoped he wasn’t is great too. I could read this issue time and again and not get bored.

I could also fill another couple hundred of words talking about how great Snyder, Jock and Francavilla made Detective Comics in 2011, but these award articles were only supposed to be 500 words long. Let’s hope though that my extra efforts help pull in the big one for this creative team…

Repeat after me: E.I.S.N.E.R. Thank you.

Full list of the 2011 Broken Frontier Award winners

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