Fear Itself #5
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Laura Martin
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
Some fuss has been made about Matt Fraction's voice for the main characters, particularly a scene where Thor calls Hulk a "pain in the ass," which does come off as kind of cheesy and out of place. Other than that, however, Fraction's interpretation of the characters seems on point. I particularly enjoy his Spider-Man, and his hard-nosed Steve Rogers, who does something he hasn't done in a while, and put his finger right in the face of the ultimate evil. It's that kind of moment, such as when he stared down Korvac, or admonished Thanos in the face of defeat, that really signify a return to form for Captain America.
The issue ends in a dark place, despite the best efforts of all involved. Sure, there's a bit of a bright spot involving the FF, but nobody really comes out happy. With two issues left, and a grim preview of the next one already in place, Fear Itself looks to be headed towards a big conclusion. There's no guarantee that everyone will come out intact, but it's looking good that we're in for a hell of a ride.Detective Comics #881
Written by Scott Synder
Art by Jock, Francesco Francavilla, and David Baron
Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Review by Aaron Duran
In Detective Comics #881, Synder, Jock, and Francavilla finish a story a long time in the making. I don't just mean from the beginning of their time at DC Comics' namesake title. I don't mean from the first time Dick Grayson pulled on the cape and cowl. I mean the oldest of stories. Good versus Evil on the most personal level, both to the characters and the reader. The creators knew, not only was this the culmination of all their stories, this was the final Detective Comics in the old DC Universe. After 75 years, the book that launched a global icon was changing forever. And with that, Synder, Jock, and Francavilla gave us everything we could ever hope for in a tale of Gotham, Batmen, Gordons, and madmen.
Issue 880 ended with the classic cliffhanger ending, Barbara Gordon is seemingly at the mercy of her sociopathic brother. Will Batman arrive in time to save her and the day? On the base level, issue 881 simply wraps up the arc set by Synder since he took over the title. James Gordon, Jr. attempts his final revenge upon his family and all the citizens of Gotham. However, to boil the story down to it's most basic of elements is a disservice to Synder's complete vision for the reader. He's telling a generational tale, one that will resonate and reward both new and long-time Batman fans. And, in a truly genius bit of writing, Synder even paves the way for certain character evolutions in the upcoming DC reboot.
All the major players in this issue have a chance to shine, a chance to tell their tale. No other writer has better captured Dick's reason for becoming Batman than Scott Synder. Ironically, the reason behind this choice is told through James Gordon, Jr. He explains why the very reason Dick became Batman will be why he fails. Back during Infinite Crisis, when Dick's survivability was in question, fans became enraged. They understood, of all the characters in DC, Dick Grayson was the hopeful heart of that world. For him to fall would be the end of empathy and hope. It's a true credit to Synder's writing that all this comes out of the mouth of a truly horrific villain as he attempts to take the life of his sister.
We also see the innate strength of Barbara Gordon shine in these moments. Even as James strikes at where she is most vulnerable, quite literally, she maintains her power. Be it the Joker's bullet or James, Jr.'s knife, Barbara Gordon is no ones victim. Indeed, up until now I wasn't sold on why she would choose to become Batgirl yet again. Detective Comics #881 goes a long way in convincing me. Finally, there is the heartbreak of Commissioner Gordon. Although saved by the original Batman back in Year One, Gordon watched his son fall when he was unable to hold on. Even since, he's watched loved ones fall. For good or bad, he will not lose his son again. Synder writes a Jim Gordon that knows far more about the people in his life then he lets on. This is a Gordon that looks into the eyes of the man that is Dick Grayson and understands the boy he was. Understands why Dick and his daughter fight night after night. Gotham City demands it, and he'll be there with them.
Praise is also due to the art of Jock and Francavilla. One moment, you have Francavilla's all-too personal art style. Lines and colors that bring the reader painfully close to the horrors on the page. When James Jr.'s emotionless eyes peer out from an almost black panel, it frightening. Like those moments you hear about when a predator is about to pounce upon it's prey. There is simply no escaping it. Then, with a turn of the page, Jock is able to take the horrific and make it exciting. The sweeping cityscape. The flutter of a cape in and out of the shadows. Perfectly planned panels, shattered by anger made physical as Jock and Francavilla's lines and colors burst out. They also know when to slow down a bit. When to let a quiet scene play out and for the reader to simply take in the words not said on the page. These two talented artists show exactly how comics should be drawn.
I know I've used a lot of hyperbole in this review. Some may claim I'm simply getting caught up in the fervor of a line ending and a new beginning. No. As someone that's been reading this title for almost 25 years, I couldn't be happier or more impressed with Synder, Jock, and Francavilla's run. If we must say goodbye to the old Detective Comics, then this was the way to do it. This was the team to do it. Without a doubt. Detective Comics #881 represents the culmination of the single greatest run of Detective Comics in decades. Perhaps of all time. Well done and thank you.