That annoying “Drawing the line at 2.99” maxim is now branded on the cover, and rightly so, as this comic still suffers from it. This is the first issue of Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics coming in at twenty pages, but that’s to be expected. What blindsided Snyder and every other DC writer was the jarring elimination of co-features. The first nine pages of this comic should’ve been at the end of last issue, and what an ending it would’ve been. The first two installments of “Skeleton Cases” spent most of its time establishing ambiance, creeping towards the chilling conversation between long-estranged father and son that we see in this issue. The next eleven pages of this comic, then, are clearly tacked on, but Snyder makes the most of it, establishing the ramifications that “Skeleton Cases” has on the main attraction, starring Dick Grayson as Batman.
Francesco Francavilla rendered those two co-features as well as this entire issue, and he continues to make us lament the fact that he’s not drawing all of Snyder’s run. “Skeleton Cases” is Commissioner Gordon-centric, so it’s perfectly fitting that Francavilla’s style mirrors David Mazzuchelli’s, who arguably contributed more to Gordon’s character in those four issues of “Year One” than anyone else. Francavilla adds to that Mazzuchelli-inspired linework by coloring himself, using such a strange, haunting palette. Francavlla tweaks his style a tad after the co-feature would’ve ended, as he gets to draw a good old superhero team-up with Dick Grayson and Tim Drake. Snyder gives Francavilla the room to show off, and he does. There’s even a double-page splash of action with panels formatted in the shape of a giant Batman symbol. I’m not sure who came up with that, but I think it’s clear that JH Williams’ shadow looms large over this book.
Hopefully, this’ll be the last issue of Detective Comics to suffer from the recent editorial shenanigans. Snyder basically wrote a terrific short story conclusion, and then followed it up with a fun, little prologue for the next arc with Jock. I’ll miss Francavilla.