Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of.
Hands down, this has to be one of the best issues of Detective Comics that doesn't even involve Batman. And why should it? This is between blood.
One of Scott Snyder's main strengths lies in his ability to build tension and give the appropriate pay off. Snyder's run on Detective Comics has been incredible. His arcs have gotten more and more personal for the characters and they've been reaching darker territory. Black Mirror explored the challenges of being tested in Gotham and possiblity of evil in people. Hungry City, was about legacy and ability to change. Here in Skeleton Key, Snyder ups the ante and we get a horrific book about how things are never what they seem.
Two different stories occur but they thematically converge. First we have the Joker breaking out of prison and then we have Gordon keep tabs on his son with Barbara's help. In what would seem like two routine plot lines, becomes probably one of the best issues of the year.
Scott Snyder really nails the characterization of The Joker. He's genuinely creepy and there's a good nod to what Grant Morrison has been doing with the character. But he really makes him a real psychological threat and true monster. It's easy to show Joker killing people, but it's more impressive to see him break someone down first and I think Snyder really knows this. I enjoyed Jared K. Fletcher's lettering for The Joker as it gives the scenes this unsettling quality. It's surprising how these little touches make such difference.
Francesco Francavilla. This is probably one of the most fitting issues for him to illustrate. The lighting, the mood, and the angles of the panels are just chilling and haunting. Snyder really works well with the unseen. As the audience this run has constantly challenged our notions of what happened or not. What I enjoy is that while the audience is ahead of Gordon in one regard, we don't see what James has done yet. And for the majority of the issue we don't see The Joker without his mask restraint (I for one can't wait to see Jock and Francesca's take on him). We don't need to. I did enjoy Gordon's scene with his daughter, there's a huge dramatic weight to it, aside from the great twists, we have a really intimate moment between the two and see how close they are and how Barbara is better suited to represent the Gordon legacy.
It's very rare we get villains who are more personal threats to Gordon, aside from The Joker, Two-Face, and The Wrath (I hope someone does something with him, there's a new one just waiting to be used), so this issue is all the more compelling. Batman isn't going to be killed off anytime soon (again), but a threat against Gordon? I'm sure the next issues will be just as pulse-pounding as this one. The next issue (also coming out in July) can't come out any faster.