It's been established that the Batman-centered stories have Jock as the main artist and, in a sense, this should understandably be about Dick Grayson as Batman especially since it focuses on the Joker and where he is after he escaped Arkham Asylum from last issue. However, I did state that I feel that the Joker is not going to take a significant role in this series and that James Jr. is the 'star' as Snyder himself put it in his reproduced script for the trade paperback release.
Still, we're zeroing in on the Joker's whereabouts for this issue and we get Jim Gordon's monologue to begin the search which is something I actually quite loved so I'll quote it:
"Gotham. It's a city of glass and concrete, of steel and brick. and yet for me, like most people here, there's a city beneath the one I can see and smell and feel below my tires right now. A city of memory with a geography that I only know. Where the biggest buildings, the most important landmarks are the ones where something happened to me. Some tragic bullet. A first kiss. And after all these years, my city, the one beneath the glass and steal is full of plenty of bright streets and dark alleys. But the darkest spots on the map, the looming black towers, were almost all created by one man--the Joker. In many ways, he is Gotham's darkest and most brilliant architect."
It's resonant of the very first pages of The Black Mirror where Dick Grayson also talks about Gotham in a manner that is intimate and foreboding. I'm not sure I should talk about the issue in detail because that would spoil all the fun. But it's paced in a thrilling way as Dick and Jim hunt down the Joker, going through certain locations and finding out that the Joker's real hiding place is somewhere less complicated in reality. I also enjoyed the character moments shared among our heroes, particularly that scene with Barbara. Anyone who has read The Killing Joke knows that Barbara has a score to settle with the clown prince of crime and I admire her bravery and tenacity. She was not shaken at all and was very much ready to answer the door when the Joker comes a-knocking.
But as I suggested earlier in this review, this side story about the Joker is more of a red herring. When Dick does find out where he is, the Joker immediately recognizes that he is not the same man underneath the Batman mask and implores him to tell the real Batman, his Batman, that he misses him so and that he wants him to come back. Dick interrogates him for a few minutes about the deadly toxin going around the city but the Joker laughs it off, half-scolding Dick for not being able to figure out that the gag is not the Joker's but someone else's. He also taunts Dick that the real Batman would know that by now. This is quite a suspenseful revelation especially when it's spliced with a scene with Gordon at the hospital where his ex-wife Sarah was resting after she was attacked by someone they all presumed was the Joker. Meanwhile, Barbara tries to locate the Joker using camera sensors in the elevator but as it turns out, she was the one who had just been found.
Overall, this issue entitled My Dark Architect delivers its promise from the summary in the back of the trade paperback: Dick and Jim will face an evil that has emerged from their own doorstep. And if you have been reading my detailed reviews of the previous issues, then you should know that it can't possibly be anyone else but--