Editor's Note: This review does contain mild spoilers, without giving away the ending of the issue. Stay tuned to Newsarama later today for a full breakdown of what transpired in the issue.
Detective Comics #940
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas
Lettering by Marilyn Patrizio
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
“Nobody falls today. That’s an order.”
Ever since DC Comics released a revised cover to Detective Comics #940 omitting Red Robin - not to mention solicitation copy hinting that Batman’s team of trainees have “already lost” - readers have been right to worry about whether this might mean another death has come for the Bat-family. But while deaths, resurrections, and other plot twists have become par for the course in superhero comic books, leave it to James Tynion IV and Eddy Barrows to inject some new life to a time-tested trope, as Tim Drake makes his last stand.
The thing about killing off superheroes is that after a certain point, it’s easy to become desensitized, to just unceremoniously end a long-time character just to goose sales and to chase headlines. But that’s not what Tynion does here. There’s a sense of desperation as Batman races to rescue Tim, as this one-time sidekick fights single-handedly against an entire fleet of military drones. The scale and the danger is ratcheted up to the breaking point, and with these impossible odds established with an eerie constellation of spotlights, Tynion also plays up the emotional connections that Tim has established over the years, giving heartfelt final goodbyes to both Batman and his new love interest, the Spoiler. “Don’t say it,” Batman says, hoping he can outrace the inevitable. If your heart isn’t in your throat by page 8, you might not have a soul.
But it’d be easy to consider this as an unrepentant, even manipulative tearjerker if Tynion didn’t have such a solid plan in place. Without spoiling too much, Tynion is able to have his cake and eat it, too - he’s able to not only give Tim Drake a truly shining moment as a hero as the Colony’s plan reaches its crescendo, complete with a truly heartbreaking epilogue as Batman learns of the promising future that his former ward has been offered, but he’s also able to throw in a shocking twist at the last second that will have die-hard Red Robin fans on the edge of their seats. For readers (and, it seems, creators) of a certain age, Tim Drake means something to people, and Tynion honors the character thoroughly, reminding us of Red Robin’s importance through his supporting cast’s reactions to his heroism.
And Tynion isn’t the only one responsible for this love letter to Tim Drake. Artist Eddy Barrows is drawing the best work of his career on Detective Comics, bringing a craftsman’s eye to both the high-octane action sequences as well as the powerful emotional beats. It’s particularly telling with this book’s epilogue, as Tynion doesn’t even need to use dialogue - instead, the three silent pages speak volumes thanks to Barrows’ impressive sense of drama, as we see even the stoic Batman quietly lose his composure in the face of overwhelming loss.
It’s easy to portray Batman as an ill-tempered loner, but Barrows gets that there is a deeply empathetic man underneath all the darkness and crushing responsibility, a man who not only has deep fears for his proteges, but who offers his compassion whenever it’s needed. “I wanted to make sure you were safe,” he tells one member of his team, and the gentleness in Bruce’s eyes might catch you off-guard. But outside of these dramatic moments, there’s also a great sense of action choreography at play here, particularly how Barrows and colorist Adriano Lucas play off one another as Batwoman launches her father out of his flying fortress, or a blood-red splash page of pure destruction.
While this issue follows the same trajectory as last month’s in terms of Red Robin stealing the show from the rest of his Bat-family, I don’t think readers are going to find anything to complain about with Detective Comics #940. With the conclusion of this seven-part (!!) arc finally upon us, I think it’s extremely safe to say that Tynion, Barrows and company have delivered the single strongest book of DC’s Rebirth era, bringing together both exciting action and compelling characterization in a way that almost looks easy, if it wasn’t so damn smart about it. If you haven’t been reading this book, you’re missing out on a truly incredible run.