Detective Comics #946
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Adriano Lucas and Julio Ferreira
Lettering by Marilyn Patrizio
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
We’ve already seen the 'demise' of Tim Drake. Now, we’re beginning to see a once-solid team dynamic crumble before our very eyes. With distrust, anger and self-doubt running rampant, who will be the next victim?
As begins, writer James Tynion IV turns back the clock three months, prior to the formation of the team of heroes under Batman’s regime. Here, we see a compelling exchange between the Caped Crusader and Red Robin, in what will eventually become the team’s base of operations, the Belfry. Tynion’s use of symbolism in regards to the tower’s bell, which the citizens of Gotham used to call “Justice,” is an inspired choice, adding a new layer to the ever-expansive mythos of Gotham City. However, the excitement from Tim as he considers the large-scale impact their team could make in Gotham eventually sways those feelings of inspiration to those of heartbreak, as the scene closes with Tim telling Bruce that he’ll always be right at his side.
Jumping ahead to the present day, Tynion switches from pulling at the heartstrings to pushing on the throttle, with Batman and his team, sans Spoiler, crashing the Victim Syndicate’s unwelcomed party at the Thompkins Clinic. The mystique surrounding the identity of the First Victim has been one of the more intriguing aspects of the current story arc, so it’s great to see Tynion continue to stick to his guns in that respect. Even the World’s Greatest Detective is still in the dark, which merely deepens his feelings of confliction (“Tell me who you are. Tell me how I hurt you,” says Batman).
Perhaps the biggest selling point of this issue is the fallout from Detective Comics #945’s cliffhanger ending, where we saw Stephanie come face-to-face with a seemingly living Tim Drake. Surprisingly, it’s not until about the midpoint of the issue that this is addressed. What’s not surprising, though, is the explanation for Tim’s appearance, considering Stephanie was meeting with him in the Mud Room. Still, when Stephanie asks the simulation of Tim if he knows what he actually is, the response is a little tongue-in-cheek. It’s understandable that the plot point needs to be explained to the reader in some manner, but it could have been executed with more subtlety by allowing Eddy Barrows’ art to show us, rather than Tynion telling us. In any case, it makes sense from a storytelling perspective to give Stephanie someone outside of the team she can confide in, and choosing someone whose lack of true sentience actually makes them more trustworthy is a brilliant move.
The exchange closes with Tim asking Stephanie what kind of world she wants, before transitioning over to Clayface, who we see staring longingly at a poster promoting “a world of peace and love.” The character development Clayface has undergone since Tynion took over is always one of the highlights of each issue, and it’s no different here, as Clayface lures Glory into a false sense of security and uses his booby-trapped stabilization device to take her down.
Things begin to ramp up again when we meet up with Batwoman, who finds herself in a battle of both will and might with Madame Crow. When Crow hits Batwoman with an anti-fear toxin, she’s shocked to learn the gas has no effect on the hardened ex-military vigilante. This is seemingly because of an anti-fear toxin blocker Batwing designed. However, Kate quickly shuts down this theory, telling Luke she didn’t need it, showcasing Batwoman’s fortitude, while still teasing some remaining tension between her and Batwing.
With so much plot to fit into a mere 20 pages of comic book, Cassandra Cain was an unfortunate causality of minimal page time in this issue. It’s all the more disappointing considering she’s one of the least-developed characters in the series thus far. Still, even with only a single page, Orphan makes her presence felt, breaking the Mute down emotionally by playing him a tape with the last message he received from his wife before she was killed by the Joker.
Back on art in this issue of Detective Comics is Eddy Barrows. Having seen Barrows pencil a large majority of Tynion’s scripts for this run, many of his artistic quirks and nuances have started to become more and more apparent. For example, we often see Batman glaring at us from an angle, with one eye bright white, while the other is completely cast in shadow. Likewise, Barrows seems to be a fan of including shattered glass in his compositions, as evidenced in this issue when Batman bursts through the window of the Thompkins Clinic, with discriminatingly detailed shards of glass exploding around the Dark Knight. The digital enhancements also add a nice touch of realism, as well as emphasize the contrast between the blurred glass and the incredibly sharp line work that make up Batman’s figure.
Another point of praise that’s frequent in Barrows’ work is the painterly portrait renditions of characters in instances that call for emotional focal points. In this issue, we see this done with Stephanie, whose solemn expression, coupled the contrast of her long, flowing blonde hair against Eber Ferreira’s solid black inks, make for a stunning work of art that would feel just as fitting in a gallery as it does in the pages of this book.
The panels of Stephanie and Tim on this double-page spread are also intercut with panels of Batman fighting the First Victim, which scream with intensity thanks to Adriano Lucas’ color art. The explosive reds, oranges and yellows cast a gorgeous hue onto the purple and grey of Batman’s suit, adding a touch of tranquility to the fiery battle. Later, as Batwoman squares off against Madame Crow, the remarkably vibrant lime green clouds of gas play beautifully off of Batwoman’s crimson hair, while also mirroring Crow’s envy over Kate’s ability to choose this life, rather than having it forced upon her.
As Detective Comics #946 comes to a close, one can’t help but marvel at Tynion’s ability to play across the emotional spectrum. As always, this issue is a roller coaster ride through feelings happiness and anger; through hope and despair. That being said, the art team still manages to do an outstanding job following the intricate ebbs and flows of this engaging and fast-paced story. The classic Caped Crusader action is rounded out by strong character beats, as well as captivating sub-plots, and truly sets the bar for what an ideal team book should be.