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One of the positives that’s apparent both in Detective Comics #935 and in the main Bat-titles as a whole post-Rebirth is a refreshing unity of purpose. Both “Detective Comics” and “Batman” seem to be taking a fresh look at what Bruce Wayne’s ultimate plan is the protection of gotham City and giving him a goal that for once seems to be sustainable and realistic (in super-hero terms). For a long time, Batman was depicted as an obsessive who viewed his mission as a one-man crusade, something he primarily conducted on his own, albeit with help. Though the various Robins, Batgirls and Alfred provided support, they were always positioned very much as junior partners, far less often as successors waiting in the wings. They might have stepped up once Bruce died, but that seemed to be the only way he’d countenance anyone else continuing his legacy.
In the new “Detective Comics,” though, writer James Tynion IV has created an opening storyline that relies on the idea that Batman is looking to groom proteges and successors to join his mission as equals sooner rather than later. It’s like Batman is building his own super-team, creating fellow vigilantes who aren’t simply inspired or trained by him, but also working together to accomplish the same goal as a unit. It’s an interesting approach, echoed by the Duke/Batman relationship over in the Batman title, that allows the famously dysfunctional starring character to come across as more well-adjusted without losing his rough edges. It also, in the case of “Detective Comics” in particular, allows supporting Bat-family faves to take center stage, and the cast of characters starring in this arc (Batwoman, Red Robin, Spoiler,
Cassandra Cain) are both well-liked by readers and also compelling in their own right.
This issue, the second instalment of the opening arc, takes a moment to better establish the group dynamics of the characters, clarifying their characters and the way they interact with economy and subtlety. He gives each of them an issue to deal with, a cool headquarters to work out of, and a lot of angst to draw from, including the question of why exactly Batman feels they need so much training and who exactly are they supposed to be training to defeat. All of it is tried and true team super-hero book fodder straight from the old school, true, but it’s very well executed, and already I can see this is a group I’ll have no trouble reading. And that’s part of the brilliance of holding the group from the right mix of popular, resonant supporting characters. I wouldn’t call the plot or narrative the most bold or innovative, but that familiarity combined with the sincere effort to create that we like and can get behind results in a classic DC vibe. And considering that feel-good fun vibe was what was missing form a lot of DC books until recently, you can forgive the feeling that the plot so far feels conventional.
But Tynion doesn’t forget about Batman either, and the Dark Knight is given more than enough to still retain his status as the star of this franchise. The villain they’re facing, and the army he leads, are mysterious and imposing enough to captivate, and to believably give a character as formidable as Batman enough worries to motivate his attempts to protect and improve his acolytes.
On the art side, Eddy Barrows does a great job, alternating between a classic super-hero style reminiscent of Bryan Hitch. But he does this interesting thing, aided by inker Eber Ferreira, where he’ll switch to a more painterly style in order to emphasize more quiet, emotional, slightly internal moments. It’s a risky move that could have come off as jarring, but I found it worked really well.
On the whole, Detective Comics #935 does a great job deepening the main characters and their interplay while still advancing the plot and elevating the threats facing them. The new attention to creating solid relatable stories following Rebirth seems to have produced another title that is far more enjoyable and one-handed than it’s been in some time. So, I’m giving it an 8/10.