‘Detective Comics’ #934 Is Rebuilding The Batman Family And It’s Genuinely Great
One of the more interesting things about DC's practice of throwing out its existing continuity every once in a while and starting over with a new reboot is that it never quite gets to Batman himself. Sure, there are bits and pieces that are changed --- as the years go by, you lose elements like Joe Chill and Carter Nichols, until someone decides they want to bring them back again, for instance, and you might even get something as extreme as Zero Year coming along to supplant Year One --- but there's never really the kind of clean break with previous continuity that you see with Superman or Wonder Woman.
Instead, the core of what's going on with the character always carries over into a shift in focus, a new direction that brings one of those elements to the forefront in a new way. And this week, when Detective Comics returned to its original numbering under James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Adriano Lucas and Marilyn Patrizio, that's exactly what happened. It's the same Batman that we had before Rebirth, but with a new emphasis on his relationship to his extended family of sidekicks and partners. And it turns out that it's exactly what I wanted out of a Batman comic.
That's probably not that surprising. I've written before about how the idea of family is at the core of Batman, that necessary foundation that everything else about the character is built on in one way or another. With that in mind, getting a high-profile relaunch that not only examines and strengthens Batman's relationships with the rest of the Batman family, but even goes as far as expanding it to include Clayface, of all people? That's the sort of thing that would be right up my alley even if it didn't open up with a mysterious new villain trying to murder Azrael with tiny little Bat-shaped drones.
In that respect, this issue feels like it's picking up the threads that were laid out in Batman and Robin Eternal, a book that was entirely focused on Batman's past and present sidekicks. It has that same feeling, the same approach to using this massive cast that's mostly made up of teenage vigilantes, and considering that Eternal was one of the most ridiculously fun comics of the past few years, that's something I'm definitely into.
The difference, of course, is who's in charge. Batman and Robin Eternal worked as well as it did largely because of the absence of Batman, allowing the existing sidekicks to explore their relationships, and bringing characters that had fallen by the wayside with the last reboot --- specifically Azrael and Cassandra Cain --- to be brought back into the fold. With Batman back in action, I went into this issue with a little bit of apprehension, hoping that it wouldn't be about the Family having to establish their roles in this new iteration of the DC Universe by Earning Batman's Trust! again.
Instead, what we got was a series of pages that were all about how much Batman believes in his people.
And again, this is something that's right up my alley. Batman just confidently saying, "This is Tim Drake, he's great; this is Spoiler, I've underestimated her in the past but you know what, she's great too" is exactly how I want those relationships to play out, built entirely around people who believe in each other.
But that said, that's not a dynamic that has a lot of tension, so the solution of filtering it through the lens of Batwoman is one of the smartest things they could have done to restore that.
Ever since she made her debut, Kate Kane has always existed on the fringes of the Batman Family, and that's by design. She's meant to be a character who, while she clearly has a connection to all the other characters who wear bats on their chests, is driven by her own narrative that exists outside of Bruce Wayne's.
Because of that, bringing her closer into the Family is a pretty dicey proposition. Doing that without making her narrative subordinate to Batman's, and keeping her on the level where she started, as a character important enough that she was introduced as the main protagonist of this very comic, is tough. The solution, however, is the obvious one. If you just present them as equals --- and in doing so, reinforce the idea that she's a part of Batman's literal family as well as his chosen family --- then that is what they are.
Batman recognizing that Batwoman is more suited for training sidekicks is a genuinely brilliant move on multiple levels. For one thing, it makes perfect sense for Batman --- as much as he's always been surrounded by people to help him, one of the fundamental aspects of his origin story is that he trains himself. It's certainly inspiring and interesting, but it also means that Bruce Wayne only really knows how to train Bruce Wayne. For characters like Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, and even Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, the entire point is that they're not like Bruce Wayne. They exist in contrast by their very nature.
For Batman to recognize that not only as his own limitation but as one of Batwoman's strengths, though, makes perfect sense for both characters. It plays up Kate Kane's military background, but more than that, it shows that she's not only familiar with a more standardized training, that she can not only work well in a group --- something that's been established by the fact that her father has been serving as an ersatz militarized Alfred since her introduction --- but that she's capable of adapting that training to individual superhero work.
There's a level of trust in her on display here that I find absolutely beautiful. Batman revealing his identity is one thing, but there are a lot of people in the know on that one. Batman trusting someone with the lives of his family, though? There aren't many people on that level, and bringing Batwoman to that level doesn't just play her up as a character with strengths that Batman doesn't have, and it doesn't just give her a way into the inner circle of the Family. It also opens the door to explore a whole new set of relationships that have never been explored. And that alone makes it new in a way that I was very excited to see.
As someone who reads an awful lot of Batman comics, I've been following James Tynion IV for a while now. Through the past few years of backup stories and miniseries, he's been right on the edge of being one of the best writers for the character. Now, seeing his approach in action alongside an artist like Barrows, who handles these characters so well, I feel like he's finally there, doing something fresh and exciting that's moving forward in a really great way.