Batman: Detective Comics #974 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Philippe Briones, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Can’t Accept This Kate Kane
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: A brilliant, brutal, character-driven issue that drives home the consequences of the war the Bat-family faces every day, this prelude to next issue’s anniversary issue picks up seconds after Batwoman fired a high-tech bullet into Clayface’s brain. And any hope we may have had is dashed quickly as his clay body dissolves into nothingness in Cassandra Cain’s arms as Doctor October confirms that there’s no way he could have survived. That sets up a civil war within the Bat-family as Batman confronts Kate over her actions and her violation of his most sacred crime-fighting philosophy. Between Bruce’s self-righteousness and Tim’s paranoia over her going evil, you do sympathize with Kate’s side – until Cass shows up to confront her and calls into stark contrast Kate’s dispassionate approach with Cass’ raw grief. It’s not long before the Bat-family is split in two, with Bruce benching Kate and Batwing and Azrael siding with her.
This is far from the only powerful content in this issue, though. Lost in the chaos is the fact that Doctor October did create a fool-proof cure for Clayface’s condition – one which she gives to Glory in a scene where she manages to carefully balance her sympathy for what Glory was turned into with her disgust over what she became. October is definitely one of Tynion’s best original characters. Tim’s breakup with Steph over his increasingly obsessive actions and his following breakdown in front of Batman are some of the best scenes in the issue. Tynion hasn’t shied away at all from the fact that Tim’s time in captivity did some very bad things to his mind, and he really hasn’t had the time to recover or address it at all. The issue ends with not one but two cliffhangers – one presenting a potential change of alliance, the other teaming two deadly villains. And an excellent run keeps on raising the bar.
Corrina: All that Ray says is true. The scenes between Tim and Bruce are affecting and one sees how good a substitute parent Batman can be when written well.
And, oh, wow, Cass’s grief over not only Basil’s death but what she sees as Kate’s betrayal is intense. The art team shines in these scenes. The postcript, of Doctor October curing Glory is beautifully written, striking just the right tone. Yes, Doctor October is a fabulous character.
But this issue will be remembered as being the one where Kate Kane’s character was irretrievably altered.
Throughout his run, Tynion’s themes have centered on use and abuse of power. He started with the First Victim, who demanded that those who’d been collateral damage in Gotham City stand up for themselves and take revenge. While the First Victim’s methods were the same ones he claimed to hate, his message had resonance. Were the Bat-Team helping anyone, really? The last issue saw that contrast come to fruition, as the First Victim created more victims himself, while the Bat-Team rushed to save them.
And then Kate shot Basil. No, Kate executed Basil.
Or you could look at is as a soldier during a war, doing the right thing. That’s certainly what she believes. Except soldiers usually act under orders and authority of some sort and Kate had only her own.
What Kate did, no question, is take the law into her own hands. She had no authority to make the decision as to whether Basil lives or dies, any more than Jacob Kane had the right to decide that some citizens in Gotham need to die from his efforts to save most of them. That’s pure vigilantism. That’s the Punisher.
Bruce Wayne is right to call that not something Batman does because as much as costumed superheroes commit to violence, once they take the entire law into their own hands, it’s definitely over the line.
From the beginning, I’ve been unhappy with Jacob Kane’s turn to become judge, jury, and executioner. Doubling down on that with Kate only makes it worse.
I’m not pleased because this is an action that will haunt the character forever and change all future portrayals. It’s not something that can be walked back.
I don’t like it, it’s not a good direction for Kate, and it’s not one I can follow.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.
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