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James Tynion IV is quickly proving to be one of the best Batman writers out there. For me, his stuff is simply hitting that perfect sweet spot.  It’s definitely an homage, but presented in a new way that doesn’t debase the material being referenced. But that’s not all.  You’ve got plenty of moments thrown in that are off the charts on the coolness factor (I found myself geeking out more than once).  However, a book that has nothing but flash and eye-candy isn’t going to make its mark in the annals of Batman history.  Fortunately, Tynion has us covered on the introspective front as well; posing questions and addressing subject matter that have plenty of contemporary cultural significance.  If all that wasn’t enough, his characters portrayals are so spot on it’s almost uncanny.  Right from issue 934, I think that was my biggest take away from his work.  And honestly, it was the biggest surprise as well.  His characters say what you expect them to say, interact in a manner that is conducive with their personalities, and do what you expect them to do.  There may not be any jaw dropping surprises, but for this reader, I’d rather have consistently well written characters than random moments of shock and awe.

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The story opens with a couple members of The Colony cataloging items from Batman’s utility-belt.  It stands as a perfect example of everything you should expect to get from the rest of the story.  It exemplifies how formidable Batman is.  It offhandedly references past stories.  It contains a splash of humor.  Basically, if you like these couple of panels, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love the rest of the book.  Immediately following this, things quickly transition into exactly what I was hoping for.  Kinda made me wonder if Tynion was reading my mind, or if perhaps his story telling is just so intrinsic that there is simply no other way for it to have logical played out.  Either way, I thought it was wonderful.

I’m sure some people will say, “But if it happens exactly the way you think it’s going to, you’ll never be surprised by anything coming up.”  Personally, that doesn’t matter to me.  The execution of something has always been way more important to me than a cheap thrill.  I want a story that I can read dozens of times and still be just as pleased with it as I was on the first reading as I am on the tenth.  Surprises and twists will typically not be as engaging on subsequent reads.  But what Tynion is laying down here is quality that will stand the test of time.

Another thing that is making this story stand out so much is all the smaller more insignificant moments.  Things that, if omitted, wouldn’t impact the main story being told, but their presence is definitely the frosting on the cake.  All these little moments in between the major story beats serve to further connect you with the characters and add a sense of depth and realism to the world that raises it to new heights.  Take this moment for instance:

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This quick little interaction between Tim and Steph is a total throw away in the greater scheme of things, but it speaks volumes about their characters and the relationship they have.  It also feels completely natural and makes you care about them.  You get the sense that they are real people who have feelings, aspirations, and interactions beyond just what you have witnessed.  A lot of times I think we take for granted that all of this stems from the mind of just one person.  When actors are on set, this kind of interaction would just come from them playing off of one another.  But in this instance, Tynion has to come up with this.  It doesn’t just happen.  It could have easily been nothing more than RedRobin giving a speech about freeing Batman, but Tynion makes it special.  I also have to add that I love the sheepish grin on his face.  That is totally 90s Tim.  If you had told New52 Tim that he was bragging, he would have been like, “Yeah.  I know I’m awesome.”  But here, Tim is almost embarrassed by his skills.  Which couldn’t be more correct.

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Tynion is killing it with these little moments.  Just look at the expression on Batman’s face.

So, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by calling out the fact that Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong shows up.  Any Batman fan on their game would have noticed the hint from last issue.  In any case, the scene between these two is equal parts hysterical and unsettling.  It’s fairly clear that this isn’t the complete psychopathic blood-luster from the 90s, but the sociopathic tendencies that Tynion has given this new version of Ulysses are almost more disturbing than the originals.  At first, he seems like a normal kid that’s just totally into Batman.  Considering that we are all Batman fans, it gives us a weird kind of empathy for the guy.  But it doesn’t take long to realize that he isn’t like us at all.  Nope.  This kid has got some serious issues.  He has this childhood innocence when it comes to some things which completely masks an air of sadisticness that is hiding right under the surface.  The interaction between these two was definitely the highlight of the book for me.  Also, for those of you that have been wondering what all this has been about, Ulysses lays it all out on the table.  It totally reminded me of the villain cliche where they reveal everything to the hero because they think there is nothing the hero can do to stop them anyway.  It’s really great stuff.

Alvaro Martinez handles art for this issue, and what can I say, it’s some real top notch stuff.  I kind of feel like I already pointed out some of his strengths leading up to this with my comments on facial expressions and the like.  But as we all know, pictures are worth a thousand words.  So, just skim through this article and check out the screen caps I included.  I’m sure you’ll all agree that he is a force to be reckoned with.

Spoiler

  • It looks like I wasn’t totally off-base in thinking that Ra’s Al Ghul had something to do with this story.  Granted, it’s not clear yet whether or not Ra’s will actually make an appearance or not.  But he does seem to be one of the elements that The Colony was formed to combat.

Interesting Facts:

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  • I’m guessing that reference speaks for itself.

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Is that a Riddler Trophy Achievement in the top right hand corner?

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That’s Jean-Paul Valley in the Batsuit, for those of you unfamiliar with this part of Batman history.

  • Look everybody!  This issue presents the modern version of the Bat-subway car that was designed by Harold Allnut.  You know Harold.  The mute guy that lived in the Batcave and made toys for Batman.  What?  You don’t know Harold?  Hmm.  You seem to be suffering from a vitamin B deficiency. (B as in Batman)  I’m going to prescribe a steady intake of Batman comics in order to correct this imbalance.  Make it a point to read two new Batman comics every day and you should start feeling better in no time.

Recommended if…

  • You’re a Tim Drake fan.
  • You like stories that broach contemporary issues.
  • You’re super stoked for the return of Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong.
  • You love when a writer pays attention to the little moments.
  • You like stories that use and respect the history of the characters.
  • You’re of the opinion that you can never have too many references.
  • You love when characters are well portrayed.

Overall:

In the 2 years and 200 some reviews since I started doing this, I’ve only debated giving something a 10 three times.  This is one of those times.  It was so close that I almost considered doing it just so I could say I finally did it.  But that would be disingenuous.  What was so good about this?  The character’s are portrayed to a “T”.  The dialogue encompasses a range from humorous, to dead serious, to endearing.  Basically, the full gambit of emotions at exactly the right place in the story to make the most impact.  It’s chock-full of cool moments, awesome references, and amazing characters.  The subject matter will even give you pause while you debate it.  I think the only thing that kept me from giving this a solid 10 was the art.  And by that I in no way mean that the art was anything less than great.  But I never saw that one panel or page that leapt out at me and said, I have to have that as a 24×36 poster.  Regardless.  Tynion’s arc on Detective thus far has been phenomenal, and you should definitely think about jumping on this Bat-Train if you haven’t already.

SCORE: 9.5 / 10