This review will contain major spoilers. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth every penny. Go read it, then come on back and read the review.
After lots of Internet speculation, and issues of buildup, we finally learn the fate of Tim Drake. When the smoke clears, the team is left without their brightest light, and Batman is determined that Colonel Kane should pay for his sins.
Off the field—or finally in the big game?
There isn’t much to recap here. After fighting through the wave of drones that loomed before him at the end of the previous installment, Tim faces a second wave, which appears to obliterate him. But things aren’t what they seem, as the young Drake finds himself very much alive, and very much in the custody of the mysterious Mr. Oz.
If you’re keeping up with your Rebirth books, you’ve seen Mr. Oz before. He’s been in the shadows of Action Comics, and writer Dan Jurgens links him to the Doomsday attack in that series. Oz seems to know a lot about Superman, and in fact, he first appeared back in Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr.’s run on Superman (starting with New 52 #32). He knew a lot about Clark back then, too, but we haven’t heard much of anything of him since—until the 80-page Rebirth one-shot and then Action.
I haven’t even gotten into what I think about Detective #940 yet, so why am I talking about a character that only appears on the last few pages? Because I think James Tynion just made Tim Drake the most important person in the entire DC Universe.
The Wizard of Oz
I’m about to get very theoretical, but I hope it’s more fun than chore, so please bear with me. One of the more popular guesses about Mr. Oz’s identity is that he is Ozymandias from Watchmen. This is a reasonable idea, given the strong connections to that seminal work established in DC Universe Rebirth #1. Prior to Rebirth, some fans speculated that he must be some alternate-Earth Pa Kent, given his familiarity with Clark and some of the particular statements he made. Like the Ozymandias theory, this one tries to make sense of Mr. Oz’s name, suggesting that the link between the state of Kansas and The Wizard of Oz was indicative of Johns’ (as-yet unrevealed) profile of the character.
Not Pa Kent
While I don’t buy into the Pa Kent theory, I think it might be on to something—specifically in its drawing a line from Mr. Oz to The Wizard of Oz. Now, for the sake of clarity, I’ll be referencing the most popular form of that famous story, the 1939 film starring Judy Garland. If my theory is correct, chances are good that Johns is thinking of the movie, and—more importantly—would expect more readers to have the film (rather than the book) as a reference.
So what am I getting at? Let me paint a picture:
In The Wizard of Oz, protagonist Dorothy lives with her aunt and uncle in Kansas. She seems to like her life, even though she has a nasty neighbor who probably wants to kill her dog. But she is almost literally ripped from that life when, caught above ground during a tornado, she (and her house) are whisked away to the Wonderful Land of Oz.
Except Oz isn’t all that wonderful. It’s certainly different, and there are some novel things that might seem like nice improvements (who wouldn’t want to hang out in Munchkin Land?), but it is also very dangerous. There are witches, angry trees, hallucinogenic flowers, and
parademonsflying monkeys. There’s a beautiful emerald city, but it’s ruled by a nasty, cowardly liar. When it’s all said and done, in spite of an adventure through an exotic locale, some new friends (some new friends with superficial similarities to her old friends), and some sweet ruby kicks, Dorothy confesses that “there’s no place like home” and is delighted when she at last finds herself back in Kansas.
I love this world, but there’s something missing.
There’s no place like home. For all of its problems, all of its Miss Gulches and tornados (draw your own parallels), the DC Universe has some of the best characters and history in comics. The New 52, like the land of Oz, offered alternate versions of familiar characters and histories, but these new versions were seldom better than, and were in fact often inferior to what they replaced. Even if some stuff looked a little cooler (not trying to start a debate), in most cases it seemed like something was lost.
And now here comes Mr. Oz, our own man behind the curtain, determined to maintain the illusion of The New 52, the compressed five years and the mental block strong enough to keep the Titans from recognizing Wally West on sight. Thanks to DC Universe Rebirth #1, we know there’s something wrong, something missing. We need someone to pull back the curtain and remove the illusion.
Tim Drake will pull back the curtain.
The world’s greatest detective
I have to hand it to the boy…he wants to be the world’s greatest detective, and from what I’ve seen so far…he will be someday.
– from Batman: Hush
Whether or not you buy my grand theory about Wizard, the fact remains that Mr. Oz is a major player in the central time/universe problem in Rebirth. In the 80-pager, he has an ominous meeting with Clark after Supes-52’s death. In Action Comics, he unleashes a Doomsday with an uncanny resemblance to the original incarnation of the monster. And now, here, when Tim Drake seems all but done for, Oz yanks him out of the game. He is wise to recognize Tim’s importance to Batman’s team and the larger DC universe, but his arrogance has allowed him to make the critical mistake of revealing himself to the Teen Wonder. We just saw how well underestimating Tim worked out for The General—I’m giddy thinking about Tim turning the tables on Mr. Oz.
But that’s enough about him for now.
A death in the family
The conclusion to Tynion’s first arc serves as the perfect close to Rebirth’s opening play. Out of—and in spite of—dysfunction, Team Batman saves the city and takes down the Colony. Out of the death of her relationship with her father, Kate reconnects (however tenuously) with the cousin she once comforted at his parents’ funeral. Out of the apparent death of Red Robin, walls come down and Bruce and Stephanie embrace as the father and daughter neither had. Hope is one of the driving principles of Rebirth, and Gotham’s brand of hope is beauty from ashes.
Beauty from ashes
This final chapter of “Rise of the Batmen” is high drama, and Barrows, Ferreira, and Lucas do a masterful job evoking the frenetic cyclone of emotion that Tynion is swirling around. There are frame-worthy spreads, moving facial detail, and artistic visions of grief that somehow seem more authentic than reality. The usual nits are there for the picking, but they are irrelevant. The good here is just too good to be undermined by the few flaws.
In the end, that is perhaps the most accurate comment on Detective’s first Rebirth arc. I can list problems if I want to, because they are there, but this story has been pure enjoyment from start to finish, and Tynion has graduated himself from Scott Snyder’s protégé to one of the top writers working for DC today.
- You have a heart that isn’t made of cold, dark stone.
- You want to see Tim Drake given the honor he deserves.
- You prefer seeing Bruce’s rough facade cracked with—rather than hardened by—grief.
- You’ve been wondering when we would get a major advancement in the the big-picture Rebirth plot, and you’re ready for something awesome.
We here at Batman News have loved James Tynion’s run on Detective Comics because it’s just been so darn good. Building on the success of its predecessors, this arc’s final installment manages to stand high above what came before. If you’ve enjoyed “Rise of the Batmen” so far, this issue will blow you away. And if you haven’t, it just may change your mind.