The Victim Syndicate has finally crashed the party. But who are they? What do they want? What is their beef with Batman? And where can I get one of those fancy Foxtech flying cars? (What? It’s 2016. We should have flying cars by now.)
I didn’t buy the standoff that took place between the Bat-Family and the Victim Syndicate. When you consider the fact that 7 Bat-Family members were present, along with dozens upon dozens of cops, I can’t understand how The Victim Syndicate wasn’t completely steamrolled. Let’s break it down. I’ll start with the cops. Why on earth was Renee the only cop to confront these guys? Furthermore, she was sporting nonlethal Foxtech weapons. Why didn’t she just open up on these yahoos and take them all out?
I feel like Mr. Noxious spends half this issue unconscious.
When the Bat-Family does show up on scene, they make short work of The Victim Syndicate. First Victim threatens to kill all the cops so the Bat-Family will back down, but I’m not too clear on how that was going to happen. First Victim’s entire crew is sprawled out on the floor. I mean, how are they going to kill the cops when they are already overwhelmed and half unconscious as it is. Once threatened, the cops should have really gotten involved (They do eventually but way late in the fight). In regards to backing down, it’s one thing to do it in order to save innocent civilians, but these are cops in Gotham. Being exposed to high risk situations is in the job description.
dayummm! See what I mean….unconscious.
When the fighting does commence again, The Victim Syndicate is almost instantly subdued. Other than their power sets, these guys seem pretty helpless. Physically, nothing more than normal people and definitely not able to stand up to a Bat-beating. Since so much was going on at once, I was really paying attention to where everyone was during the fight. So when Batman gets incapacitated from behind by Madame Crow, I called foul. Batman was occupied with First Victim, Batwoman had The Mute, Cassandra had Mr. Noxious, Clayface was engaged with Mudface, and Harper was dragging out Spoiler. That leaves Batwing completely unoccupied for the duration of the second fight. Why the hell wasn’t he tussling with Madame Crow? Way to drop the ball Batwing!
Once Batwing does blast Madame Crow off Batman, we see the villains regroup next to First Victim. Look, I can buy that maybe The Mute got back up after being kicked by Batwoman, but after the brutal beating Cassandra opened up on Mr. Noxious, the guy should be in traction. Or at least unconscious and needing to be dragged out by his fellow miscreants.
Now that’s a pretty extensive breakdown, but it was necessary to highlight all the little moments that added up to a clunky/disorganized fight scene. To sum up: unbelievable resistance to overwhelming odds, unlikely inaction by the GCPD, vague on the location of the combatants, and I thought it could have flowed better. It just felt very stuttery. Action…talking…action…talking…action…talking….
While I wasn’t particularly fond of the execution of the fight, I quite enjoyed the idea that was presented through First Victim’s dialogue. Over the last several years, there has been a lot of talk among fans about all these huge catastrophic event that are always taking place in Gotham. About all these people that are always getting killed in mass. I kind of feel like this story is Tynion taking the opportunity to veer things back in the right direction. To bring it back to stories that focus on individuals rather than entire populaces being whipped out.
There was a time in the Batman comics where the death count was significantly lower. When Batman dealt with psychos, but it was always more of a one on one encounter where they were testing him directly and the city very seldom felt the brunt of the villains wrath. Back when this was the norm, there was a theory about Batman that I quite liked. Batman was a lightning-rod. If Batman wasn’t around, these psychopaths would be spread out all over and hurting people. But with Batman, they focused their attacks on him instead of at the people of Gotham. It made Batman make sense. That he really was saving lives. But when you look at that time compared to the last 5 years, it’s hard to say whether or not Batman is making as big a difference now as he did back then.
It’s never nice to see people suffer, but if I had to chose between a handful of people that I actually had a chance to get invested with or a bunch of nameless faces, I’d prefer to go with Tynion’s direction. It just gives you more of an opportunity to identify with what is going on rather than be distanced from it.
The Victim Syndicate
I always thought it was odd that Jason Todd took on the mantle of Red Hood. It’s like, you know that guy that killed me, I’m totally going to adopt his former alias. That’s just all kinds of messed up. And, that’s what’s going on right here for a lot of the Victim Syndicate members. So yeah, I basically feel the same way about these people that I’ve always felt about Jason. But, it’s interesting to explore that kind of psychosis. It’s kind of like Stockholm Syndrome. That thing where people in captivity start to identify with their captors. Seeing these people taking on the identities of the individuals that destroyed their lives, it makes me seriously question their sanity. Like, why not go after the villain that messed them up instead of Batman.
There’s something else I find peculiar. From reading their stories, I got the impression that most of the members of the Victim Syndicate had run-ins with the major villains some time before Batman ever actually crossed paths with those same villains. Madame Crow was Crane’s first guinea pig, Mr. Noxious was involved in Isley’s first outing, and Mudface was a result of Karlo’s first outburst of rage. Hardly sounds like Batman was present for any of that. I’m just not seeing how Batman was the intended target of anything. Crane wasn’t experimenting to use it against Batman, he was just experimenting. Isley was just ripping off rich guys using her mind control powers, it wasn’t being done to attack Batman. And Karlo, he just flipped out. It’s not like there was any forethought in that. The only one I could even possibly argue for would be Joker, and even then, it’s a pretty loose argument.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if these people weren’t ever actually interested in revenge. What if they were just trying to live their lives after their tragedies and then First Victim convinced them that they needed to seek revenge against Batman. What if First Victim is actually manipulating all of them. That would be pretty awesome. It would make their stories even more tragic. They’ve essential become the thing that made them through the actions of yet another villain. Messed up stuff.
The art team for this book is one of the two that have been handling Tynion’s run since the beginning, so, we’ve seen their work before. But there is something new that they are bringing to the table that I really like. In previous issues, they were doing this thing where certain panels were hazy and desaturated. It would show up in the final panel of certain scenes as a transition. Kind of like the way movies fade out. Now, they are taking that same technique and applying it to all kinds of stuff. For instance: smoke, gaseous clouds of poison, and First Victim. The first two giving the world a lot more texture and depth. But that last one I find particularly interesting.
In this shot, you can see that Batman has nice clean solid lines. But First Victim has an undefined, almost scumbling look. It sets the character apart from the others. Makes them seem almost not of this earth. The design is creepy enough as is, but when you add this technique to the character, it adds another whole layer of uncertainty and mystery. They are just slightly out of whack with everything around them and that really helps to deliver an unsettling feeling when looking at the character.
Odds and Ends:
- Aw, come on. Don’t borrow stuff from Iron Man.
- Irrelevant to the rest of the story, but I got a nice chuckle out of this exchange.
- Hell yeah there is! Get your butt out of that chair.
- Could The First Victim be Stephanie Brown’s mother? I don’t have anything to back that up. Just throwing it out there because it popped into my head. We’ve seen that The First Victim is very interested in Steph, and in Batman Eternal, they surprised us with the revelation that Stephanie’s mother was actually a bad guy too. But then she claimed to Steph that she wasn’t. But I didn’t buy that. And then she just disappeared from the rest of Eternal after Catwoman grabbed Steph. I don’t have any kind of explanation as to how Steph’s mother would have gotten powers or special equipment or anything like that, but I guess it’s just a loose end that I always wish would have been tied up.
- Incidentally, if I missed the explanation for whatever happened to Stephanie’s mother or I just forgot it somehow, would one of you guys be so kind as to remind me. Thanks.
- Here’s another one that’s completely bonkers, but I’ll say it anyway. What if First Victim is Jason Todd’s mother. Here is what I’m thinking. You know how all the people in The Victim Syndicate offhandedly adopted the look of the person that messed them up. Well, The red head on First Victim kinda reminds me of the red hood that Jason wears. I know. Super long shot. But I’m just spit-balling here and having some fun.
- Mudface’s design is definitely a call back to the original character design for Basil Karlo from Detective Comics #40 (1940). That…Is…AWESOME!!!
Variant Cover by Rafael Albuquerque:
- This cover is mesmerizing. The colors. The composition. I can’t stop staring at it. I even rotated it to look at it from different angles. That’s when I noticed that the head isn’t sitting on the same horizontal plane as the rest of the image. It’s super trippy.
***Sorry this review is a day late. I was very busy yesterday transcribing my interview with Scott Snyder. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it right here.***
- You wanna watch the Victim Syndicate get their butts handed to them.
- You want to see the background stories for the members of The Victim Syndicate (excluding First Victim).
- You’re interested in a story that’s more about characters and concepts than anything else.
This week’s issue of Detective Comics has plenty of action, interesting concepts, and fantastic art. But it also comes along with it’s fair share of somewhat problematic moments. Specifically, I felt that the fight scene was clunkily arranged and somewhat unbelievable. Along with that, I had a hard time integrating the Victim Syndicate’s background stories to coincide with their current objection to Batman. Even though the bigger picture presented in this issue is a little disjointed, many of the individual parts are quite excellent. While it’s not the best issue, it’s still got lots of great stuff going for it.
SCORE: 7.5 / 10