Detective Comics #974 is mainly about the fallout of Batwoman’s actions from the previous issue. 3 weeks ago, we saw Kate Kane take Clayface’s life by shooting him through the head with an experimental gun developed by The Colony. Ever since then, I’ve been pondering what would happen next.
My primary feeling was that there would be no way to forgive Kate for such a grievous act. Even if Clayface turns out to be alive down the road, it doesn’t excuse the fact that she didn’t hesitate to jump straight to murdering him, an action that is most clearly against the mandate of Bat-vigilantes everywhere. So, I let my mind wander and started coming up with some interesting notions on where this might go.
My favorite personal theory is that this is merely a ploy created by Batman and Batwoman to take down The Colony. Suppose there are parts of the story we aren’t seeing so that we have a big shock when the reveal falls in our laps. What if when Kate was presented with the gun she actually did show it to Batman and we just never got to see that scene. Then, what if he altered it so that it would merely neutralize Clayface and not completely kill him. At this point, Kate could enter The Colony and take it down from the inside. The charade would have to be maintained since the past has shown us that The Colony has kept vigorous surveillance on the BatFamily. In essence, The Colony would need to believe that Kate had truly switched sides in order to welcome here with open and trusting arms.
I think something like this would be great to see since it would capitalize on the notion of Batman being a master tactician and always thinking 3 steps ahead of the game. I also think it’s telling that it was someone like Clayface that Tynion chose to kill. If it had been someone like Cassandra getting shot through the head, there would be no way to “realistically” bring her back to life. But with someone like Clayface, I think it’s clear that what would and would not kill him is somewhat of a gray area, and him coming back is much more plausible.
I was also thinking that it would have been cool if Clayface would have been in on the whole plan as well, because then, he would have been able to enact a master death scene to fool all those watching (wouldn’t be the first time he faked his death). But then it occurred to me that if that had been the case, all that wanton destruction would have been sanctioned just to fool The Colony, and I know that’s not something Batman would have allowed. So, scrap Clayface being in on it. Would have been cool, but clearly impossible. However, I still think the idea of Bruce and Kate cooking up a deceptive plan to undo The Colony holds water. But that’s enough random theorizing on my part, let’s take a look at what unfolds in the actual issue.
It’s about to get real in here.
Despite the fact that I’m hoping for something a little more ambitious and less straight forward, it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t able to enjoy the story at face value. The key component to this particular tale is the drama of it all, and there are loads of it to take in.
My absolute favorite moment from the entire issue is when Batman confronts Batwoman. But it actually has more to do with the pencil work by Philippe Briones than anything else. The grimace on her face, the squint of her eye, the way her head is shrinking back behind her shoulders, and the obvious tension in her body. She hasn’t said anything yet, but her position on the matter is already clear. She is evidently confused as to why she is being reprimanded and quite unhappy with the fact that she is being scolded at all. I’m sure that in her mind they are equals, and to be admonished in such an undisciplined way is not only unacceptable but unnecessary. It’s just a very compelling image.
But then she opened her mouth and kind of lost me.
She has two main arguments: Killing Clayface saved lives, and if she were a soldier or police officer she would have been commended for her actions. While both of these things are true, they don’t really justify what she did. In fact, using the whole “if I were a soldier/police officer” excuse was extremely weak, because she isn’t one of those things. If she wants the rules that apply to those types of individuals to cover her actions, then she should just be one of those people and not a member of the Bat-vigilante club. The fact that it’s even a conceivable action for her to take tells me that on a fundamental level she doesn’t believe in/understand what the Bat-symbol represents.
The other side of her argument is that she saved lives. That’s good and all, but did she really have to kill someone to do it? As Robin points out, they ALWAYS find another way. She claims that they had plenty of chances to find another way and they hadn’t. But just because they had tried things that weren’t working yet doesn’t mean that given more time they wouldn’t have found something that would have. Because she did do what she did, there’s no way of knowing if they would have come up with something else that would have worked. She simply didn’t give anyone else further opportunity to try other things before resorting to an unacceptable response.
But it actually goes beyond even that. To say that they find “another way” almost implies that killing someone is “a way” of doing things. That it’s somewhere on the table. As if it’s a last ditch defense. But the fact is, it’s not.
It’s interesting, because I like Batwoman, but I’m also annoyed with her right now. And not annoyed in the sense that I think Tynion has misrepresented her. I actually think what she did her is something she would do. But I’m annoyed with her because of how adamantly she is butting-heads with the very concept of what her and Batman set out to do.
I should also say that while I do look up to Batman for his high sense of morality, it’s not necessarily a concept that I’m strong enough to adhere to personally. If someone broke into my house and was threatening to kill my family and I had an opportunity to kill them, you’d better bet I’d take it. So while the actions I would take probably fall more in line with what Kate did, it doesn’t mean I’m going to side with her over Batman. Especially not since Tynion has been spending so much time getting us to like Clayface. Given my love of Batman and newfound appreciation for the nice guy/unintentional monster that Clayface is, it’s hard not to look at Batwoman as being in the wrong here.
After getting an earful from Batman and Robin, Batwing and Azrael show up.
These two take Batwoman’s side. And while I was annoyed with Kate, I could at least respect what she was trying to do. Batwing on the other hand acts like a total douche. It’s also peculiar that they would take her side since both Batwing and Azrael have a past that would indicate they were against killing. Batwing has been shown to be a religious individual, and as such I’d expect him to adhere to the whole “thou shalt not kill” rule, and look down on those who break it. On the other hand, Azrael was an assassin, so he did his fair share of killing. But since he is reformed, and distancing himself from that part of his life, it’s not something he should be too partial towards. Granted, Azrael is more concerned with the ramifications of splitting up the group than debating what Batwoman did, but it seems to me that Batwing’s depiction here is slightly off from what it should have been.
Aside from that, everyone seems to forget that the Bat-Club isn’t a democracy. It’s Batman’s way or the highway.
Rounding out the issue, Tim has an emotional breakdown. In order to deal with everything that has happened, Tim seeks solace by retreating into his mind and working tenfold to create a better Belfry. But Steph thinks he is losing himself even more by doing so.
Leaving Tim on Valentine’s Day? That’s cold Steph.
Even though I don’t want to see my boy Tim get hurt, I really think leaving the vigilante business is the best thing for Steph to do for herself. After all, she only got into it in the first place because of her father, and that’s over and done with. So, what is her motivation for continually risking her life? Seems to me she’d be happier with a normal life. She could probably do more good for people by investing in social reform than in busting heads anyway. But back to Tim.
I don’t know about you all, but I keep seeing this shirt that says, “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, then always be Batman.” I love Batman, but the thing is, I know way too much about him to actually want to be him. This shirt is focusing on all the cool stuff: mad skills, awesome costume and car, and all the money in the world. But it ignores all the drawbacks: dead parents, obsessiveness, pushing loved ones away, control freak, loneliness, and an all encompassing childhood trauma. I wouldn’t wish being Batman on my worst enemies (well, maybe my worst worst ones. Then again, that would give them the mad skills to kick my butt, so scratch that).
The point is, being on the path to becoming Bruce is so devastating that it actually brings Tim to tears. It’s very poignant. It’s also double sad because he realizes that he is doing it to himself but can’t do anything to stop it.
On a less serious note than becoming Batman, I think most of us can relate to this. Maybe you’ve been sitting watching Netflix all day when you know you’ve got a school project due. Or maybe you are trying to lose weight but just can’t stop eating Krispy Cremes. Not in all instances, but I think that many of the hurdles we have to face in life are those that we make for ourselves. Just something to think about.
Favorite Line from the Issue:
- The title of this story is “Knights Fall”, and for me, it’s hard to look at that and not think of “Knightfall”. If you aren’t familiar with that title, it’s the story from the early 1990s where Bane injured Bruce and Azrael had to take over Batman duties. I just find it an unusual choice since it conjures up memories of something entirely different. When Tynion took the title “A Lonely Place of Dying” and turned it into “A Lonely Place of Living” for his new Tim story it made sense since the original and new story both featured Tim as part of the central focus. But here, I don’t see “Knights Fall” sharing any similarities with the story it most likely gets its name from.
- You like when a story is palpable with tension.
While the events that transpire in the wake of Clayface’s death are somewhat predictable, it’s the intensity of the interactions between the characters that still makes this a worthwhile read.
SCORE: 7.5 / 10