Detective Comics #975 continues to deal with the fallout resulting from Batwoman killing Clayface. But whereas #974 contained extremely volatile reactions from some of the cast, this issue has given the characters time for their immediate emotional responses to recede and allowed them to have some much more constructive and analytical assessments of the situation come to the surface.
While the title (“The Trial of Batwoman”) and cover would suggest that this issue features some kind of trial by her peers in the subterranean depths of the Batcave with Batman standing in as judge and the rest of the cast acting as prosecutor, defense, and jury…it’s actually not that at all.
With the exception of a quick phone call to Batwing, Batwoman actually spends the entire issue away from the rest of the cast, mulling over what to do on her own. On the opposite extreme of that, Batman calls in the entire BatFamily to discuss this recent string of events. But he doesn’t call in the extended family, no, this is the inner circle: Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne.
Seeing all these characters together again (With Jason being the exception. Sorry, I’m not a Jason fan.) kind of made me wish that they didn’t all have their own books. Not that I don’t want them to be successful on their own accord and branch out from under the shadow of the Bat, just in the sense that I don’t like that they are all off doing their solo stuff all the time and don’t hang out together on a regular basis anymore. If I were writing a Batman Team Book, that’s my dream team right there (Excluding Jason).
Far and away, the best part of this issue is getting to see the inner circle together again debating and discussing Batwoman’s actions. The standout character from these scenes, and quite possible the entire issue, is Barbara. Maybe it’s the fact that I still haven’t washed away the childish/campy Burnside Batgirl from my mind, but the Batgirl depicted here by Tynion is very much the strong Batgirl I grew up reading. Her intelligence, wit, demeanor, and focus are all on point with everything I think of when I think of Batgirl. I think it can be easy for people to forget that even though Barbara is called batGIRL, she is an adult woman. In more recent years it was shown that she took on the mantle as a teenager, but the original Barbara Gordon was already an adult when she took on the guise. Seeing Batgirl regress to a younger state was always odd for me, regardless of the version, because she was originally introduced as an adult. In any case, this is a great depiction of Barbara and I commend Tynion for presenting it.
Now let’s look at some specifics from the issue.
The story starts off with a flashback; the funeral of Kate’s mother. In a weird way, it’s nice to see Bruce and Kate bond over the loss of their loved ones. It’s also interesting because it shows that Bruce wasn’t above contemplating certain actions. Granted, they are ones he eventual dismissed, but it’s definitely a Bruce like quality to at least consider all options before making a choice. But while Bruce may have moved past certain options, it seems clear that Kate always kept her initial feelings close to heart. She may have buried them in order to fit in, but they depict who she really is deep down. Back in the present we get this quote from Kate as she stands over her mother’s grave:
This is essentially the exact same vow Bruce made to his parents. It seems to me that Tynion included this in order to help the audience find some way of still rooting for Kate. While their methods might be different, Bruce and Kate really do want the same thing. And at this point, it’s more about deciding how far one is willing to go to achieve said goal, and if we as audience members are willing to accept the toll it may take on Kate. Is it worth becoming a monster if by doing so it means you can defeat the monsters you fight against?
That’s really the Kate relevant stuff from the issue, but as I’ve already said, the real fun was with the BatFamily portion of the story.
We start off with Dick and Barbara in the Clock Tower. And with just a handful of dialogue balloons, Tynion manages to encapsulate the raw baseline of both characters flawlessly. But then we jump to Damian Wayne’s bedroom and we have the first misstep for the issue. Cassandra is wandering aimlessly through the manor and enters Damian’s room. He asks her to leave and she attacks him. That was totally uncalled for. Sure, she is irritable right now because of what just happened to Clayface, and Damian didn’t ask kindly, but it’s still his room and she was intruding. Her attacking him is a disproportionate response. It’s also doubly annoying because it seems that the entire purpose of the interaction was merely used as the setup for a joke. Could have really done without that.
But let’s get on to the meat of the story; everybody’s speech regarding Kate.
Tim’s speech ends up being a Tim Drake history lesson coupled with his opinion from last issue. So really, nothing here is anything new since what we got we already saw in “A Lonely Place of Living” and #974. Dick on the other hand offers some fresh perspective that I actually liked. Assuming that killing Clayface really was the only option left to take (which I don’t believe it was), Dick suggests that if someone had to do a terrible thing, it may as well of been Kate. In essence, she was sparing anyone else from having to make a hard call. A hard call that if anyone else would have initiated it would have rocked them to their core. But for her, it was something she could live with, so she did it not only to help Cassandra, but preserve everyone else’s moral center.
Dick also points out that if he had done such a thing he wouldn’t have been put in jail by Batman, but would also have needed to undergo serious atonement before being trusted again. While that may be true, I’d have to say that Dick is far closer and more trusted by Batman than Kate ever was. So even if Dick did something like what Kate did, I’d have to imagine it would be far easier for Dick to dig himself out of that hole than it would ever be for Kate to. Then again, if Batman can forgive Jason, he should absolutely be able to forgive Kate.
Damian’s response, while not at all helpful, was hilarious and a total Damian thing to say.
Jason’s statement is a little hard to pin-down. It’s evident that he wants Kate to stay, but the specific reasons as to why aren’t all that clear to me. A lot of what he says is about himself and his relationship to Bruce and the group. But perhaps he was extrapolating his circumstances to Kate and assuming that she would still want to be a part of the group the way he has. What I found odd was when he went off about Bruce having a bruised ego and how this trial was him throwing a little temper tantrum. Look. The Bat-Club has rules. Yes, they are Bruce’s rules, but it is his Club, and if you want to be a part of that Club, you don’t break the rules. I’m sorry, but I still think it’s more important to Bruce that a life was lost. Besides, does Batman really even have an ego? I mean, he doesn’t fight crime for the recognition or the thanks. He does it because it’s the right thing to do. I feel like Jason tires to make a point, but it seems to me he makes it without fully understanding the very man he claims to respect.
Barbara lays out the truth of the matter at hand, and it’s pretty great. Great because it illustrates how keenly she has analyzed the entire situation, but also because it once again depicts how Bruce keeps all these secrets from them team. They always get upset with him when they figure out the stuff he’s been doing, like how he manipulates them all the time and doesn’t tell them what’s really going on, and this is yet another classic example of him controlling everybody without them realizing it. Bruce, the master manipulator. It’s like he doesn’t trust people to make the right decisions on their own, so he makes those decisions for them and tricks them into thinking that they chose the path they’re on.
I was with Barbara all the way until she made her closing statement. It’s really weird. Basically she says that since Kate and Martha were both Kanes, and Kate wants to kill people, that perhaps Martha would have been of the same frame of mind as Kate and would have wanted Bruce to kill. Wow. That’s a huge leap to assume that just because two people are from the same family it means they are likely to share similar opinions on an issue such as this. I mean, aren’t people also formed by their own personal life experiences once they leave the nest and not just how they were raised or the fact that they share a similar genetic code. I can understand Bruce wanting Kate to be around since she is one of the only living ties he still has to his mother, but the idea that Martha would want Bruce to be a killer is a bonkers idea for Barbara to even postulate.
Odds and Ends:
In case you missed it, check out the smirk on Damian’s face.
- I liked the way that Barbara stood up for Cassandra. It was a subtle reminder that in the pre-flashpoint era, Barbara was sort of a surrogate mother to Cassandra.
- Barbara makes a few other peculiar statements in regards to Kate. She says, “You can’t take away her Bat” and “You can’t put her on trial”. Then Barbara goes on to say that if Kate gets out of control/becomes dangerous and needs to be stopped, she will help. Wouldn’t stopping her essentially be taking away her Bat, and wouldn’t determining that she is out of control be a judgement on their part/putting her on trial. It’s just weird because I feel like she contradicts herself all within the same page.
- Barbara also says that Bruce wanted Kate to become a Bat over becoming a soldier. To my recollection, Kate was the one that adopted the Bat Mantle on her own. Bruce wasn’t involved with that decision. Now maybe he decided that since she adopted it he would guide her further into becoming a Bat, but why did Kate originally take on the Bat Emblem? Like, the “real” reason. I genuinely can’t recall. I know. Shame on me. Someone please help me out.
- This leads me to another thought. I’ll use Huntress as an example. And I’m talking 90’s Huntress. She wanted to become a vigilante in Gotham, but she didn’t take on the Bat Emblem. She became her own entity separate from what Batman was doing. Batman didn’t approve of Huntress’ methods, but there wasn’t the same problem with her acting badly that is currently present with Kate since people wouldn’t think Huntress was affiliated with Batman since she had no visual connection to him. Basically what I’m saying is, if you are going to be a Bat, be a Bat through and through. I can understand adopting the Bat Emblem because it would automatically strike fear into opponents and give you an edge that you might not normally have, but if you are going to take it on, you have to assume that its owner would have problems with you using it out of accordance with the way it’s meant to be used. Again, leading me to the same question, why is Kate wearing a Bat Emblem?
- Detective Comics #975 is $3.99 as opposed to the usual 2.99. I suppose they decided that this was some kind of milestone and needed to recognize it. But it’s not just a price hike with nothing in return. This issue boasts 28 pages compared to the standard 20 you’d typically get from this title.
- You’re a fan of the non-extended BatFamily.
- You prefer talking over punching.
- You like seeing characters with differing viewpoints interact with one another.
- You’re a Batgirl fan.
- You like when characters actually behave like themselves.
I’ve always been a bigger fan of what a character is thinking than the action beats a story delivers. If you share that sentiment, you’ll probably enjoy Detective Comics #975. It’s basically void of any real action as the main centerpiece of the story is simply the characters gathered around a table discussing Batwoman and what to do about her. But it’s not just a story for the cerebrally inclined, as the inclusion of several guest stars means tons of potential fan service as well. Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, and Damian Wayne all attend the meeting, and for the most part, Tynion does each character a considerable amount of justice. Sure, there’s the occasional flub, but I was overall pleased with the character portrayals Tynion presented. Couple all that with the fact that Alvaro Martinez is on art duty for this story (he’s been my favorite Tec artist since Rebirth started) and I think what you have here is a tale worth reading.
SCORE: 8.5 / 10