Detective Comics #978 review

I have a lot to discuss here, and I have mixed emotions about many elements within this story… So, let’s just jump into it! Fair warning though, there are spoilers aplenty after the credits page!

This issue picks up two hours after the events of the previous chapter. If you remember, Batman and Red Robin were about to bust a group of criminals when Colony soldiers beat them to the drop and massacred the threat. The end of that issue teased Batman and Red Robin going against the Colony soldiers for this chapter, so if you’re like me, then you were probably excited to experience a visceral brawl. As it turns out, our experience of that brawl ends up being a lousy, one-page, “Oh, hey, this happened, but we don’t have time for it, so just know that it did happen, that it was brutal, and that Tim needs crutches now because of it.” To say that I’m not amused by this execution is an understatement.

Tynion has a bad habit of denying us these moments, and it’s incredibly frustrating. Batman – and the supporting team – are badasses, so it would be nice to be reminded of this or witness it every now and then. Batman’s physical ability, his strength, wit, and discipline in various martial arts make up a large part of his character… and it’s a part of Bruce that Tynion neglects or undermines time and time again. In fact, it’s been brought up in multiple reviews from multiple outlets throughout the current run. I didn’t harp on this in my previous review because I honestly felt like I would’ve been beating a dead horse, but based on comments from you guys, I was wrong, and this conversation is needed.

James Tynion isn’t the only writer at DC that’s guilty of diminishing Batman though. Multiple writers are struggling, or have struggled over the past few years, to really deliver a true, honest Batman, and that’s a shame. He’s a beloved character – arguably the best superhero out there – because he is Batman, and writers/ DC can’t seem to let him be Batman. Maybe they understand him differently than I do, or perhaps they’re caught up in telling their own stories and agenda. I’m honestly not certain. That being said, I will acknowledge that Tynion attempts to add some detective elements to this story – something I’ve heard many Bat-fans request lately – and while I appreciated it on my initial read-through, the concept fell apart for me the second time I read this book. So, let’s pause to examine the “detective work” that occurred in this issue.

Following the fight with the Colony soldiers, Batman brings them to the Batcave, where he deducts that these men were operating against their will. For Batman to reach this conclusion, he needed to remove the armor from the soldiers to examine their bodies and learn that their skin was lacerated, and joints were ripped due to them resisting. This was his only way of assuming these men were forced to act against their will. So, that begs the question of what tipped Batman off to bring them back to cave and examine them to begin with. Bruce and Tim both acknowledge that it’s not out of character for the Colony – or Kate at this point – to take lethal action. They also acknowledge that the Colony soldiers let the A.I. of their suits control them previously because they were programmed with the fighting styles of various fighters. So again, knowing all of this, why on earth would Batman assume something isn’t right and bring them to the cave? Simple answer: he wouldn’t. This happens just so Tynion can create a “moment” that serves as a means to an end, and sets up the narrative he wants to tell… Nothing about this is natural for Batman as a character.

What’s more frustrating, is that Tynion still could’ve reached his same conclusion without creating this convoluted mess. By asking the simple question, “What would Batman do here?” Tynion most likely would’ve realized that Batman would’ve beat the snot out of these guys, then go straight to Kate and her father to confront them about their methods. This could allow Bruce, as well as Kate and her father, to learn that something isn’t right. If Tynion wanted to add a detective element to the narrative, he could’ve easily just had one of the soldiers lose their armor during the fight, then have Batman – or Red Robin for that matter – notice the physical signs of resistance at the scene of the fight… but he didn’t.

Before I move on, I want to call attention to another moment in the opening scene that bothered me, and that’s Tim’s lack of detective skills. Tim’s deductive reasoning and care for assessing details is supposed to rival Bruce’s, but he’s far less capable here.  This bothers me. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Tim falling short, I have a problem with how it plays out. Tynion only seems to know how to elevate a character by diminishing or putting another character down, and that’s exactly what occurs between Bruce and Tim. We discuss how frequently Tynion does this to Batman, but we rarely acknowledge how often he does this to the supporting characters as well. For me, this is a sign of poor writing. And even when he does feature Tim using his “detective skills,” he just magically comes up with the answer or solution – much in the way he does when he ties William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the Colony soldiers suits being corrupted. If you know the play, then you’re probably trying to figure out what actually triggered Tim’s epiphany. Another hint: there isn’t a valid reason or connection.

Unfortunately, the logic of this entire set-up gets even worse when you realize that characters ultimately contradict themselves in this story. As far as Bruce is concerned, he goes out of his way to convince Tim that the Colony soldiers acted against their will – meaning they acted against what the Colony stood for and wanted – but in his next scene, Bruce is confronting Kate and her father with the stance that they played some part in what went down. The two concepts don’t add up. Either the Colony knew what they were doing and the soldiers carried out their mission as ordered, or the Colony didn’t have an active role in the massacre.

Then to add insult to injury, you have Kane’s speech about “stemus simul” (which is Latin for “stand together”) being the family motto while trying to convince Batman they need to work together to figure out the problem at hand… If you’ll remember correctly, Kane is the man that’s been trying to tear Batman and team down since the first arc. Where is the logic in this? Bruce should be preaching to Kane about this, not the other way around… And this outcome would’ve been possible if Tynion didn’t shift Batman’s mentality from one scene to the next for the sake of confrontation and drama.

Despite the dismal set-up and lack of care or attention to detail, there are nice moments in this issue. Intertwined in all of the mess, there are nice character beats. I like the idea of exploring the family ties between Batman and Batwoman. There should be more of this. They don’t need to agree on everything, but the sheer acknowledgment that they share blood adds many great elements to their relationship. I also like that it gives something other than tragedy to Bruce’s parents. In addition to this, we also get some nice foreshadowing involving Cassandra, and a relatively intriguing twist with Tim by the end of the issue… But, then there are moments that clearly had the best of intentions, but are completely out of place. Tim has a moment with Cassandra where he offers to be her reading partner in the wake of Clayface’s death. The interaction itself is fine, but it comes in between Tim analyzing Colony soldiers, and Cass questioning their methods as heroes (which, by the way, is the same arc as both Stephanie and Harper), so it just feels awkward.

Unfortunately, I’m concerned that there are other problems that we’ve yet to see. Tynion has three issues (four issues including this chapter) to wrap up narratives that were intended to stretch another twenty-plus issues. The key to success for the remainder of his run is going to be how he edits his original plans to resolve loose plots and close his story. I’m worried that there are moments that Tynion had planned that he loves, and because of that, he’s going to try to shoe-horn them in just for the sake of having them. If so, his desire to do this is going to hinder him from telling the best story possible, and we see the first signs of this with the Brother Eye/ Omac storyline.

Two weeks ago, I stated that I didn’t want to deal with Brother Eye or Omac. The fact that this chapter deals heavily with both elements doesn’t win any points from me. I feel that the concept of Brother Eye creates a limited scope in the type of story that can be told, and we essentially had this story in Futures End and Batman Beyond within recent years. Beyond that, recent attempts to expand on Brother Eye have felt like cheap imitations of the introduction of Omac in the 70’s, and the popular Infinite Crisis event. Removing myself from that opinion though and focusing strictly on the story Tynion is trying to tell, I didn’t want Brother Eye/ Omac because I’m more concerned that the narrative won’t have enough pages to play out properly. I’m also concerned that this story will come at the expense of what most of us want to see – our favorite characters dealing with the consequences of their actions and the trajectory for their future.

Now, you might have the response, “Brother Eye is a consequence of what’s already been set up, so it needs to be dealt with.” I disagree. I think Brother Eye was dealt with well enough – at least for the sake of this run – when “future Tim” was stopped. What needs to be dealt with, is Ulysses. This could easily be accomplished by having Ulysses use the Colony. He doesn’t need Brother Eye. So now, instead of using the three remaining issues to wrap up Ulysses arc and other incomplete stories (for example: the fact that Bruce’s idea to build a team failed, the consequences of Kate killing Clayface, Kate’s relationship with her father, Kate’s role with the Colony, Tim and Stephanie’s relationship, Tim’s future as Red Robin, Stephanie’s outlook on vigilantes, the future of Luke and John, Cassandra’s growing emotional instability, the role each of these individuals play as heroes, and so on), we’re forced to deal with Brother Eye and Omacs (yet again).  I’m not going to say that it’s impossible to create a satisfying conclusion at this point, I just think the chances of doing so – and doing it well – in a way that covers every established character arc or plot is slim.


I am curious to see how this turns out for Tim though.

Recommended if:

  • The teases of Brother Eye excite you.
  • You’ve been a fan of Tynion’s run on Detective Comics.
  • You’re happy that so many characters are featured in the book.

Overall: Tynion continues his swan song for Detective Comics, and I wish I could say that I enjoyed the issue more than I did. There are fundamental problems that have existed in this book for a majority of it’s run, and they appear here as well. If you’re able to look past questionable characterization and logic, then you might find something worthwhile. Unfortunately, the more I dissected scenes and moments, the more glaring and problematic they became. While others may be able to look past this, I cannot. But hey, at least we still have Tynion’s “Rise of the Batmen” arc… That was good, right?

SCORE: 5/10