[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for "Detective Comics" #934.]
Anyone keeping tabs on DC Comics' current "Rebirth" event knows that legacy, nostalgia, and returning to the characters' strengths are the top priorities. While that literally means bringing back old favorites with "Superman" and "Action Comics," it also takes on a figurative meaning. Case in point: the latest issue of "Detective Comics," bearing the Issue #934, tying the book all the way back to its roots in 1937. And if it feels like a return to form, the issue is no different... with one exception.
After "Batman: Rebirth" #1 shifted the creative control of the flagship series to yet another voice in DC's current group of Bat-centric talent, the comic title that gave the company its name is doing the same (with writer James Tynion IV and artists Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas). But the assumption that it's keeping the status quo can stop right there: the gang's all here in a way sure to surprise - their guest of honor, most of all.
Getting The Family Back Together
The issue picks up with the return of one highly familiar face, but it's not the kind of fight that most fans of Azrael a.k.a. Jean-Paul Valley are used to seeing: in short, watching him beaten to within an inch of his life. Yet Batman arrives due to the destruction, learning two things: that Valley believes (as usual) in a vast conspiracy beneath Gotham - one that has sent Batman in pursuit of him - and that as crazed as Valley's claims may seem, someone really is watching. Who is doing the hunting, and why they're staging their actions as those of the Dark Knight are the key questions, and hinted at in the final panels.
Thankfully, the rest of the issue soon establishes itself as taking place directly after "Batman: Rebirth" #1. In that issue, the recruitment of Duke Thomas as Bruce Wayne's latest ally - the newly-created hero Lark - is shown without any insight into Bruce's reasons. In "Detective Comics," we learn that not only was Azrael being monitored with impossibly-advanced tech, but that Gotham's vigilantes were all being given the same treatment. Batman had planned to monitor, recruit, and train them all to be at top form for whatever was coming, but with the scale of the problem, a different action has to be taken. So with Duke already in the fold, it's time to round up the rest.
To counter the threat, Batman decides, requires functioning as a team. And, for reasons that should be obvious to most comic book fans, he decides that he's not the best person for the job. That task falls to Kate Kane a.k.a. Batwoman, the daughter of a military family and Westpoint student - before being expelled, and taking up Batman's line of work. She also happens to be Bruce's cousin, so her role as the leader of this unit is clear-cut. And, just as obvious, Bruce assigns her Tim Drake, the former Robin and current Red Robin, the boy Bruce has referred to as an even more gifted detective than himself.
After that, things get a bit more... interesting. Stephanie Brown a.k.a. The Spoiler is the next under surveillance, and with good reason: she's the only person ever to claim the moniker of both Robin AND Batgirl. As Batman puts it, the fact that she is "unrefined" matters less than her determination and, since she's being monitored already, Batman's not the only one who sees something in her future. Rounding out the former Bat Family members is Cassandra Cain, the girl raised to kill, but who found purpose as Batgirl (and later, as a villain to Tim Drake) before finding a new path as Orphan.
If it sounds like DC is positioning these three heroines back in the spotlight, it should - but it's staying true to their roots. Kate's military expertise is on full display, Stephanie will no doubt add some humor, and as claimed by Batman, Cassandra may be the best, and most skilled of them all if trained properly. Which will probably come in handy...
One Risky Recruit
As probably stood out in the above image, there's one recruit who stands apart from the rest: Basil Karlo a.k.a. Clayface. The shape-shifting villain seen here seems to be a slightly different one than fans are used to, according to the hints offered by Batman as to how he became the 'monster' most see him as. He's still a former film actor, but rather than turning to homicide or being driven mad, Batman implies it was simply an accident that turned the good Karlo into Clayface. And, as such, he's earned a second chance... and let's be honest, it's always useful to have a shape-shifter on the team.
The larger question is exactly why Clayface is being monitored alongside vigilantes serving the citizens of Gotham - and considering he's recently escaped from Arkham Asylum when Batman finds him, he's an even more important piece of the puzzle than the others, potentially. The answer will be coming, and fast, since the issue ends with the assembled team still being monitored via drone - by an army of armored soldiers, led by one mysterious figure. Extra help couldn't have come sooner.
Whatever the answer to this mystery, the team of former Bat Family members, sidekicks and allies is enough to set "Detective Comics" up as a long-awaited adventure. A Batman team-up would be popular regardless of who joined the title, but with underrated characters, or old favorites with some new wrinkles, the addition of Clayface is just icing on the cake.
Detective Comics #934 is available now.
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