Detective Comics has been astonishingly underrated in the overall conversation about Batman lately. It’s a bit understandable in some respects with All-Star Batman, the current Catwoman marriage story in Batman, or even Metal might overshadow it, but it might possibly be the best Batman book coming out right now. Over the course of the last two years with multiple collaborators, James Tynion has taken what constitutes a pretty fairly deep dive into the psychology of the Batman family, and the results have been fairly tragic. While the run is winding down with “Batman Eternal”, there’s still more ground left to cover before it’s finished, with Javier Fernandez fresh off Nightwing picking up the art duties this issue.
The final arc picks up where the last one left off with everyone picking up the pieces from Clayface’s death and the schism within the Bat-family leading everyone down different paths. The key thing that’s helped is that Tynion somewhat in the way King has in the Batman book, has treated the members of the group as real people, and the horror they’ve endured has become too much to bear. For Cassandra that’s taken the shape of grappling with her depression and self-loathing that’s only become magnified after watching her best friend die in her arms, with the possibility she might not recover given how Bruce failed to socialize her and threw her into his lifestyle. The splintered off members of the family: Batwoman, Azrael, and Batwing end up joining the Colony which still comes off as a bit of a weak point given how corrupt the organization came off as in the early going makes it rather… odd, what with it being an organization willing to kill people on a hunch and being answerable only to its own authority.
The strongest part of the issue though is the relationship between Tim Drake and Bruce Wayne. Detective Comics did a great deal of heavy lifting in restoring Tim Drake’s importance as a character, after he’d essentially been exiled to the Teen Titans corner of the universe for well over five years, all that build-up could very well have lost momentum when he died, but it went somewhere else entirely. Tim’s suffering of PTSD and trauma from his death and imprisonment has hung like an albatross over the last arc. since his obsessive actions in large part caused the death and destruction that followed, that obsessiveness comes to roost when Bruce finally decides he needs help before he slips further inside himself. Tim’s future as Batman, one that’s been peppered both subtly and overtly finally comes to a head here. It also helps to illustrate the core strength of this book: the willingness to explore this book from the context that Batman might very well be inherently toxic to the people he loves. The death, mistrust, and betrayals all stem from his decisions despite the attempts to course-correct, and Tim is an embodiment of those same faulty deals.
Javier Fernandez may not have been on this book from the beginning, but he slips into this issue like a glove. A large chunk of the issue’s emotional nuances owe a great deal to his character acting. From Cass’s muted sorrow, to the poor emotional communication between Tim and Bruce. Then of course there’s something as simply visceral as Batwoman and the crew beat up dudes in owl suits.John Kalisz’s darker colors help to convey the mood in that regard. It’s a near-perfect issue of what’s turned out to be a very thrilling run. One hopes Tynion will continue to write these characters in some form, but this is hardly a bad note to go out on.
4 Future Prophecies Out of 5