Detective Comics  #975 review

Clayface is dead. Killed by Batwoman while rampaging through Gotham City, big as a city block and out of his mind. Batman, Red Robin, Orphan... none of the Belfry operatives were able to stop the mud monster. Kate Kane’s actions likely saved dozens, if not hundreds, of lives. Obviously, Batman’s not happy that she ended the life of a sentient being, and Clayface has lately been an ally - Basil Karlo was trying for redemption. 

Batman has called a meeting in the Batcave. Batwoman is not invited. What he wants are the opinions of his closest prodigies on the matter. 

Red Robin Tim Drake, who designed the Belfry operation, begins. 

Dick Grayson, Nightwing, then jumps in. His view is that while Batwoman shouldn’t be permanently kept on the outside, time is needed, time in which she can demonstrate appropriate remorse. 

Current Robin Damian Wayne has nothing to offer. 

As for Jason Todd, aka Red Hood...

And then we come to Barbara Gordon, Batgirl. She figures Batman had an ulterior motive for endorsing Tim’s plan for a team - eventually dubbed the Gotham Knights. He wanted to rein Batwoman in, shape her desire for revenge on the Underworld: ‘You didn’t want her to be a soldier. You wanted her to be a bat.’ Make her a hero, not a killer. 

Away from the cave, we see that Kate is regretful, but certainly not sorry for what she did. She’s upset at the effect her actions had on Cassandra Cain, Orphan, who had grown to care for Basil. 

But Kate trained as a soldier and did what had to be done. Back in the Sixties, in Adventure Comics #342, Star Boy was put on trial by his team, the Legion of Super-Heroes, after killing a man in self defence. The authorities accepted his contention that he had no choice, but Brainiac 5 wasn’t having it and demanded Star Boy be expelled for violating the Legion’s code against killing. 

Here, though, not one of the people judging Batwoman offers an alternative. They couldn’t stop Clayface’s berserker rage, Kate did, and even days later they haven’t a single idea as to what else Kate could have done. Not one person even tries to construct a cool tabletop diorama! 

It’s telling that Batgirl, in a scene at the start of the issue, implicitly acknowledges that there was no other way to save Gotham from Clayface. And that’s why her spotlight moment works so well. Writer James Tynion IV gives us the best Batgirl in years - not the whimsical teenage genius of Burnside but the mature swot of Gotham Library. She’s the one with the insight to really challenge Batman and Tim’s grand experiment. 

And what’s Batwoman doing while her future as a member of Batman’s inner circle is being debated? 

Fighting the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City and his sinful simians! Penciller Alvaro Martinez, inker Raul Fernandez and colourist Brad Anderson do wonderful work throughout, but really shine in this action shot. The placement of the figures, the sense of motion, the way Batwoman dominates a scene filled with maddened monkeys... it’s splendid stuff. 

Even better, though, is this silent scene. Every feeling is there in the art, Kate’s emotional scars as on display as her physical ones. 

As for the rest of the book, it’s one of the most dense I can remember in terms of information-filled art. There’s no skimping on the background, the body language is precise, the execution expert and it’s all coloured for mood. This is five-star work from all the creators, and that includes captain of calligraphy Sal Cipriano, who perfectly lays out all the credits... and forgets his own. Now that’s modest. 

Martinez, Fernandez and Anderson also team up for the moody, misleading main cover, while Rafael Albuquerque supplies a truly terrific alternate image. 

Detective Comics #975, having an arguably anniversary number, is extra-length, meaning there’s plenty of room for characterisation. The Trial of Batwoman provides a framework to spotlight the differences between Batman’s top lieutenants - Batman himself barely speaks - and it works beautifully. The story closes with Batwoman making a big decision. It’s a grabber of an ending to another fine issue. 


Detective Comics #975 review, James Tynion IV, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Brad Anderson, Sal Cipriano, Adventure Comics, the Legion of Super-Heroes


  1. I loved this issue, and Batgirl hit it on the head. Her analytical speech really got to me because I ask some of these same questions of Batman. Who gave him, and the JLA for that matter, the right to decide who gets to put on a mask and call themselves whatever they want. Batman is essentially a criminal vigilante, and his self-righteous attitudes get called out here by Barbara not in any kind of mean way, but with logic, and I absolutely loved it. She approaches it with the confidence of someone who has been well trained, who has a head on her shoulders, and who understands that Batman is not always the best judge when it comes to Gotham and its vigilante guardians.

    Barbara gets it, and she is willing to say it whereas the others all have a kind of fatherly affection toward Bruce that hinders their willingness to say anything that might hurt him. Except Jason, who seems to still hold on to some rancor.

    This issue was incredibly well written. The art was moody but not distracting, and the characterizations were almost perfect.

    The only thing that did not make sense to me was Batwoman's decision in the end. That is simply not something I see Kate doing unless she has an ulterior motive. Unless she is trying to achieve another goal.

    1. You’re so right. This is Barbara on top Oracle form, in no way a junior partner, an adjunct, but an equal force when it comes to defending Gotham from the criminals who are too weird for the regular law enforcers. Tim’s big scheme doesn’t seem many steps away from the Bats ruling Gotham.

      Kate has to be having her father on, getting close up to see what his exact plans are and foil them; and while she may not care a lot whether Cousin Bruce forgives her for shooting Two-Face, she’ll get some credit in the bank.

  2. If Kate isn't joining her father to bring down the Colony from within I will be VERY disappointed. Almost as disappointed as I am in the solo Batwoman book...

    1. That's what I think too. There is just no way she would change her mind about them and the way her father betrayed her.

  3. This has been such a good run. Almost every member of the team is a character I'd dismissed in the past, and in every case Tynian has given me an affirmative reason why they should exist. This is the book that finally made me love the extended Bat family, rather than just Dick, Babs, and Damian.

    I'm going to be sorry to see this run end. It's one for the ages. Even considering the shameful lack of dioramas.

    1. I wonder who has the tough task of replacing Tynion...

    2. It shouldn't be long before we find out. I remember Gail Simone tweeted that she picked up a gig writing two redheads, but Batwoman's the only one I can think of in Detective. (Then again, we'll probably get a cast shakeup, in which case Barbara Gordon might join. But then again, if we get a cast shakeup, Batwoman seems the most likely to be left out in the cold. So who knows?)

      Regardless, if I were thinking of a good person to continue the team vibe that Tynion established, Gail Simone is one of the first people I'd call. If Detective is going to veer off into a different direction, all bets are off.

    3. Hmm, Babs and Jimmy Olsen team up for World’s Gingerest?


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