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