Red Robin is obsessed with preventing the dystopian future his self from an alternate timeline warned him about…and it’s pushing Spoiler over the edge! Batwoman’s father has some very bad news for her and the Gotham Knights. And Clayface falls into a terrible trap!
Detective Comics # 970
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Joe Bennett
Inker: Salvador Regla, Ricardo Jaime & Marcio Loerzer
Colorist: Jason Wright
Cover Artist: Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
Publisher: DC Comics
What You Need to Know:
After their defeat of a twisted version of Red Robin who became Batman in a dystopian future, Tim Drake is working with the Gotham Knights in the Belfry again. Unbeknownst to them, the Victim Syndicate have managed to break free of their cells in Arkham Asylum and are working with Anarky to destroy them all.
What You’ll Find Out:
Tim wakes up from a nightmare of his future self who warned him that he and the Gotham Knights are doomed. Stephanie comforts him and asks when he’s going to take a break and get some sleep. He dismisses her concerns saying he’s gotten excited by some new ideas—recruiting Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, taking over the GCPD dispatch to direct the cops to less dangerous calls while the Batman Family takes on the most violent ones, creating multiple Bat signals based in individual neighborhoods, creating free “Bat ambulances” to send patients to Leslie Tompkins, etc.
Stephanie is aghast and points out he’s talking “800 miles per hour.” Tim replies that he has a chance he can’t afford to miss to make everything better. He’s reviewed all the cases they handled while he was Mr. Oz’s prisoner and he knows he could have fixed everything so nothing would have gone wrong. He knows he can do it; he just needs more time. And then when he’s done, he will take care of himself and Stephanie, too.
Batman, Batwoman, Azrael, and Batwing break into a moving truck carrying cyber assassins. But Batwing hacks into them and learns these assassins are programmed with software that copies the moves and battle tactics of the Gotham Knights based on video surveillance of them. Batwoman wonders who and why.
Doctor Victoria October is with Clayface telling him she’s almost done with the cure for his unstable physical form. She says he can be Basil Karlo, movie star again. He voices his doubts that maybe deep down he’s filled with darkness and really a dangerous monster at heart. Dr. October talks of her transition from man to woman and that it didn’t fix everything she saw as wrong with herself. She still gets lost in doubt and depression, but her knowledge that she has bad and good parts of herself makes her stronger. Such insight will make him stronger, too. Then Orphan takes Clayface away with her on a mission to destroy the factory making all the cyber assassins where they discuss his issues some more.
Kate Kane AKA Batwoman is back at her own private HQ when her father Colonel Jacob Kane shows up as she’s trying to give herself stitches after the fight with the assassins. Jacob offers to do the stitching and she agrees, but demands to know why he’s come to her. He heard about his drones being activated to kill her and the Gotham Knights, but he was helpless to stop it. Once the stitches are done, she tells him they’re done.
But Jacob has seen a dossier about the Knights that contains the same info as the footage used to program the cyber assassins…
That’s when Jacob says it’s Tim, not Batman running the Knights—and he shows her an email with video from Tim trying to recruit the Colonel and his forces to join the Knights in eliminating all of Gotham City’s crime: “There are forces at work much bigger than any of you realize and if that boy doesn’t stop, somebody is going to get hurt.”
Stephanie walks into the Belfry’s computer nerve center where Tim is still working non-stop at the terminal. He confronts her by saying that the footage programming the cyber assassins must have come from her because it matches all her surveillance work that she told Batman she would do after Tim’s apparent death. Stephanie is insulted, but she pulls up the programming from the cell phone that took the footage; it’s coded by Moneyspider—Lonnie Machin AKA Anarky. Tim wants to know why he’s taping the Knights and framing Stephanie for it…
That’s when Tim uses the computer to hack into Arkham Asylum to check on Anarky’s whereabouts. He is stunned to find out the whole cell block is empty.
Clayface is now at Arkham visiting Glory Griffin AKA Mudface. He offers to have Dr. October give her the cure for their condition first before he gets it. But Glory is indignant and refuses. When he asks why she tells him she wants to continue being Mudface so that every time people look at her then they’ll think of him and what a monster he is. Security guards come in, taser him and they hold him down for her.
She leans over and removes the bracelet that keeps Clayface from losing control.
What Just Happened?
This is a solid second chapter to this arc. But a deeper look reveals flaws in the plot and the characterization that it requires.
The “A Lonely Place of Living” arc that preceded this ended with Tim Drake confronting and comforting his future self about the hopeless future that Tim faced. Tim’s argument to him was that he didn’t have to be alone; he didn’t have to do it all or face it all by himself. He wasn’t alone—not if he didn’t choose to be. That’s why he can change the future—by not trying to fix everything by himself alone.
So what does Tynion have Tim do in the very next 2 issues? Try to fix everything by himself.
Don’t get me wrong. The plot here is an interesting one that asks fair questions about the plethora of Batman Family characters running around all over the city trying to fix or control every criminal act by every single bad guy 24/7. At what point do the efforts of Batman and his allies cross the line from helping to become a paramilitary police force that replaces the law itself? Should the Gotham Knights step back and ignore some crime and allow people to come to harm because they cannot and should not cross that line? And where is the line and who draws it?
The problem is, Tynion spent multiple issues and the big finale having Tim explain out loud to both his future self and everyone in the room exactly why he would not try to do all that all by himself. We the readers are to now believe that Tim forgot everything he said 2 issues ago and completely ignore it. Also, we are expected to accept that Batman and every member of the team who overheard Tim say he wouldn’t try to do everything all by himself are now breaking his own solemn vow. Nope, they’re all just going to ignore everything Tim has been doing for days or weeks and not have said or done anything to stop him. That’s right—Batman, the most prepared superhero of all time, is either unaware or doesn’t care what Red Robin is doing with his team of vigilantes.
There is no salient argument or line of reason that makes such behavior by Batman, Tim or the rest of the team even remotely believable. Based on Tynion’s script, the only people who are aware of Tim’s self-destructive behavior and borderline fascist strategy are Spoiler and Batwoman’s dad.
I’m not buying it. But clearly, Tynion’s plot doesn’t care if that makes any sense. The plot requires Tim to abandon all reason and rush head-long into the very behavior he was afraid he’d adopt after fighting his own future self. That means we have to assume that Tim’s years of self-awareness have evaporated into thin air; that he has no insights into himself, no ability to question himself and analyze his own behavior.
The plot is an exciting idea. The dialogue in this issue is reflective and thoughtful. The characterization does follow a coherent path. But that path contradicts both Tynion’s own depiction of Tim in the past 90 days and Tim’s nearly 30 years of characterization in DC Comics, too. It’s like there are 2 different Tims instead of one and the same person.
This story may end with a powerful climax and be a rollicking ride along the way there. However, the discrepancies in Tim as a character between the last arc and this one are too big to ignore. Which makes the central premise of this story ludicrous nonsense.
Joe Bennett’s pencils in this issue are stronger than in the last. His depiction of Stephanie isn’t anywhere near as exaggerated as she was in close-ups last issue. The action sequences are dramatic and the coloring is sharp. The art elevates this story despite the obvious gaps in logic that Tynion is contorting Red Robin through to make him fit this plot.
Rating: 7.1 / 10
Final Thought: Batman barely appears on 3 pages of this book and doesn’t do much to influence the story in a title supposedly starring him. Red Robin is behaving irrationally and illogically due to writing that makes characters behave in nonsensical ways in order to adhere to the plot. Yes, the action is exciting and the implications of where this is headed could give us powerful drama filled with memorable moments. If only the machinations Tynion is utilizing to drive character actually made sense—because they don’t.
Not a horrible issue. Not a great issue. I hope where this is going is more believable and convincing that what we’ve gotten so far.