Padding for TPB befalls Fall of the Batmen, Part 3 (Detective Comics #971)

The Victim Syndicate has taken over Arkham Asylum.  Red Robin proposes a disturbing alliance that shocks everyone.  But Batman agrees to give himself over to the Syndicate…and that’s when a member of the Gotham Knights turns on them all!

Detective Comics # 971
Writer:  James Tynion IV
Artist:  Miguel Mendonca
Inker:  Diana Egea
Colorist:  Jason Wright
Cover Artist:  Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:
Tim Drake AKA Red Robin is working 24/7 to make both the Gotham Knights and their Belfry HQ operate at perfect efficiency.  That includes refusing to sleep and canceling all his college courses which has scared and angered Stephanie Brown AKA Spoiler.  But now the Victim Syndicate has taken over Arkham Asylum and lured Clayface into a trap.

What You’ll Find Out:
The voice of a news broadcaster describes how the Victim Syndicate took over Arkham with help from asylum guards as the camera focuses on GCPD barricades at the gate.  A female reporter walks in the front door as Madame Crow tells her not to be afraid.  She offers to give her a shot to calm her nerves, but Anarky interrupts and takes her to their leader the First Victim.  The reporter says she graduated from college last year and that the network said she had to go or they’d fire her.

The First Victim goes into longwinded monologue-ing about how Arkham is supposed to be a place of healing, but it is poisoning the city, blah-blah-blah: “Casting the people who would push back against the power structure alongside the lunatics that are allowed to run our city ragged.  We’re not the ones who hurt people.  We are the ones who help.”  This line sounds like a veiled reference to Anarky, but technically he’s the only one there pushing back against Gotham’s power structure.  The statement is maladroit and overly broad because Arkham has never been depicted as a place to imprison political revolutionaries.  It’s for seriously mentally ill patients, violent sociopaths, psychopaths and career criminals with superpowers only.

The interview goes a bit off the rails when the reporter points out that the Syndicate killed several police officers to which Mr. Noxious immediately claims credit for those murders with a smile on his face.  The First Victim cuts him off and says they only did what was necessary to “shock the system into realizing what it was doing by supporting The Batman.”  The logic here is rickety at best and any sane, reasonable person would see right through it.

She goes on to show Clayface behind the window of a locked cell and explains that he’s the villain Batman recruited “in his war on the people of Gotham.”  Again, any normal person would rationally know that Batman does not wage war on innocent people.  Saying Batman recruited a super-villain to help him fight super-villains would be a far more persuasive argument.  The First Victim requests the reporter tell Glory Griffin AKA Mudface’s story about the tragic accident that happened to her when Batman fought Clayface.  Logically, the reporter reminds her that people are going to want to know the Syndicate’s demands—to which the Victim replies “He’ll remember my demands.”  Um, who is he?  The mayor, the commissioner, Batman?  When characters ask about third parties in the plural and answer in the singular without it being clear who they’re talking about?  The script reads like it was rushed.

We cut to The Belfry where the Gotham Knights are watching news coverage of the Syndicate’s takeover of Arkham.  It’s 2 pages of talking heads and repetitive expository dialogue.

Detective Comics 971_pages four and five

Red Robin asks Batman what the Syndicate wants.  He answers they want him to unmask and give up being Batman.  Spoiler spends 4 word balloons explaining it’s partially her fault because they’re her photos (without explaining or showing what photos of whom doing what that she is referring to); it’s personal for them because they’re fanatics (no duh); she went to one of their meetings (why do readers need to be told this repeatedly during this arc?); they’re angry because they feel out of control and are blaming Batman (which makes no sense because she’s literally saying they blame Batman for how they feel, not for what he’s done).

All that exposition was hastily written without stopping to fix obvious gaps in logic.  Also, it is too longwinded and very tedious.  Red Robin chastises Spoiler for not telling them this.  It’s a stupid reply because it’s coming from a guy who has been listening to no one but his own agenda while going days without sleep.  Spoiler is equally stupid when she snaps that he and Batman are both super-rich superheroes.   Hold the phone—when did Tim Drake inherit Bruce Wayne’s money?  Then Batman has to ask what this has to do with what’s happening at Arkham as they are watching coverage of the protests directly connected to the Victim Syndicate.  Sorry, but Batman can’t be this dumb.

The endless talking heads continue for 2 more pages and it is painful to wade through.

Spoiler delivers more exposition explaining those who believe the half-baked philosophical arguments of the Victim Syndicate are smearing red paint on their faces to look like the First Victim (a terrorist who helped murder several police officers and threatened to injure or kill other people) and marching in the streets for Victim’s Day protests.  Since the citizens of Gotham City found out about Batman recruiting Clayface, they now want to end Batman.

I have a hard time even writing this nonsense with a straight face.  Of course, people are angry! But they want to “end” their hero over Clayface? Okay, maybe if he was working with The Joker, sure. But Clayface? There are obvious holes in this Swiss cheese analysis big enough to drive a truck through.  And we’re only on page six.

Azrael says and does nothing but stand around the whole time.  Batwing shows layouts of Arkham and Tim explains how they can break into it.  Then Batwoman makes a sarcastic comment about how they might enlist their mortal enemies, The Colony, to help like Tim wanted.  Batman and Spoiler were shocked and appalled.  I’m more shocked and appalled that Batman—a hero who thinks so far ahead he has plans for stopping everyone in the Justice League if they go, rogue—has no clue at all what Tim has been working on 24/7 for weeks.  Did Tynion or his editors ever even consider how preposterous all of this sounds?

We now get 2 more pages of talking heads and zero action that does not move the plot forward.  Orphan has to yell at all of them to stop fighting and point out that their friend Clayface needs saving.  Sigh, now the phone rings and it’s Mayor Akins calling on Jim Gordon’s private line. He threatens Batman and hangs up on him.  You could remove all 6(!) panels of this scene from the script and it wouldn’t be missed.  It adds nothing of value to the story and, again, does not move the plot forward.

Tim and Batman argue more.  He tells them to break off into teams to deal with the Victim’s Day protests while he goes to Arkham alone.  This is followed by 2 pages of Mudface torturing Clayface in an argument that only reiterates everything the two of them have already said to each other multiple times.

Batman arrives at Arkham to talk (because that’s 99.9% of what everyone does in this issue) with Jim Gordon for a full page.  Batman asks Jim why he went along with this (um, went along with what exactly?): “It’s the kids, Batman.  You know how I feel about the kids.”

Seriously, WTF?  What kids?  There are no children at Arkham or at the Victim’s Day protests; only adults.  Can someone translate this bit of inanity into English for me?

Tynion has Gordon repeat all of the Syndicate’s demands which Batman already told us way back on Page 2.  Batman then tells Gordon he’s going in to comply.  The amount of pointless padding in this story is egregious and undeniable.

Anarky is at the gate as Batman walks in.  They argue and debate all the reasons why the Syndicate is doing this which we have already heard ad nauseam ad infinitum in this issue.  This is yet another page you could cut and it would not be missed.  That’s followed by a whole page of the First Victim and Batman arguing which also adds nothing of value to the story.  Yes, Batman has a secret computer code that locks down Arkham, but who cares?  He himself admits it will only work once and never again so that’s the end of that.  Now he has to beat them all singlehandedly; guess who’s going to win that fight?

We get a page filled with 6 panels of Red Robin and Spoiler on a rooftop debating the protest they’re surveilling.  Orphan interrupts to points out the sewers underneath the protest locations all connect to Arkham…where Clayface is struggling to maintain his sanity while he’s being tortured.

That information didn’t require an entire page to explain, especially with Tynion spending a panel on Spoiler complaining yet again about how controlling Tim has been lately.  Talk about beating a dead horse and doing nothing to move the story forward.

Batman beats up the Syndicate and their goons and shouts at Jim Gordon to send in the cops.  The First Victim laughs and then unleashes Clayface who’s now driven mad from Mudface’s constant torture.  YAWN.

What Just Happened?
What happened is a story that could’ve been told in 10 or 12 pages was padded to fill out 20.

This is unquestionably one of the worst scripts Tynion has ever turned in on Detective Comics.

It is filled with page after page after page after page of people standing around talking.  If they aren’t reciting exposition, then they’re repeating lines of dialogue (sometimes almost verbatim) from either earlier in this arc or this same issue.  It is maddening.

Batman’s big confrontation with the Victim Syndicate where he fights a hundred people one-on-one in Arkham Asylum happens entirely off-screen.  We don’t see him throw a single punch the entire book.

Tim and Stephanie argue repeatedly and say nothing new that we haven’t heard half a dozen times before.

Tynion has one of the major TV news networks in America threaten to fire a total novice with little-to-no experience if she doesn’t march into an active crime scene and conduct an interview with a confessed serial killer in a facility filled with violent psychopaths who have superpowers.  Heads-up to Mr. Tynion—veteran TV news reporters ALWAYS take the most dangerous stories solely for fame, glory and furthering their careers.  Novices get sent to cover fluff like Superman saving a cat from a tree; they don’t land big scoops in danger zones their first year on the job, sometimes never in their entire careers.

This is careless writing with no attention to logic in terms of how professions involving life-threatening danger are typically performed.  For example, it’d be like Dr. Stephen Strange was scared to operate on a patient in a dangerous situation and ordered a first-year med student to do it.  Hogwash!

Batman asks Jim Gordon why he’s going along with something, but we have no idea what Batman is referring to.  Does he mean the Syndicate taking over the asylum which Gordon had nothing to do with?  Or did he mean the Mayor’s phone call where Gordon wasn’t even in the room when it was made and therefore he wouldn’t know what threats he’d made to Batman?

Jim’s answer to Batman is just as dumb:  I did it for the kids!  What kids?  And where are these kids?  Who the heck knows?  If Tynion does, it seems he certainly couldn’t be bothered to explain it to us.

Many pieces are moving around on the DCU chessboard to get them to wherever it is the editors need them to be post-Metal and post-Doomsday Clock.  The strings pulling the marionettes are visible in the worst way with characters doing things that don’t make sense solely to match the new status quo coming next year.  Based on what I’ve been reading here and in the Superman books, it looks like 2018 is going to be a dark year for our favorite DC heroes.

I hope and pray, though, whatever that storyline is, will be much better written than this mediocre mess which is far beneath Tynion’s usually excellent work.

Rating:  6.0 / 10

Final Thought: 

This is one of the worst issues of Detective Comics I’ve ever read in 40 years of collecting.  The script is slipshod.  It’s filled with over a dozen pages of talking heads repeating exposition and arguing over and over again in circles.  The biggest battle in the book is never depicted happening entirely off-panel.  It was a thankless task to read and review.  When fans complain about books being padded for trade?  This issue is exactly what they mean.

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