This review is based off a volume that collects Detective Comics #934-940
Although DC renumbered most series in its line when Rebirth kicked off last summer, they thankfully returned some of their oldest flagship titles to original numbering, specifically Detective Comics and Action Comics. This may not seem like a big deal to the average Joe, but when you take into account that ‘Tec will soon hit the 950 milestone – and eventually 1000 – there’s no denying that’s quite the impressive feat.
With the first collection of the new era, Rise of the Batmen, writer James Tynion IV once again makes juggling ensembles look easy. After dazzling readers with Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninjas Turtles, he’s effectively turned Detective Comics into a Bat Family team-up book. His handling of Batman, Batwoman, Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan and a reformed Clayface is done so capably that everyone gets the proper amount of focus, with generous emotional weight to boot. If DC know what’s good for them, they’ll one day offer Tynion the keys to Justice League.
As for the artwork, Eddy Barrows provides some of the most impressive work his career in doodling has seen. It’s beyond me how someone can make a place like Gotham City look so beautiful (seriously, his dark snowy renditions made me want to replay Arkham Origins, a game that him and colorist Adriano Lucas conveyed a similar atmosphere to). In addition to him, Alvaro Martinez stops by for a little, bringing some pretty creative layouts along.
In short, Batman puts together the aforementioned small army because he senses a war coming. Given that everyone has their unique qualities to bring to the table, I’m quite glad Tynion settled on this lineup for the opening arc. Fans have clamored to see more of Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain in recent years and, with this book, they get their wish. On a side note, I just can’t help but wonder what song would have played over the recruiting montage had this been a movie (if you can think of something other than “Green Onions,” drop a suggestion in the comments section below).
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It’s not long before we’re introduced to the Colony, a paramilitary group inspired by Batman but with a worldlier view. If you were to ask them, they’ve improved upon the Dark Knight’s formula. As you may have surmised, this unforgiving lot are the “Batmen” the book’s subtitle refers to and are essentially the big bads.
One of the more shocking parts of this tale comes in what is both a calculated risk and a stroke of genius on Tynion’s part when everything we know about Batwoman is turned on its head. Granted, you should see it coming due to the not so subtle hints in her father’s dialogue, but you may want to be sitting down when Jacob Kane is revealed to be the Colony’s leader. This shift in status quo may be resented by some, but it’s one of the best twists I’ve read in recent memory and adds to a story that takes quite the introspective look at Kate Kane.
In his own twisted way, Jacob is playing the hero and aims to safeguard Gotham from the League of Shadows, whom Batman is thoroughly convinced are but a myth – and therein lies a criticism I have. With Batman being the World’s Greatest Detective, it’s becoming a littler hard to believe so many secret groups have been operating unbeknownst to him and tracking his every move. In the past ten years, we’ve had the Black Glove, Court of Owls and now the Colony. Add the League of Shadows for good measure and we have to start asking ourselves if Bruce is just stubborn or do his observational skills need some sharpening?
Without a doubt, the final chapter is Tynion and Barrows’ masterpiece. Not only does it bring this arc to a stunning conclusion, but it also contains the “death” of Tim Drake. That being said, I’ll try my best to not spoil a story originally published this past fall, so let’s just say he’s about as “dead” as Bruce was after Batman RIP. Still, seeing how this loss affected everyone, Batman included, makes for one of the most emotional reads DC have published in recent years.
If you were to ask me, Batman – Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen is the first definite must own for every Bat-fan the young Rebirth era has thus far yielded. As you can no doubt tell from what’s been said here today, it truly has all the makings of a classic.
There's no doubt in my mind that Rebirth's first Detective Comics collection has pretty much everything a Batman fan could want.