This review contains minor spoilers.
If I was Jim Lee, I’d wrap my arms around James Tynion IV and never let him go. I’d swat away the Marvel editors if they even sniffed around the dumpsters outside his home. This man is writing up a storm at DC Comics, and you should be throwing all your money at him. He’s the real deal, and Detective Comics #951 once again demonstrates that there’s no shortage of quality in his story reservoir.
In the first part of “League of Shadows,” Lady Shiva and her band of merry swordsmen make their presence felt in Gotham City in a big way. Colonel Kane warns Batman and Batwoman about the League of Shadows’s presence; however, Bats doubts him, believing it to be something else. His doubts are seemingly justified when stories of Joker Gas sweeping over the city are reported. Most of Batman’s team think the Harlequin of Hate’s back in town, and head off to Adams Square to subdue the rabid mob. Cassandra Cain (Orphan) notices something’s off with the crowd, however, and her intuition proves to be spot-on. What’s going on is even bigger than the Joker, and that’s saying something.
What Tynion does brilliantly in this story is show Batman for the pigheaded bastard he really is. Despite wanting to build a team, he still doesn’t trust their instincts and listens only to his gut. Ultimately, you can bet there will be a fallout because of his stubbornness. Also, as this arc unfolds, his actions (or lack thereof) will inevitably impact his relationship with his team members – especially Cassandra. In order to battle the League of Shadows, he’ll need everyone to pull in the same direction, but the question is, will they? Moreover, is the Clown Prince of Crime a red herring, or is there more to it than meets the eye?
Something that really struck me about this issue is how dark it is. It’s reminiscent of New 52 Batman, which we can all agree was the best thing about that era. Artist Christian Duce Fernandez doesn’t hold back here either, illustrating a couple of scenes that would make Spawn artists blush. There’s blood, death, and brutality here – and it raises the stakes considerably as a result. Tynion and Fernandez know Gotham isn’t rainbows and sunshine. Instead, they choose to show us all the grime, dirt and hate that consumes it.
You’re probably sick to death of me raving about Detective Comics, but it’s impossible to ignore the superb standard of storytelling taking place here. There are a bunch of other Bat titles in the market, yet this one outshines all of them each and every time. Tynion’s arcs are masterfully paced, never boring nor feeling like fillers, and he knows how to boost secondary characters. Who would’ve thought Clayface could become DC’s Groot, for example? Not me, that’s for sure, but it’s happening – and he’s actually likable. Tynion is on one helluva hot streak at the moment, and we’re reaping the fruits of his labors. Let’s hope some of his good fortune rubs off on The Batman film – God knows it needs it right now.
If you're an aspiring Batman writer, pick up Detective Comics #951 and see a true master in action. Tynion is killing it.