Detective Comics: The Rebirth Deluxe Edition Volume 1 (2017)
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Eddy Barrows, Ben Oliver, Raul Fernandez, Eber Ferreira, and Alvaro Martinez
Something is watching the heroes of Gotham City. Strange bat-like drones are found tracking members of Batman’s extended crime-fighting family starting with Azrael. There is apparently an organization out for these people, so Batman pays a visit to his cousin, Kate Kane aka Batwoman to make her the leader of a new team. The roster is made up of Robin (Tim Drake), Spoiler (Stephanie Brown), Orphan (Cassie Cain), with a surprising addition of villain Clayface. Batman sets them up in the Belfry, a tower in the center of Gotham which Tim Drake has outfitted with all the training and investigative tech they could ever need. Then the dark force in the background makes themselves known, and a war begins across Gotham.
In the second arc of this collection, the team is visited by people caught in the crossfire of this never-ending war on crime. They call themselves The Victim Syndicate and are led by the First Victim, an androgynous person who has succeeded in erasing any possible method of tracing their identity. They demand Batman unmask, retire from his vigilante pursuits, and pay for his crimes. Otherwise, they will begin killing innocents to prove their point. Batman enlists help from Lucius Fox’s son, Lucas Fox who operates as a combo of Batman and Iron Man called Batwing.
I read this series in its monthly installments, but it hasn’t been until reading them collected that I realized how incredibly good this current run is. I always feel lukewarm with the Batman titles, and it really is all about the creators behind the comic, rather than the character of Batman. I think a big plus is that Batman is not the focus of this series, arguably Batwoman and Spoiler are the central characters, with the spotlight shifting now and then. This is probably the most Marvel-feeling title coming out of DC right and what I mean by that is the family team dynamic. Marvel sort of has the market cornered on that type of team book (Fantastic Four, X-Men, even Avengers now). The New Teen Titans in the 1980s was an early attempt to mimic that kind of storytelling, and Tynion’s Detective is the latest.
There is the natural family history between Batman and Batwoman at play. They are cousins on his mother’s side, and the first arc features flashbacks to the days following his parent’s murders. We see young Kate Kane consoling young Bruce at the funeral and afterward. We also get background development on the relationship between Kate and her father Colonel Jacob Kane, which ends up being a crucial element in the first storyline. Outside of the character related by blood are those that Batman has brought together over the years who operate as both a family and a team of heroes. Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown have been featured as in a romantic relationship for years, and Tynion focuses in on that tremendously for this run. Spoiler’s feelings about Tim lead to a significant and destructive schism in “The Victim Syndicate” arc that is still causing reverberations in the title today.
The two core arcs of the collection “The Rise of the Batman” and “The Victim Syndicate” are phenomenal. Tucked in the collection are two issues that were part of “The Night of the Monster Men” event that crossed into the other Bat-family titles. I decided to skip over those and the collection of that storyline because I honestly found it to be an incredibly dull misstep in The Rebirth initiative. However, the main stories are some of the best I have read since the company made these changes in 2016. The writing and art are potent and allow you to feel the emotion when tragedy strikes. The Victim Syndicate is also one of the best new creations of Rebirth, a collection of people harmed as a result of Batman fighting his villains. They are the type of villain who has a solid point but takes entirely wrong actions to further their agenda.
Detective Comics does what all great Rebirth titles should be doing. It is flawlessly accessible to a new reader yet brings in the rich history of Batman and Gotham City. The stories have weight but feel grounded, every emotional beat hits the reader hard. Tynion managed to make me care about characters I had a hard time connecting with in the past. This is must reading for people wanting to rediscover DC with The Rebirth, a near perfect ten.