WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #996 by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin and David Baron, on sale now.
Someone is going after those who helped turn Batman into who he is today. Leslie Thompkins was killed and Alfred attacked in the issue before, and now the monster that attacked them has gone after several others who trained Bruce Wayne. In this issue, the men who trained Batman in combat, ninjitsu and escape artistry are all put in danger against this looming threat.
While Master Kigiri and Thaddeus Brown make it out of the issue in one piece, the creature's attack proves to be too much for Henri Ducard. The world-class assassin who mentored a young Bruce Wayne, and proved to be a deadly rival to Batman, seemingly died trying to defeat the monster.
Ducard is a character obscure enough that many fans won't recognize him, despite the fact they have seen him in action. Created by screenwriter Sam Hamm for the 1989 Batman, Ducard was an intelligence agent who trained Bruce Wayne during his travels around the world. Though the character was ultimately cut from the script, Hamm brought Ducard to comics for his three-part "Blind Justice" storyline. A version of Ducard later appeared in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, played by Liam Neeson.
The Fall of Henri Ducard
Now, in 2019, Detective Comics #996 finds Ducard at the end of his rope. Batman and Robin initially believe him to be responsible for the attacks on Leslie and Alfred, but when Batman tracks him down, Ducard is hiding in the catacombs under France. The squalor he is living in proves that the man isn't capable of launching an attack, even if he wanted to.
This part of the story proves to be a sequel to Tomasi's previous run on Batman and Robin, specifically dealing with the fallout from the fight with Nobody, Ducard's son. Ducard is still grieving the loss of his son, but he is not a man looking for revenge. He confesses that he was a witness to his son's final battle with Damian Wayne via a live video feed that had been sent to him.
Being forced to watch the death of his son greatly hurt him, but it was not something that motivated him to get even with those responsible. Instead, it simply broke him, and he's been in hiding ever since. At this point, the hideous creature appeared out of the shadows and attacked Batman and Ducard.
The Evolution of a Monster
Something is hunting down and hurting the people who have played an important role in the creation of Batman. Alfred and Leslie were instrumental in helping Bruce Wayne grow as a child. Now, attention has been turned to those who helped turn a man into a weapon. Having trained Batman to become the incredible fighter he is today, Ducard is a target.
Whether the monster is the mastermind behind these attacks or there is someone else pulling its string has yet to be revealed. However, it is clear that the assailant is growing into something nearly unstoppable. After showing physical similarities to the Joker last issue, it has now evolved to the point where it resembles several Batman villains at once.
In the end, the duo is overpowered by this mysterious opponent and is too unprepared to make an effective stand. Ducard becomes quickly overwhelmed and, in a last ditch effort to take down the monster, he uses a few grenades to blow them both up. In the end, Batman is left standing on his own after both bodies disappear into the water below.
Comics 101 tells us that no one is truly dead unless there is a body (and even then we can't always be sure). Though we don't see the monster again, its handiwork is seen elsewhere, and chances are it has survived. Henri Ducard, on the other hand, is likely dead.
Sure, he is currently missing in action, but it's hard to see how he could survive a grenade explosion like that without something like the Lazarus Pit bringing him back to life. Now all we have left to wonder is who's next.