SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #81 by Tom King, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Mitch Gerads, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Claire and Henry Clover - Gotham Girl and her brother Gotham -- have been part of Tom King's Batman run since the beginning. Gotham's own powers killed him early on, but Gotham Girl has remained integral to King's story. One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the pair has been the nature of their powers. Both have demonstrated a power set that rivals some of DC's biggest hitters, but those powers have come with a cost.
That cost, as Gotham previously learned, is their very lives – and goes hand-in-hand with another mystery: just how did they get these powers? In Batman #81 by King, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson, those questions are answered. And those answers add further depth to the longstanding plans of Batman's most troublesome foe, Bane.
How Gotham Girl Got Her Powers
As Batman tells Catwoman as they return to Gotham to make their move on Bane in Wayne Manor, the source of Gotham Girl's powers is a super-derivative of Venom -- the very same drug that has long provided Bane's own powers. Naturally, she and her brother got the drug from Bane himself. This means that Bane not only recruited Gotham Girl to serve him in his quest to break the Bat, but it's now clear that he created her with that very purpose in mind.
As Batman tells it, Henry got a hold of the Venom derivative, which was also administered to Claire, who believed it only to be some kind of "enhanced medicine." Batman only learned of Bane's involvement when he discovered the origin of her powers, and he didn't make this discovery until after he first defeated Bane -- or at least seemed to -- in Batman #13.
This means that Batman has long known Bane was behind the creation of Gotham Girl and Gotham -- it's just the readers who are now finding out. The revelation calls into question whether Batman knew if the already emotionally fragile Gotham Girl risked falling under Bane's control from the beginning -- especially if she depended on Venom to maintain her powers. After all, Bane has long been the drug's most notorious addict.
Are Gotham Girl's Powers Killing Her – or Something Else?
Whereas Venom in its true form grants enhanced strength, the derivative used by Gotham Girl clearly delivers strength, and other powers, at nothing short of a metahuman level. The abilities demonstrated by both her and her brother point towards an agent that exhibits Venom-like enhancements, albeit ones at a far greater capacity. The derivative is likely some kind of purified or concentrated version, far stronger than the Venom taken by Bane himself.
Like Venom, though -- or any other drug -- its effects eventually wear off. In Bane, withdrawals simply meant losing his strength. For Claire, though, the aftereffects are far more catastrophic. Like her brother, her powers drain her life force -- the more she uses them, the sooner she will perish.
If the Venom is Killing Claire, Can It Also Save Her?
If Venom is the source of her powers, then perhaps Gotham Girl's powers draw off that, rather than her actual life essence, although her eventual withdrawal might have the same ultimate effect. It might not be her powers that are killing her directly, but rather, the gradual exhaustion of the Venom in her system. While Bane went through a similar power depletion when he exhausted the Venom in his system, it wasn't lethal. Could more of this super-Venom, then, potentially save her?
It might, but as Batman states, the derivative is rare -- and only one other sample remains. Or more precisely, had remained -- Batman and Catwoman destroyed the last remaining sample last issue before it could be shipped to Bane. Could this final sample have prolonged Claire's life? And by destroying it, is Claire's demise now a certainty?
Even if that's true for now, that's not to say more couldn't be manufactured. Batman has all of Wayne Enterprises at his disposal, after all. Claire might not necessarily be doomed, if the Venom can replenish her powers, and therefore save her life.
The Batman universe already has a Venom-dependent villain, so why not a similarly dependent hero, as well? The Bat-family could finally use a character with true superpowers, after all.