WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #983 by Bryan Hill, Miguel Mendonca, Diana Egea, and Adriano Lucas, in stores now.
Batman is under attack, but it's not the man who is in trouble -- it's his brand. Bruce Wayne is just one person, and his mission has become greater than he alone can tackle. The bat has become a symbol for hope to Gotham City, inspiring others to follow in his footsteps. Whether it's a Robin, a Batgirl, or any of the other heroes who sit in Batman's orbit, the lone crusader has become the center of something greater.
Unfortunately, someone believes this brand extension has weakened Batman, instead of making him stronger. In Detective Comics #983, an unknown assailant has attacked both Duke Thomas and Cassandra Cain because they believe their association with Batman has ruined what he once stood for. This comes just as Bruce is about to expand his brand even further with a new team of Outsiders, a group that can work under him, but will be taught to become better heroes by someone else: Black Lightning.
These two ideologies simply cannot coexist. You can't recruit and expand at the same time you strip everything down to the core concept. So it only makes sense that Batman and his new team are about to go to war for the future of the Dark Knight's symbol.
The First Shots Are Fired
Every war begins with an attack that drives tensions over the edge. In part one of "On the Outside," the war begins with a strike against Duke Thomas, aka The Signal, the latest hero to join Batman's crusade. A mysterious masked figure lures Duke into a hostage situation where he announces to the hero that "You're making him weaker" before blowing the apartment up. Duke survives (barely), but the damage is done.
The assailant left a message for Batman, telling him that he is a good man, who once operated under a single purpose, but has since lost his way. The problem is, this "act of Karma" explains that once people feared him because he was a creature of the night, a lone man on a quest for vengeance, but Batman "Dismantled [his] own creation" by "Giving it away piece by piece until there's nothing left." By recruiting other heroes to be part of his mission, the villain reasons that he has diluted the effectiveness of his original purpose until he has just become another superhero, a novelty for people to gawk at, instead of fear.
Whoever this assailant is, they seem to be very focused on who Batman has brought into his inner circle. Part of the issue is that the mysterious assailant feels all the other people wearing bat symbols are "Unworthy children," who are not prepared to measure up to what the Dark Knight is suppose to represent. At the end of the issue, this "Karma" also goes after Cassandra Cain, who has operated in Gotham under the guidance of Batman for some time now.
Duke and Cass are young, but they're also talented. It's hard to see exactly how they could be deemed unworthy. This story arc promises a new Outsiders team under the leadership of Black Lightning, and by the end we just may see a group of heroes worthy to work under Batman's brand.