SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #959 by James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez, on sale now.
While largely focusing on the showdown between the Bat-family and Ascalon, the successor to Azrael and robotic acolyte of the order of St. Dumas, James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez’ Detective Comics #959 also brings Batman’s longtime JLA colleague Zatanna fully into the mix, following her dramatic arrival last issue.
The hero’s involvement goes beyond simply lending a magical assist against the sword-wielding artificial intelligence, though – the issue also puts forth a connection between Batman and Zatanna that goes back to their pre-Justice League days, and also postulates a previously unknown secret between the two now brought to light. This secret is one that Batman wants to exploit to bring back an ally believed to be dead by the world at large – an ally Batman either knows to be alive, or one that he believes can somehow be resurrected.
What Is The Dark Secret Between Batman and Zatanna?
Batman speaks of an offer made to him by Zatanna “a long time ago… a means of getting answers to unanswerable questions.” This simple statement is packed with potential ramifications: Not only has some dark secret existed between Batman and Zatanna for all these years, the magnitude of the secret implied by Batman hints that the means behind Zatanna’s offer is powered by something that is clearly to be feared. An incredulous Zatanna seems shocked that Bruce would even remember this past incident, which brings forth another ramification of its own — was the nature of this offer, whatever it was, so dangerous that her own fears made her not only rescind it, but magically attempt to erase Bruce’s memory of it? Readers of Identity Crisis will recall that this wouldn’t have been the first time Zatanna has tried, and failed, to erase Batman’s memories, indicating that the enormity of what she had revealed to him was something that she felt she had best undo, even via questionable means.
Regarding the offer she had made to Bruce as a teen, Zatanna states, “even then I knew to be afraid of the damn thing,” implying that the methodology for answering the unanswerable was an object or artifact of some sort. Had she come across to some powerful, magical piece owned or uncovered by her father, perhaps? Does some other existing bauble in the DC Universe, like Psycho Pirate’s mask or The Comedian’s smiley face button, contain far greater power than originally believed? Like the Monitor’s extra-dimensional vibrational tuner found below Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in Dark Days: The Forge, is another multidimensional device about to be unearthed? Whatever it is that Zatanna’s afraid of, Batman ultimately reveals his surprising motivation for wanting to access it: A holographic image of his lost partner Red Robin, aka Tim Drake.
Has Batman Learned That Tim Drake Is Alive?
Readers will recall that Tim initially appeared to have been killed back in Detective Comics #940, and is in fact believed dead by the Bat-family and the world at large. At the end of that same issue, though, it was revealed that Tim had actually been captured and imprisoned by the still-mysterious Mr. Oz, for reasons that remain equally mysterious. If Bruce believes Tim is dead, though, is he seeking out the means to resurrect him, thinking that the long-lost secret between him and Zatanna contains the method to do so? As witnessed by Bruce’s successful attempt to bring his once-dead son Damian back to life, there’s precedent for Bruce’s seemingly macabre motive.
Or, does Bruce have reason to believe that Tim is actually alive? There’s been no such direct indication of this, but then, Bruce did recently meet up with his father, or an alternate version thereof, as shown in “The Button.” Did this encounter, or some unseen occurrence within that story, give Bruce reason to hope, if not outright learn, that Tim isn’t dead? Was he perhaps given some indication of Tim’s fate from another party, such as Eobard Thawne? Has Batman figured out that Tim (and Oz’ seeming otherworldly prison) is somewhere beyond reach by conventional means? If so, Bruce may very well feel that Zatanna has the means to get him there.
If Tim Is Alive, What’s Batman Going To Do About It?
Tim’s final words to Oz that closed out Detective Comics #940 – “My friends will come for me. Just you wait.” – stand to be confidently prophetic. But that vote of confidence presumes that the usually-grounded Batman can ascertain Tim’s location, for one, and then find a way to get there once he does. Of course, along with Flash, Batman just got back from traversing around the timestream, alternate histories and Hypertime – did that journey prep him for another trip outside of his comfort zone?
If Batman has learned about Tim, there’s a good chance he has learned about Mr. Oz, as well – Batman may have already known of Oz secondhand if Superman had ever mentioned him, or Batman, ever the detective, may have learned of the connection between Superman and Oz on his own. Given the likelihood of the extent of Mr. Oz’ powers and influence becoming apparent to Batman, the dark detective might even enlist the help of the rest of The Justice League, and not just Superman. By approaching Zatanna, that enlistment just might have already begun.
How’s Batman Going To Find Tim? He Might Not Have To.
Of course, Batman might not have to go anywhere to rescue Tim – Oz has demonstrated himself to be remarkably proactive in the past, when he stuck his nose into Superman’s affairs unbidden, and made Tim disappear in a preemptive strike to avoid any feared disruption to his still-unknown plans. If Mr. Oz knows that Batman is aware of Tim’s predicament, then Oz might be the one to come after Batman, and not vice versa, saving Batman the trouble of even tracking him down in the first place.
Thawne’s gallivanting around the multiverse might have drawn Mr. Oz’ attention, as well, giving Oz another reason to step away from his extradimensional prison and visit the Batcave, just as Thawne did. This, of course, would potentially lead to an encounter with Batman, and whoever else Batman has lined up to help him. If there was ever a time to leverage whatever secret magic tricks Zatanna has up her sleeve, this would be it.
Zatanna’s involvement in Batman’s affairs is slated to continue in Detective Comics #960, on sale July 12.
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