SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for “Detective Comics” #944, which is on sale now.
After debuting at the end of “Detective Comics” #943, this week’s issue of the long-running Batman title dives into the dark origins of Batman’s deadly new foes. Known as the Victim Syndicate, their anti-Batman wave of graffiti and destruction spurred the Bat-team to investigate them in the previous issue, coming face to face with them on the last page. “Detective Comics” #944, written by James Tynion IV with art by Eddy Barrows, picks up with the Victim Syndicate holding a ritzy party hostage. This naturally draws the attention of Batman, Batwoman, Batwing and Spoiler.
As one of the Victim Syndicate’s members, Mr. Noxious, takes out Spoiler, their mysterious leader does the classic villain monologue and reveals their motivation. Surprisingly, it’s very personal and focused squarely on Batman himself.
The Victim Syndicate is exactly what it says it is: a group of individuals, citizens of Gotham, that have been caught in the crossfire of Batman’s battles with numerous supervillains. This crimson cowled leader gives the Dark Knight an ultimatum:
“Every day that the Batman does not unmask and pledge never to act as Batman again, we will strike at the people who support him, who allow him to exist, and we will eliminate them. We are the Victim Syndicate. We will take back our city.”
But during that monologue, Batwing hacked the shield protecting the bad guys, thus allowing Batman to launch an assault on the Syndicate. Batman’s team took action, getting Spoiler to safety and the hostages cleared of the room. But it turns out that another one of Batman’s allies has a personal tie to the Syndicate — one that will haunt him for months to come. Clayface is confronted by Mudface, a woman named Glory that was irrevocably scarred along with him during the accident that gave him his abilities.
Back in the battle, new villain Madame Crow released an anti-fear toxin into the room — a room filled with armed cops only holding back out of fear of hurting innocents. But as soon as Madame Crow fires off a shot, the now fearless cops open fire in a crowded, smoke-filled room.
The issue jumps to the aftermath as Batman’s team regroups at the Belfry. Batwing explains that the experimental weapons the cops carried had a safety measure, one that allowed them to only fire rubber bullets without a clear line of sight. As they recover, Batwoman runs through the information that the Syndicate has released to the world; after all, they want the world to know exactly how Batman destroyed their lives.
Their members are The Mute, a man forced to undergo an extreme tracheotomy after being exposed to Joker’s laughing gas; Madame Crow, one of the Scarecrow’s first unwilling test subjects; Mr. Noxious, who was mind controlled by Poison Ivy and rendered permanently toxic; Mudface, the aforementioned production assistant also harmed in Clayface’s origin story. And then there’s the First Victim, the Synidcate’s leader, a person with no information released and none on them anywhere online. Their identity remains a secret.
But the First Victim doesn’t wait long to make their first move. The issue concludes with Spoiler in the care of Dr. Thompkins — but that doesn’t protect her from coming face to face with the First Victim once more.
The “Victim Syndicate” arc of “Detective Comics” continues next month as more of the First Victim’s plan unfolds. Issue #945 swings into stores on November 23.
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