Nearing the end of his eventful and game-changing two-year run, James Tynion IV begins his final arc in Detective Comics with an emotional breakup in the making. Not just his own with the title, but also that of the Gotham Knights in part one of “Batmen Eternal,” drawn by Javier Fernandez and colored by John Kalisz. Having set up a new Bat-team with a different method of operations back in issue #934, Tynion begins to take the final swing of the wrecking ball in Detective Comics #976. That demolition is what makes the issue such a powerful and heart-wrenching experience, as the team — no, family — he had assembled continues its sad and unfortunate disintegration.
The title has had no shortage of powerful, emotional moments during Tynion’s run. Tim Drake’s apparent death at the hands of The Colony, his eventual return, and Clayface’s recent and tragic demise are only some of these key events. Tynion continues the same kind of emotion throughout this issue, as fallout from recent events takes its toll not only on the Knights themselves, but their relationships with each other. As friendships that were once solid continue to fracture, if not outright shatter, the issue highlights the emotional ramifications, and it’s a difficult yet compelling narrative.
A flashback sequence highlights one of the series’ most troubled characters, and features a welcome appearance by another, during a happier time not so long ago. Tynion then jumps forward to present day, providing a stark contrast between the character’s state of mind then, and now, complete with a new consequence stemming from Basil Karlo’s death. This in turn bridges to how Bruce himself is affected by these events, movingly captured in a single, wordless panel by Fernandez. It’s an emotion rarely seen in Batman, but as conveyed by Tynion and Fernandez, it’s not only believable, but poignant.
This scene gives way to an eventual emotional conflict between Bruce and Tim — one that’s largely summed up on Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira’s cover, replete with its retroactive and succinct captioning. Tynion’s elaboration, though, unfolds the scene at a natural pace that widens the divide between Batman and his one-time sidekick. It also wastes no time addressing Batgirl’s pointed accusations from last issue’s “Trial of Batwoman,” where Batman himself was also seemingly on trial.
Of course, there are also those who have already left the Gotham Knights. Batwoman, Batwing and Azrael embark on their first mission as members of The Colony — the opposing organization run by Kate Kane’s father. As executed by Tynion, the sequence carries a sense of sadness. Kate and company aren’t portrayed as villains, per se, but their actions are in part at the behest of Jacob Kane, who’s tried to put an end to Batman’s efforts. It’s a sign of defeat for Batman, as these characters once close to his inner circle now find themselves potentially at odds with him.
Ultimately, the sadness of watching Tynion dismantle what he’s so methodically built over the past two years is masterful. The rise and fall of a team that’s consistently been so much fun to watch grow and evolve is akin to a classic tragedy. The title, though — “Batmen Eternal” — also springs hope eternal that, before it’s all done, perhaps some part of what’s been established will remain.
And yes, some of the emotion is from knowing that Tynion has begun his final arc. Detective Comics #976 is the beginning of the end — the start of a captivating long goodbye for a run that’s going to be fondly remembered for a long time. Maybe eternally.