SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #983 by Bryan Hill, Miguel Mendoça and Diana Egea, on sale now.
For nearly fifty issues and two years on Detective Comics, James Tynion IV redefined the Bat-family. Former allies, and even some enemies, became members of a Bat-team with a cohesion that went beyond just merely teaming up once in awhile. While his run ended with that team fractured, Batman still has close allies he considers teammates, among them Duke Thomas (The Signal) and Cassandra Cain (Spoiler).
In Detective Comics #983, drawn by Miguel Mendoça and Diana Egea and the first issue for new series writer Bryan Hill, even those ties are being tested. A new villain –one who knows who Batman is and claims to have been "saved" by him – now also claims that Batman's numerous allies have "weakened" him. In response, the villain severely injures Duke in an explosion, and attempts to take out Cassie in similar fashion at the end of the issue, although she's left unharmed, at least for now.
First the Gotham Knights, now Batman's Other Allies?
The first order of business for Tynion on his run was to begin building the basis for a Bat-family. Hill's, conversely, seemingly points towards destroying it. Duke's co-creator Scott Snyder has been grooming Duke as a potential equal partner to the Dark Knight during his Batman run, as well as in his subsequent All-Star Batman. The character also played a part leading up to Dark Nights: Metal and was later given a three-issue miniseries. The developments in the latest Detective, though, not only put a pause on Duke's fledgling career, but also put into question his future one.
Cassie was last seen taking a different path in Tynion's final issue, beginning her formal education under the tutelage of Barbara Gordon. While her days as a crimefighter are already largely on hiatus, that doesn't seem to matter to this new masked villain. His attack on Cassie indicates that he's not just going after Batman's current allies – he's potentially targeting those who have also served him in the past.
What this means for the other players in Tynion's run, such as Batwoman, Red Robin, and Spoiler remains to be seen. Ditto for the Dark Knight's other allies who mostly fell outside of Tynion's wheelhouse, like Nightwing, Batgirl and the current Robin. Tynion's central theme – "Batmen Eternal" – was one of expanding Batman's influence, and thereby strengthening it. Hill's, at least thus far, seems to be the opposite. The villain's vague and repeated mantra regarding Batman – "You're making him weaker" – argues the supposed dilution of Batman's "brand," reaffirming the belief that the Dark Knight is strongest when he's fighting solo.