Six issues into James Tynion IV’s “Rise of the Batmen” arc, “Detective Comics” #939 impressively reignites the battle against Batwoman’s father, rogue U.S. Army Colonel Jacob Kane. Batman and crew had all but defeated Kane and his covert team known as the Colony last issue, but a last-minute technological rabbit pulled from the proverbial hat widens the scope of the conflict as it rages forward. All the while, Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira beautifully illustrate four of the six parts thus far, while Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez competently step up to give the pair a break in issues #936 and #937.
Barrows, Ferreira and colorist Adriano Lucas grab readers’ attention as soon as the story arc kicks off, as a battered Azrael is taken down by a figure who appears to be Batman. The carefully crafted layouts and gorgeous colors perfectly accentuate Tynion’s tense and compelling intro and carry through the remainder of the storyline. Additionally, Martinez’s layout style aligns with Barrows’ and Fernandez delivers the same level of detail in his pages, ensuring that any eventual collection will be a complete volume that flows smoothly without any jarring transition in art style.
Tynion also delivers on that powerful opening punch, but doesn’t rely solely on a strong start to coast the rest of the way through. In fact, he delivers another surprise in the very first chapter, when Batman reveals who he is to Batwoman; this not only serves to shock, but also sets the stage for the family dynamic that has been so natural and pervasive in this arc. By fighting side-by-side not only as allies, but as cousins, they establish a kind of patriarchal/matriarchal leadership for the younger members. The remaining members all fall right in; Red Robin, Spoiler and Orphan are readily believable as Bat-siblings, and even Clayface convincingly — and at times comically — comes across as an odd uncle.
By establishing the team as a family, Tynion opens the story to a number of character explorations: Tim struggles with reconciling his own goals versus those he believes Bruce has for him; Bruce and Kate have their differences regarding how to lead the team and deal with the threat of her father; and Kate’s closeness with her father potentially puts her at odds with the team. This way, Tynion succeeds at making the team feel like a genuine family unit in addition to a solid superhero team. Plus, the Mud Room in their new HQ is their answer to the X-Men’s Danger Room — an idea that’s been oft-used but is a fresh one for these “B-Men” — and highlights another story technique that Tynion has mastered so well: making well-trodden ideas seem unique again.
Tynion also succeeds in making Batman an important figure without overshadowing everyone else. The focus on the other characters is welcome, and — whenever Batman does make an appearance — readers realize they didn’t necessarily miss him. Tynion has made “Detective Comics” a Batman comic that doesn’t need a Batman, though it benefits from having him present.
The previous issue ended with the Bat-family taking down Kane’s soldiers, and Tynion could have easily ended the story as a five-parter. However, the depth of the team he’s built lends itself to an extension; there remains plenty of conflict to be had between Batman and his Uncle Jake (which is exactly what he calls him at one point, reminding readers of the arc’s true dynamic), as well as between Jacob and Kate. The latest chapter also gives Tim a bigger, more heroic role, which could also enable an escalation of his inner conflict.
“Detective Comics'” “Rise of the Batmen” arc has been so strongly executed that readers may almost wish it wouldn’t end. With this series, Tynion has hit a high point in his Batman career.