With a lot of build-up in issue #939, DETECTIVE COMICS #940 had a lot of ground to cover in a few pages. As with last week’s BATMAN #6, DETECTIVE COMICS gives us a more emotional look at the Bat-Family, but the difference here is that we have many more characters who are grieving. I don’t know how we’ll get through this review without some major spoilers, so be warned.

While the focus of DETECTIVE COMICS has been on the new team, headed by Batwoman under the direction of Batman, and comprised of team members Orphan, Spoiler, Red Robin, and Clayface, this particular issue does not allow for some of these members to really participate in the action of the comic. Rather, the focus is primarily on Batwoman and Red Robin, tying up the loose ends that have been set in place prior to this issue. We’re at the end of a story arc, with Batwoman’s father, Jacob Kane, heading a shadow military branch bent on exposing Batman as an evil and violent figure, hoping to turn the general opinion against the vigilante. At the end of the previous issue, Kane’s plan had been foiled by Red Robin, and now Kane is dealing with the fallout of his decisions.

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Batwoman confronts her father and finally breaks ties with him, facing some of the truths of their relationship throughout her life. Specifically, she’s come to recognize the manipulation of her father throughout her life. He’s a man who lives in half-truths and lies, and despite Batwoman actively seeking her father’s approval throughout her life, she’s come to realize that she can never trust him. His recent actions have proven to be the ultimate betrayal. Fortunately, Batwoman captures him before his plan can come to full fruition.

Unfortunately, Red Robin, though he survives the attack of the drones that was teased at the end of issue #939, is unprepared for a second wave. As Jacob Kane says, the drones were designed to level buildings. Tim is hopelessly outmatched and his body is decimated, leaving behind no trace but his bō staff.

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As one could assume, this shakes Batman to his core. He’s lost Jason to the Joker’s crowbar, Damian to the Heretic’s blade, and now Tim to Jacob Kane’s drones. While Batman’s mission is to save lives and prevent injustices, he can’t seem to prevent the deaths of those he loves. In a way, this is the ultimate curse of being Batman: everyone close to him is on a collision course with death; it’s unavoidable for vigilantes who live their lives in the throes of danger.

Some of the most raw emotions in this issue come from the underdeveloped romance between Tim and Stephanie Brown, the Spoiler. This relationship was developed prior to the New 52 relaunch, and many fans were hoping for a return to this match-up. However, Tim hasn’t been around long enough to get the pair to the point of dating. Nonetheless, their mutual affection is apparent, with Tim admitting his feelings for Stephanie immediately before the drones’ attack.

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The emotions hit their peak late in the book, during a scene in which Batman and Stephanie get a chance to talk about the events of the issue. It’s during this scene that Batman finally learns of Tim’s scholarship to Ivy. Telling Batman his intentions to retire from crime-fighting was a moment that Tim was dreading, unsure of how Batman would react. It becomes clear in this scene that Tim’s fears were unfounded; Batman feels such overwhelming regret that he cannot continue to hold Tim’s acceptance letter. As Stephanie and Bruce collapse into each other’s arms, we can see that Bruce felt nothing but love, adoration, and pride in his sidekick.

The art is on point, as always. Is it just me, or is there something about comic tears that hurts more than in other mediums? Perhaps it is the blue-white solid color streaming down the face, suggesting a more solidly felt emotion than the crystal-clear tears we get in photographs, movies, and in real life. Perhaps it is the combined effect of the writing and familiarity with the characters that allows for emotional scenes to feel so powerful. In any case, good luck getting through this issue with a dry eye. This book has a lot of love in it, which may seem rare in comics in this day of constant reboots and character recreations. It’s refreshing to see a team continue on old characters and keep bringing them forward.

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Beyond the emotional moments, there’s some great action and fantastic layouts. Whether it’s a full page panel of Tim facing certain doom or an action sequence showing Batwoman finally attacking her father, there’s a realism to the fire and blood that pulls the reader into the action. Between the emotion and the action, this is a masterfully illustrated story.

This is also the first issue that clearly connects to the events of Rebirth. Without saying too much, I’ll say only that there is someone pulling the strings as far as getting everything back to its pre-New 52 status, and Red Robin is all wrapped up in the process – with Tim Drake existing in both BATMAN BEYOND and DETECTIVE COMICS, there has to be some reconciliation. What that reconciliation will be, and who will survive Rebirth, is anyone’s guess at this point, but with writing and art as great as DC has been giving us, I’m sure it’ll be a beautiful journey to the end of Rebirth and beyond.

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