detective comics #973
DETECTIVE COMICS #973 is both engaging and heartwrenching. James Tynion IV and Jesus Merino portray a visceral, desperate Gotham on the brink of disaster. The action is beautiful and dynamic without exhausting the eye. Despite a lack of development for the main antagonist, the story hits its mark more than it misses. Emotionally resonant and genuinely engaging, the drama escalates as desperate choices are made in this climactic final showdown.
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In DETECTIVE COMICS #973, writer James Tynion IV and artist Jesus Merino conclude their explosive “Fall of the Batmen” story arc in this heartbreaking finale. The issue begins with a flashback that takes place months prior to the events of the last issue. Bruce and Tim discuss the prospect of Clayface joining the team of Gotham Knights under Batwoman’s command. Tim is surprisingly thrilled at the idea of bringing Basil Karlo into the fold. He sees the innate potential for good in him.

detective comics #973
DETECTIVE COMICS #973 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Then, Tim goes on to reveal the origins of the Belfry Headquarters concept, much to Batman’s chagrin. His ability to see the limitless possibility in everything around him is inspiring. We get this brief glimpse of a simpler, happier time before it all inevitably comes crashing down.

So, Tynion expertly juxtaposes this scene with the current tragedy of Clayface’s rampage through Gotham. The dramatic irony is like an emotional punch in the gut; it’s the perfect way to kick off the somber tone of this issue. The story takes off at breakneck speed, throwing us right into the center of all the chaos. There’s an intense sense of desperation as the Bat-family struggles to hold together in the fight against their former teammate.

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Characterization of Clay

The mystery of the First Victim takes a backseat this time around as we focus on a more character-driven story. Nearly everyone has a specific role to fill in the final, climactic showdown between the team and Clayface. Batwing and Azrael function in crucial support roles as Batman, Orphan, and Batwoman dive into the battle. Even Stephanie Brown, who remains on the sidelines during most of the fight, has focus and time to develop. Her and Lonnie both make resolute decisions that show how far their respective characters have come.

detective comics #973
DETECTIVE COMICS #973 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The relationship between Cassandra and Basil is given thoughtful consideration in this issue as we witness a pivotal point in both of their character arcs. One specific scene involving a poignant quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest stands out as an emotional high-point of the story. However, these interactions would have benefited from more time given to them. Since the meeting itself was cut short, the buildup to it felt wasted. So, as it stands, Basil and Cassandra’s friendship continues to be the emotional heart and soul of Tynion’s DETECTIVE COMICS run.

Dr. Victoria October cements herself as an invaluable addition to Batman’s roster of supporting characters. Her quick wit, emotional insight, and resourcefulness make her a vital asset. She carries herself with grace and decorum, which is a welcome reprieve from the constant angst of the Bat-family. She asserts herself as a calm in the storm amongst all the chaos and is an essential player in the battle with Clayface. I can’t wait to see how her character develops alongside our regular cast and will continue to look forward to her appearances in future issues.

Choice and Consequence

Throughout this arc, Batwoman faced a major ethical dilemma. As the default matriarch of the team, Kate’s expected to always be in control, to maintain a cold and calculated demeanor and relent to logic at all times. Consequently, it’s so engaging to watch her try and reconcile her own emotions with the safety and well-being of Gotham as well as the fate of a close comrade. By issue’s end, she’ll make a decision that could change the dynamic of the Bat-family forever. The results of her choice could come across as predictable to readers, especially after the threatening last words of Tim Drake’s future self. So, it all depends on how Tynion will address this in subsequent issues. The foundation has been laid for future exploration into Kate’s character that could prove interesting if handled correctly.

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Scenes of Clayface’s monstrous form towering above the Gotham skyline are where Jesus Merino’s art and Jason Wright’s coloring truly shine. You can feel Basil’s pain and outrage as he stumbles through the labyrinthine city in each double-page spread. Every page is crammed with activity: falling rubble, oozing clay, exaggerated perspective, and vivid colors that bring the city to life. It accentuates the chaos and turmoil of the story without distracting or coming across as overdone.

detective comics #973
DETECTIVE COMICS #973 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

DETECTIVE COMICS #973: Overall Thoughts

Tynion performs a masterful juggling act, giving each character a moment to shine in the midst of all this havoc. Also, he captures the true essence of these iconic characters and lets the story unfold naturally as they scramble to keep the team, and the city, from falling apart. The emphasis on character draws the spotlight away from the First Victim. Lacking the attention needed to make him a substantial threat, the First Victim comes across as a weak antagonist for this arc. To put it simply, if The First Victim is to be a recurring villain then we need to be given a reason to fear him. The end result more than outweighs the price of shortchanging his character, however.

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The art continues to be more than serviceable, successfully emphasizing powerful moments and presenting the reader with some truly great fight scenes. All of these core aspects contribute to the spectacular momentum the narrative builds before culminating in the last, controversial page. This issue will have future ramifications for the entire Bat-family and it’ll be fascinating to see how certain characters deal with the fallout.

One Comment

  1. […] dialogue cues and conversations. Tynion has been doing excellent work on JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK and DETECTIVE COMICS, and that same skill shows […]


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