The end of James Tynion’s run on Detective Comics has finally arrived. Up to this point Tynion has done a good job in developing the cast of this series under the team name of Gotham Knights. Everyone from Red Robin to Batwoman to Spoiler has been given a big character arc at some point during Tynion’s Detective Comics run. Now all that work on this series is going to come together for this final issue that sees Batman’s team battle it out with Ulysses and Brother Eye. How will things end up for everyone as Tynion’s run comes to a close? Let’s find out by checking out Detective Comics #981.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Eddy Barrows
Inker: Eber Ferreira
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: OMAC-Tim shows Batwoman the future from his other Future Batman-Tim where Batwoman decided to betray everyone and killed Bruce Wayne.
Spoiler suddenly speaks through Brother Eye and says that she will show both Batwoman and Tim what actually happened in Future Batman-Tim’s timeline.
Ulysses freaks out and commands Brother Eye to send all of the OMAC’s to the Belfry to kill Batman, Spoiler and Orphan.
Inside the Belfry Orphan tells Spoiler she will buy her time to get Tim back to normal. Orphan joins Batman to fight off all the OMAC’s that are in the Belfry.
Back on a nearby rooftop Spoiler continues to speak through Brother Eye to OMAC-Tim and Batwoman. Spoiler shows what actually happened in the Future Batman-Tim’s timeline that shows Kate trying to convince Bruce to escape as everyone would believe Batman would continue to elude everyone. Bruce reveals he is already dying do to the radioactivity he exposed himself to while building Brother Eye.
Bruce goes on to say that he thought Batman was an idea he needed to live by but came to understand it is holding everyone he mentored, including Kate, back from building a better future. Bruce says he wants everyone to chart their own path as he is proud of who they are.
He then says he already recorded his final messages to all his proteges that Brother Eye will release when he dies. He then pleads with Kate to kill him now so he doesn’t have to deal with a painful death. With tears in her eyes Kate kills Bruce with her gun.
Inside Tim’s head, Tim starts to break down as Spoiler goes on to say that in that future Brother Eye erased all of Bruce’s messages causing the chaos that happened afterwards.
Ulysses comes on the line and says that Brother Eye was right to erase Bruce’s message since it caused the Future Tim to become Batman and end crime for good. Spoiler says all Brother Eye did was force Future Tim to create a Bat-Dystopia where no one was happy. Spoiler and Ulysses continue to go back and forth trying to convince Tim they are telling the truth.
Tim suddenly regains control causing Ulysses to freak out in the Belfry. Spoiler finds Ulysses and knocks him out. Batwing, Azrael and all of the Colony soldiers are turned back to normal as Brother Eye loses control of the OMAC’s it created.
Spoiler tells Batman that while she knows she may never wear the Batsymbol she understands the importance of it and it is up to Batman to get everyone out safely. Batman contacts Colony to get them out of the tower before it collapses.
On the nearby rooftop Tim finally admits that he was trying to do everything in his power to not become the evil Future Batman he met. He now realizes he needs to let go of his old dream as things have gotten out of control because of how he wanted to build something that was perfect. Batwoman hugs Tim and tells him that they will figure how to make things better together.
Three weeks later Bruce and Kate are having dinner at the restaurant Martha and Jacob would meet up at to catch up with one another. Bruce mentions he heard the President reinstated Jacob as a Colonel with the condition that Colony was dismantled. Kate admits that she has had a habit to allow others to dictate who she should be but that now she will map a path for herself.
Kate mentions that Luke Fox is doing the same and is done being Batwing for the time being. She then says that Azrael is out on his own again though he met up with Cyborg recently.
Bruce wonders if Kate will still wear the Batsymbol. Kate asks if he will stop her if she does. Bruce says says that while they might not always see eye-to-eye they are family and he won’t dictate what Kate should do. He ends by saying he’ll always be there to help Kate out if she needs it.
After the dinner Kate gets a call from her dad. Jacob mentions that he just got a tip on a Religion of Crime organization, which sounds like a Batwoman mission. Kate agrees and swings off in her Batwoman costume.
At the Thomkins Free Clinic Dr. Leslie Thompkins welcome Cassandra into her home. Dr. Thompkins says that she has arranged for someone to help tutor Cassandra before going to school.
When Cassandra enters her room Barbara, Cassandra’ new tutor, is shown happily greeting her. Barbara and Cassandra quickly bond over a love of Shakespeare.
Just outside the clinic Clayface in his human form leaves a note for Cassandra and then drives away with Victoria.
At Wayne Manor Bruce helps Tim pack his things to go to Ivy University. Tim tries to apologize for how things went down but Bruce says he does not have to. Bruce says he is proud that Tim is choosing his own path by going to college and that he will always have a home at Wayne Manor no matter where he goes. They hug before Tim gets in his car.
Tim gets in his car, where Stephanie is already in waiting for him. As they drive off Stephanie asks if Tim thinks Bruce knows where they are really going. Tim says he does but he wants to figure out the answers to all his questions after what Brother Eye showed him. Tim asks Stephanie if she wants to see where the road will take them. Stephanie says she does.
Later that night while on patrol as Batman Alfred mentions that Tim is heading the opposite direction from Ivy University. Batman says he trust Tim knows what he is doing. Alfred wonders if Batman will start a school of young vigilantes. Batman says that won’t happen yet.
Batman sees the Bat-Signal light up the sky and swings over to see what Commissioner Gordon needs help with. End of issue.
The Good: James Tynion ends his run on Detective Comics by giving fans a lot of hope for the future of Batman, Batwoman, Red Robin, Spoiler and Cassandra Cain. Those futures may not be fully clear but it is something that future writers of these characters can build off of. Because of that Tynion is largely successful in what he set out to do at the end of his run with Detective Comics #981.
Given that he was provided time to wrap up his run it is not surprising that Tynion ended things by giving each character in the Gotham Knights a reset point. By the end of Detective Comics #981 Bruce Wayne, Kate Kane, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain are left in a position where they can have a fresh start. Tynion places all these characters in this position by basing where they are going on what they’ve all been through together. That smartly gives weight to each characters journey while leaving the door open for other writers to use what he did with the Batman Family to further develop them in positive directions.
Batwoman was by far the one that benefited the most by the ending in Detective Comics #981. Over the last year we have seen a lot of content from DC Comics that has teased Kate Kane going down a darker path that would place her against the heroes of the DCU. It was getting to the point that Kate was starting to become unlikable. That is something that Tynion kept in mind as he used all the development Kate has gone through to make her a stronger character.
The big thing that Tynion highlights in Detective Comics #981 is that Kate has been something of a lost soul looking for guidance. That search has lead her to Batman and her father, who gave her a direction to take while she grew as Batwoman. Now in seeing a possible future where she continued down that path of taking direction Tynion has opened Kate’s eyes to how she needs to take her destiny for herself. And while Kate is still going to have Batman and her father to help her, this is the first time she is now really a solo hero during this new relaunch period. The big moment for her in this issue was the hug she shared with Tim to calm him down. It was in that one scene that summarized who Kate will be looking to be moving forward.
Similarly, Detective Comics #981 was a big moving forward issue for Tim Drake. Out of everyone on this series Tim has had the hardest time figuring out who he is going to be. Throughout Tynion’s run we have seen Tim be portrayed as more of a reluctant hero as Red Robin since he is at the odd transition point of growing past Batman’s shadow. Much like Dick Grayson at his age, leaving Batman’s shadow was easier said than done. That burden of living up to Bruce’s legacy while carving out his own has weighed heavily on him. Seeing a future version of himself that became a villainous Batman has not helped Tim. More than anything it pushed him more in a direction he kept saying he did not want to go. It is that fact that made how things ended much better for Tim.
His breakdown before Batwoman hugged him showed that this experience did break him. It is that break that Tim actually needed because it finally gave him a chance to get out of his head. That moment to breathe was the best thing to happen for Tim as now he can go on a journey of self-discovery. That journey will make Tim a much stronger character as now he will be able to build his own legacy. And while Tim is possibly the greatest Robin I hope that when he does return Tim gets his own identity like how Dick adopted the Nightwing identity. It’ll make Tim’s evolution during Tynion’s run even better as we get to see how Tim actually builds something without the Batman Family.
While Tim and Kate got the biggest character arcs in this “Batman Eternal” arc Tynion possibly gave the biggest hero moment to Stephanie Brown. While everyone else was fighting OMACs and seeing visions of possible futures Stephanie was the one that was able to find a way to defeat Ulysses and Brother Eye. Seeing her use her technical ability to reach out to Tim was a great way to show off how smart she is without driving that into the readers head. This was a great example of show rather than tell when it comes to showing the abilities of the character. This made the moment with Stephanie knocking out Ulysses even more well earned as she was the one that outsmarted the bad guy of this story.
Now it’ll be interesting to see what will happen with Stephanie’s character in the future. Stephanie confronting Batman about how she may never wear the Batsymbol was a big moment for her. Seeing a Batgirl version of herself clearly changed her view on the Batsymbol as she realized it was more important to her than she believed. With Batman teasing a school for vigilantees it won’t be surprising to see Stephanie eventually get to wear the Batsymbol since Batman was shown to be impressed with how she stood up to him.
Speaking of Batman, while the arc was named for him he was largely a supporting character for this story. That was the correct choice to make as it put Batman in the position to really assess what went right and wrong with his Gotham Knights initiative. While this conflict with Ulysses and Brother Eye showed Batman how wrong things could go it did not deter him. That is a good thing because it goes to show how Batman’s view on what he symbolizes has changed from when he first put on the cape and cowl. Though Batman is slowing down with his new superhero initiative it’ll be interesting to see how he continues to develop the concept behind the Gotham Knights team.
As the other one that served a supporting role it was good to see that Cassandra Cain was positioned in a spot where she can start over. We already know she is extremely skilled but Tynion has established that she is still a blank slate as a character. The events with Clayface started to give her more of an emotional character arc but it was overshadowed by everything going on in Tynion’s run. But now that she is placed in a position where Barbara Gordon can mentor her she is now able to become of the character fans know. This positioning for Cassandra also is a good payoff for an earlier Batman Family meeting with Barbara calling out Bruce for his handling of Cassandra. Now with the two together there is a lot potential in having Barbara mentor Cassandra.
Now while it could be said that Ulysses and Brother Eye were taken out too quickly Tynion made their downfall satisfying. Throughout this story arc Tynion built Ulysses as a villain that you wanted to see punched in his face for how big of an asshole he is. That is exactly what Tynion delivered with Detective Comics #981 as Stephanie knocked him out with one punch. It was a long time coming while leaving the door open for the character to appear, possibly as Tim Drake’s new arch-nemesis.
Having Eddy Barrows on board to draw his final issue was appropriate for the end of Tynion’s run. Barrows has worked on this series for a good portion of the DC Rebirth period and he knows how to draw big Batman Family action sequences. With multiple double page spreads Barrows delivered on how big the events of “Batman Eternal” were. The chaos that went on made the smaller character moments stand out more. The only thing that kept the artwork back was the close ups to character faces, like Tim’s at the end, that had an awkward design for the eyes. The good thing is that it was only prevalent in that one scene and did not take away from how great Detective Comics #981 looked.
The Bad: There are some nitpicky things that can be said against this issue, like the quick way Jacob Kane’s arc was wrapped up or how Brother Eye was pushed to the side without a true ending. But those small things don’t take away from how well executed Tynion ended his run as Detective Comics #981 accomplished a lot from a character standpoint that you can overlook these small nitpicks.
Overall: James Tynion did an excellent job wrapping up his run on this series with Detective Comics #981. Tynion did a lot of great character work throughout this issue as every major character involved in “Batman Eternal” got their time to in the spotlight. How Tynion leaves Batman, Red Robin, Batwoman, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain gives future writers a lot of room to make them even stronger characters. If you haven’t checked out Tynion’s Detective Comics run and are a Batman fan than I highly recommend checking out all the trade collections of his work on this series.