You know, there’s something to be said about weirdly specific wish fulfillment with Batwoman. Aside from the queer jew angle, I mean. That’s what Detective Comics Rebirth has been since the start, with the whole “warrior vs soldier” dichotomy between Bruce and Kate being front and center in their dynamic. Then War Games got punched in the face, and then they started fighting pseudo-Nazis, and then it was faith and pragmatism…it’s just a ton of stuff I’d wanted to see.
This one, though? This is the big one. This is the narrative that I often wondered why nobody had ever done. For all that talk about how strong and important the symbol of the bat is, and all the things it means to so many people, it always surprised me that nobody thought to do a story where we see it get reappropriated. Where we see how the definition changes, not too dissimilarly to that of the swastika. Before the nazis, it was this international and near universal symbol of good fortune and luck and all that jazz. But then it got reappropriated, and became one of the single most powerful symbols of hate, if not the most, in human history.
I’m not saying Tim is a nazi or that his Bat-Gotham is a fascist state (more likely a surveillance state where the police force is independent of the actual government), but rather that it’s kind of awesome that Bennett and Tynion are actually doing this one. It always felt like a natural progression to me, considering how mythic the bat symbol is often portrayed even in the backstories of people who aren’t vigilantes.
Of course, that sort of ties back into why this is a Batwoman story over everyone else, huh? Yeah, the answer is “because the nazis corrupted a symbol”, at least partially. More than that, though, is that Kate was so much further gone before she ran into Bruce in that alley. It’s a big reason why we’ve revisited that scene, as well as the inverse of it. Bruce made the thing and it doesn’t ground him the way it does those inspired by it. The only other person I can think of that it inspires and encourages in a similar way to Kate, but coming from a completely different place is…Tim. Yeah, Tim Drake.
This just got a whole lot more clever, eh? The reveal at the end there, with Tim being the Batman (which isn’t really a reveal once you realize this is so far out of Damian and Dick’s MO that it has to be Tim) is emblematic of a lot of things. That is to say, that cannot happen unless a ton of other stuff also happened. For one, the entire JLA has to be dead or MIA. Dick is dead, and so is Damian (again). Alfred. Jim. Babs. The list just keeps going and going, but the biggest clue as to what may have happened here is, surprisingly, that Jason is alive.
All of this is, of course, pure speculation. But I’ve been pretty good at this so far, so let me indulge for a bit, eh?
“Lots Of Speculation From Everyone!”
To anyone who gets that reference, I know your pain. Also it’s a joke. Nobody is calling anyone the next Casey Hudson.
Anyway, even though Kate posits that she pushed Tim too far, and that this is why this happened, the fact that Jason is not only alive but working with the Colony under Kate reveals so damn much about how things went down. Specifically, how Tim went from this:
…to the overcompensating madness we see in Batwoman #6. And there’s another clue right there, in that he’s speaking to Bruce. That bit at the end, where it’s framed as if Tim is the one keeping Bruce focused on the bigger picture as this integral thing; we see that turns out not to be entirely true. The rest of the Bat Family picks up the slack after Tim’s “death”, and he still progresses both because it’s the best thing to do and because it’s also what Tim would have wanted. But now, here’s the reverse of that.
This is what happens when Tim is too focused on the big picture and Bruce isn’t there to remind him of the smaller stuff. Oh sure, Tim is fully capable of seeing that on his own in some situations…but not if Bruce is dead. Not if Dick and Damian are dead. Not if Babs is dead. And certainly not if he and Kate are desperately trying to keep things together after people keep dying. Because Kate would be the one in charge in that scenario, remember? That’s what the original function of the Belfry team was, back when Bruce got captured by the Colony. Which would make Tim, who takes up the mantle of Batman, under orders of Batwoman. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that on the surface—Kate’s a great leader.
Except when she pushes harder and harder. She’d encourage Tim to invest more time into automation and surveillance, so they can strike faster and harder. Be more places at once. Eventually, she takes control of the Colony, since she’s still dealing with external threats, and the further she moves away from Tim, the more he gets sucked into his work. It’s gradual, not overnight, and when his drones sweep over Gotham it was far too late to stop him. Recognizing that Kate is his biggest threat to the new “peace” he has forced on to Gotham, he uses Free Gotham as hostages to ensure that she never returns. Because if she comes back, the first thing he’d do is remove Renee from power, something she’d fight to death to keep in order to ensure the citizens of Free Gotham remain that way.
What does this have to do with Jason? He was a witness to the gradual change. He chose a side, implying that there was in fact a chance to choose a side at all. That Tim didn’t just go straight-up insane as a lazy narrative tactic. But most of all, that Jason chose not to be Batman after Dick’s death, believing it to be a better fit for Tim, which shifts some of the “blame” off of Kate. It makes this situation a lot more grey and complex, even not taking the fact that Kate blames herself for basically everything into account.
As for what happens next, well, I still think my time travel theory has some merit. There are some allusions to going back here once again, and since it’d be pretty weird for Detective Comics to do a flash-forward arc right after Tim’s return…it’d make more sense if that conflict came back to the present in an attempt to stop it from ever occurring. This is the tragedy, the catalyst, that set Future Kate down that “path”. Guess we’ll see if she’s trying to stop Bruce’s death, or something else entirely. Or if I’m right at all.
It Was Always About Renee
Okay, so here’s something that I thought might be an issue the more I thought about it, but it turned out not to be. One of our editors, Gretchen, hasn’t actually read 52 or Crime Bible, so her knowledge of Kate and Renee’s on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again love life is pretty limited to Go, Detective Comics Rebirth and Batwoman Rebirth. Missing quite a few chunks there of emotional context that apparently didn’t even need to be there since she found this:
…to be extremely evocative and heart-explodey. Y’know, like I did and so did every other Kate/Renee shipper out there who knows this stuff like the back of their hand.
But that’s what I was worried about. That it wouldn’t work because it’s relying on so much continuity that…technically isn’t totally canon anymore. Sort of. It’s complicated. Regardless, this is just a perspective that the more, uh, “seasoned” readers have on the topic that is, at least in this case, completely unfounded. Kate and Renee’s relationship is the emotional core of this, and its job is to sell the narrative.
Not as a revenge story, since Renee’s not even dead (she’s a cop being written by two queer authors who got shot in the shoulder; ever heard of noir?), but rather an…attempted redemption arc. Even though Kate’s failures probably can’t be summed up into a neat and tidy number. Oh wait, they totally can!
That’s right, folks! It’s back! Cue the carnival music! After a brief hiatus, we can finally add more to this counter. And no, we’re not adding 50 just because she says it’s her fault. Kate’s really dramatic. Nah, this is a lot simpler. Failure to bring backup with her when sneaking into Free Gotham—
—forced Renee to break the truce—
—dropped her rifle (seriously?)—
—accidentally got Renee shot because she dodged a bullet to the very-well-armored face.
Aaaaaaaaaaand that’s it for now! Back to the other stuff.
What didn’t we cover yet? Oh! Right, Brother Eye. Not so subtle play on 1984’s Big Brother. Yeah, that one’s…surprising. Sort of. Okay, so that was a satellite that tracked metahumans because—okay, y’know what, to explain what the hell that is I’d basically need to explain the entire plot and lead-up to Infinite Crisis, and who Jaime Reyes is, and Booster Gold, and Max Lord and what Checkmate is and who Ted Kord was (or is, apparently) and the Tower of Babel JLA story arc which was actually a direct result of Bruce getting his mind wiped so wow we would be here literally all day.
I’m sorry, but…look it up on ComicVine? I’ll just make a note here and mention where I think Tim is hiding Brother Eye. Outside of time, wherever Mr. Oz’s prison is located. Tim escapes from it next month, so he’d know “where” it was and how to get back.
One last thing: Anyone saying that the dialogue regarding on “what the world became” being hokey…in most scenarios I would agree. However, in the current political climate, every decent human being has thought that this isn’t how things were supposed to go. Some more than others, but the sense that something snapped out of alignment, that something very fundamental is wrong with our current reality…that makes this connect a lot more than most other alternate future narratives. I’ve had these conversations with friends and family, because so many things are not what they’re supposed to be. You can lament and you can look back to when things made sense during times of strife and chaos. But what you can’t do is sit idly and let things get worse while you watch.
And that’s kinda what Kate did in this possible future, in some ways. At least, that’s what I’m thinking.
This’d be higher but it’s just the prelude to a larger tale.
NEXT WEEK: The Spoiler Returns! Again!
Writers: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV
Pencils/Inks: Renato Arlem
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Deron Bennett