Anyway, there isn’t a lot of meta-narrative in this issue that wasn’t already covered in my last review, but that doesn’t mean this wasn’t great. Because it was. Things can be straight forward and still be great, you know. It is a thing that happens. Like I said before, Tynion’s Detective Comics exists in a state of casual excellence. “Par for the course” is kind of a crazy testament to the quality of this damned book.
The Curious Case of Renee Montoya
We open with Jim being a grumpy gus over his lost vacation plans. The Hawaiian shirt is hilarious and I feel bad that he’s not gonna get a refund on that. Lord knows he needs a vacation. He exposits that Bludhaven is all kinds of worse, asking rhetorically if Renee knows how many bodies have turn up at Bludhaven Airport Hotels. Which, intriguingly, is something she should probably know from personal experience. Here, I’ll explain, because this is all over the place.
Buckle up for the Continuity Rollercoaster, folks! It’s gonna be bumpy.
Okay, this is an interesting wrinkle. See, from late 2011 to mid 2015, Renee Montoya stopped existing outside of one-and-a-half references in Batwoman (2011). She popped up during the Convergence event as her Pre-Flashpoint identity prior to that, but that was just a slice of a long-thought-dead continuity to tie up some very old loose ends. Then New52’s Detective Comics #41 rolled around, and Renee returned without much fanfare.
This was at a point in time where Maggie Sawyer (the real one) was Commissioner, Jim was Batman, and Harvey was Harvey. Side note: pretty sure that was the first time all four of them were active in the GCPD at the same time. Jim and Harvey had quit and been indefinitely suspended, respectively, during the events of Gotham Central and Renee left at the end of that book…only for Harvey and Jim to return during the events of 52.
Anyway, Renee was assumed dead for a long, long time without any explanation aside from some frustrating editorial and corporate politics. Even then, that was all theory and it no longer matters. When Renee finally did come back, alive and well, DC needed to come up with a reason as to why she was gone for so long. What they came up with was…confusing.
She transferred to Bludhaven, and that’s…complicated. It was Nightwing’s city for years before it got nuked in 2005’s Infinite Crisis and then obliterated all over again during 2008’s Final Crisis as Darkseid’s staging area. It’s a city that, as far as I know, had never been mentioned in the New52. Most assumed it either no longer existed, or it was still a barren wasteland not worth talking about. Apparently, that was not the case, and Renee was a cop over there for about five years.
Now, I could go into the fact that her still being active police in another city means that her resignation at the end of Gotham Central no longer happened, thus forcing causality to kind of snap in half since she never became a drunk or became The Question because Charlie and The Question aren’t the same person anymore but also because Kate, Bette and Jacob Kane all remember the events of 52 and yet Renee kind of doesn’t aside from the fact that Kate is Batwoman—I’ll stop.
If I kept going, I’d start word vomiting about the two Jim Corrigans, the Spectre, Helena Wayne (it’s complicated) and Crispus Allen. Seriously, Renee is like this abyss of continuity that is both perpetually indecipherable and simple as could be. Let’s just say that if she was The Question, even if she no longer is, everything makes sense. If she wasn’t, nothing does. I really hope this gets addressed. I know Renee made that pun in Detective Comics #943, but c’mon. Cris could be alive. And that would be so awesome.
But, the point I’m trying to make here, in the most round-about way possible, is that Renee probably does know how many bodies turn up at Bludhaven Airport Motels, yet does not comment on this. So, either she was being respectful and didn’t want to interrupt despite the conversation being pretty familiar in tone, or it was retconned entirely. Or maybe something else, I dunno. Just thought this was super specific and strange.
Who Was The Pilot?!
Jim gets on the helicopter and then everything stops being serious for about two seconds because this panel, hysterically rendered by Christian Duce and Alex Sinclair, is a gift.
Let me just break down exactly how this had to have happened, because Kylie and I cannot stop laughing at these circumstances. Okay, so, Renee organized a helicopter to transport herself, Batman, and Batwoman over to Bludhaven. That’s probably around a twenty minute trip, at most. But before she did that, she had contact Kate since she doesn’t know who Batman is. Which means that she…had to call or text Kate and say something like “Hey, if Jim needs to hear all this in person I’ve got the best idea.” And then Kate had to agree, then convince Bruce it was a good idea…
I’m cracking up just writing about it! So, they have this helicopter ride with a pilot, Bruce, Kate and Renee. What do you think that conversation was like? How awkward was that for Bruce to be a third wheel for? I mean, Kate and Renee are perpetually at “heat rising from the asphalt” levels of sexual tension just by being in the same room with one another, so, close quarters? Good lord, Renee, I know it’s for the good of the city but I’m pretty sure part of you just wanted to see Kate.
Ah, just priceless. The tiny details here are everything. The fact that Kate and Bruce are sitting on their capes, which looks so silly, and that Kate crossed her legs for…some reason. Renee’s silence through the rest of the scene and avoiding eye contact with Kate. Jim’s instant acceptance of this absurdity. I love it. It tells a larger story in half a second, and a great one at that.
Moving on to the actual plot of this issue, Bruce and Kate explain to Jim that it’s not the Joker behind this chaos, but rather a distraction from the real threat. Kate even goes on to say that the goal is to cause the most amount of chaos in the shortest amount of time, which sure does sound a whole lot like something out of the white supremacist playbook if you ask me. Bruce urges Jim to take control of the city and order an evacuation instead of locking it down, which is what the Deputy Mayor wants.
Cass isn’t taking this whole “Lady Shiva is her mother” thing that well. She’s studying how she fights, and how ruthless she is on the Belfry’s computer, which once again parallels more or less the same thing she did during her original Batgirl ongoing. Curiously, the ridiculous “Shivasaurus” battle armor Shiva wore early in the New52 era is showcased on the monitors, so I guess that’s not being retconned for some reason. Then again, Tim’s “showgirl wings” costume wasn’t retconned before he “died”, so this is consistent.
Anyway, Cass flashes back to what appears to be not long before the events of Batman and Robin Eternal, which reintroduced her to the DCU. Tynion was the head writer on that weekly series, and all kinds of weird and fun. Dug into the whole “does Batman train child soldiers?” thing. Spoilers: not really. Right, so that dude huffing fear gas (I’m not kidding) is David Cain, her father. The Mother he refers to is…too long of a story to recap effectively so let’s just say she was a big bad and died in an arctic volcano lair along with David. Human trafficking, brainwashing, that sorta thing.
After Cass is done reliving her horrifying childhood, Clayface tries to cheer her up with a touching anecdote about finding his voice (WHY DOES HE HAVE TO BECOME A VILLAIN ALL OVER AGAIN?!) through theater, which I can relate to far more than I thought it would. This friendship kills me everytime and it’s gonna be so damn painful when it inevitably ends. Of course, the unintentional humor in the act of Basil giving an illiterate teenage girl a book of Shakespeare’s work, which seems kinda small if it’s everything, is that she…can’t read it. Obviously it’s the thought that counts, but even Cass seems to realize how weird this is despite her appreciation.
Cass leaps out the window to confront Shiva and Clayface is instantly ambushed by the League of Shadows. Which, honestly, is cool for one simple reason: the inverse-ninja law does not apply to the League of Shadows. Simply put: a single ninja can defeat any amount of opponents, but the more ninjas that join their side the less effective they become. Not here, though. They don’t become mooks just because there are a lot of them, like it most fiction. They are all still equally deadly as a group. Which is way more realistic, despite the fact that we’re dealing with a shapeshifting clay monster person and magic swords.
Batman tries to stop Cass from attacking Shiva, reasserting that he has actually learned and grown from his experiences. He tries to talk Cass down by reminding her that she doesn’t have to be an Orphan. Her parents, cruel as they are/were, do not need to define her. She’s a person, not a weapon, and he believes in her. Cass is still conflicted, but fights Batman anyway. Notably, Bruce isn’t saying “You don’t want to fight me because I’ll win”. He’s saying “You don’t want to fight me because you know this isn’t the right choice.” Still, she does it anyway and kicks his butt. Sure, he wasn’t fighting back (why would he?) but he’d have lost that fight regardless.
Cass gets away, and Bruce gets a call from Alfred who is abruptly cut-off. It seems someone is inside the batcave!
The Part Where Everyone Dies
Kate makes it back to the Belfry and finds Clayface quite literally torn to shreds, which…shouldn’t be possible. Magic swords! And then she’s almost immediately knocked out and dragged down to the holding cells. Really starting to think I was right about Detective Comics #950 not being an omniscient narrator, but rather Shiva herself tracking Cass. If her “regular” troops could sneak in like that, she sure can. Oh, and then Kate gets stabbed. Again.
Pbbth. She’s been stabbed with larger blades in worse places. I mean, once you see someone get stabbed in the heart with a knife larger than her arm, tear it out of her chest and throw it into the spine of the man who stabbed her, survive the wound and ween herself off of painkillers after just one week, it’s really hard to take stab wounds that seriously. Still, horrifying for Jacob. Shiva wanted him to watch, so yeah, she gets what she wants.
So, while that’s happening, we cut to Gotham’s equivalent of Times Square and Cass calls Shiva out of the crowd. She asks her mother why she abandoned her, and Shiva is enthused at her struggle to speak. The death that Cass sees…well, that could be her own. It could be Shiva’s quest for a good death, even though I’m almost positive that’s no longer a factor. It could be something larger than that or just how to inflict death. Regardless, Shiva offers her a deal. Fight to kill, and she’ll tell her what she wants to know. That part is, admittedly, very close to Pre-Flashpoint Shiva’s goal in coaxing fighters to become killers to that they can give her more of a fight, though I’m still saying that whole thing is more an echo than a motivation this time around.
Cass and Shiva fight, and curiously Shiva herself does not go for lethal strikes. She lands far too many hits for that to be an accident, not that she’d ever do such a thing in combat, of course. It almost seems like Cass, despite ignoring Batman’s advice, took his method to heart and tries to use it on her own mother. Refuse to fight back or defend herself in order to draw out a more emotionally raw reaction like it did for her. Which is extremely clever, of course.
It doesn’t work, but it was worth a try.
Shiva leaves her to die in the center of the square and escapes into the sewers for some reason.
We then zoom over to Bruce finally making it into the Batcave, only to find that Alfred isn’t there and that the rest of his team are dead or dying. And who should be waiting for him? The immortal eco-terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul, leader of the League of Assassins. Strange that he doesn’t call him “detective” as he normally does, but even so, things are really bad and I’ve got a pretty good feeling Ra’s isn’t in as high a position for bargaining as he thinks he is. Y’know since Shiva apparently slaughtered most of his followers.
So, yeah, everyone is pretty boned.
NEXT TIME: EVERYONE SOMEHOW DOESN’T DIE! Probably.
DETECTIVE COMICS #953
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils/Inks (pgs 4-5, 8-12, 15-18): Fernando Blanco
Pencils/Inks (pgs 1-3,6-7, 13-14, 19-20): Christian Duce
Colors (pgs 4-5, 8-12, 15-18): Allen Passalaqua
Colors (pgs 1-3,6-7, 13-14, 19-20): Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Sal Cipriano