Wow, well this issue of Detective Comics was serendipitous as all hell, wasn’t it? And yet, at the same time, purposefully prophetic for its own internal narrative. So let’s start with that second one first since it’s…well, it’s the first scene in Detective Comics #963. Oh! And it’s nice to see that a good chunk of the team from Steph’s last appearance were the ones who made this issue, too. Sebela’s scripting is pretty similar to Tynion’s, though I’m sure it helps that they co-plotted the thing. Keeping Carmen Carnero on for art duties just gives this Steph-focused stuff that much more cohesion, which can only help in the grand scheme of things.
Anyway, on to the story!
A Better World
Narratives where superheroes take proactive approaches to crime always end the same way: really bad. Happened in the Justice Lords episode of Justice League (of which this subheading is named for!) and rather infamously in Cry for Justice, wherein Lian Harper, single father and recovered heroin-addict-Roy Harper’s young daughter, got unceremoniously murdered off-panel because…reason. Also everyone yelled about justice a lot. There are some examples over in Marvel, too. Like, y’know, Civil War II. It’s also happening in Nightwing: The New Order, the first issue of which was released this week, which I’m gonna try to my damndest to write an article on in regards to how it is not Secret Empire. Like, at all.
Anyway, the point being that taking one step at a time to make the world a better place, instead of taking shortcuts to the end, is always the best way to go. Mostly because people are resistant to change, so gradual progression is the most sure-fire way to move towards something greater. I’m outlining that idea, since this first scene is so very clearly foreshadowing the possible future that came to pass just last week in Batwoman #6. They couldn’t have planned that publishing schedule better, if you ask me.
It also seems to suggest something rather interesting: Steph was able to carry on, albeit with extreme difficulty and trauma, after Tim’s “death”. But Tim? In that possible future, he buckled and fell towards those shortcuts he probably wouldn’t have truly tested if Steph had been there to ground him. Which makes two instances in Detective Comics where the idea of Tim being a calming and rationalizing presence to those around him gets turned on its head. The last bit of the conversation is how Tim and Steph are unstoppable as a team, and that he wants her right by his side to get this right. With Tim gone, Steph has carried on…but not nearly to an extreme where she drags the city into some crazy Big Brother police state. That’s just not who she is at her darkest hour. That’s, ultimately, who Tim may be at his worst.
Sorta similar to Bennett’s comment about how “her favorite hero is ‘sober Batwoman’ and her favorite villain is ‘drunk Batwoman’”.
Steph’s hypocrisy during her last appearance in Detective Comics garnered a lot of flak from readers who may have missed that her being wrong was sort of the point? Anyway, this time, after we get a fun continuity nod to Night of the Monster Men, Batwoman Begins and The Victim Syndicate, Steph distracts some ARGUS soldiers, who are still apparently quarantining off Monstertown on account of the giant ass monster there whose blood turns people into bioweapons. Seems reasonable to me. That’s how you’re supposed to deal with radiation leaks.
She meets up with Anarky, also known as Lonnie, and he’s being super vague about how he’s so different than Batman. Steph, perhaps partially in response to the criticism her hypocrisy got, goes out of her way to point out that he’s actually kinda not. Which is perfectly within character for Steph, so it could honestly just be how this worked out organically. Anyway, all they do is talk about stuff, and she even runs an errand that Batman would actually have her do, which made me chuckle.
Lonnie sort of parallels what Tim was saying earlier, and even as far back as Rise of the Batmen proper, talking about a movement rather than just one step at a time. And then they get ambushed by a ton of ARGUS soldiers. Weird.
After a particularly touching and funny sequence with Clayface punching his way through the sewers and starting to freak out about his degrading sense of morality (which is apparently going to be a focus of Fall of the Batmen in November) to recurring guest star Dr. October, we cut back to Steph and Lonnie fighting their way out of that mess.
I’d talk more about that scene, but to be honest there’s nothing to really explain there; it’s just so well crafted and evocative that it really does speak for itself. Okay, well, there’s one thing I love that I want to point out: Clayface just moves his face instead of turning around in one panel, and I really love that level of creativity in the art.
Anyway, Lonnie beats up everyone in the most Batman way possible: planning ahead with traps. Yeah, he sure isn’t like Batman at all. And then he starts talking about Chicken Pox parties, which, hooboy, here we go…this was a thing. But this context, jeez, doesn’t take the ending “cliffhanger” to put together what he’s talking about: infect everyone before it spreads further. Set the monsters loose on Gotham to wipe out the “bad people” so the survivors are “immune” to the infection that is capitalism and state-run oppression. I mean, it’s not like he put those people in a self-sustaining bunker by accident.
The thing about anarchy itself, ironically enough, is that Lonnie is correct when he says that it’s not actually about burning it all down. The academic definition does not necessitate violence of any sort. Of course, even the most rudimentary research will tell you that every single attempted anarchist collective or commune failed because of human nature or state intervention…the latter of which, mostly because of the danger that kind of non-society poses to itself and everyone around them.
Self-determination isn’t something that’s rare in societal systems—it’s one of the first things that’s cut out under explicitly oppressive states. Lonnie talks about the military industrial complex, which Kate is gonna have quite the nightmare fighting, as not caring about the cogs in its machine, which is often true, except you need a machine to have any kind of sustainable society.
Anarchism inherently makes industrialization and long-term infrastructure all but impossible since they’re reliant on “the kindness of strangers” (just like trickle-down economics!) to function on any basic level. The lack of currency, in most cases, makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain an organized society of goodwill, because there’s nothing stopping anyone from just wanting more or needing more. The vast majority of people need to feel as though there are concrete and measurable results and incentives for their actions. You take all this away and any level of societal, social and scientific progress instantly stops. Because if there aren’t laws, there aren’t regulations. There aren’t safety protocols. There is only self-determination, and sure some people are truly altruistic enough to live like that…but would they want to? History says no in every instance.
The way Lonnie describes his efforts, as a movement, is…curious. Not a revolution, but a movement. Not a protest. Even though he could be far more effective in his goals by actually going about this the “right’ way, through proper channels and growing his support base with the people he already somehow convinced to live in an underground bunker… He chose not to do that. I guess this is that “alt-left” we’ve been hearing so much about, huh?
Yeah, so this brings us back to that serendipity I mentioned earlier. I don’t think I need to explain what’s been going on recently, what with all the nazis running around Charlottesville and Donald Trump’s repeated refusal to condemn them. You know all this, so I won’t repeat it. However, it should be noted that the counter-protesters (read: people who hate nazis because apparently I need to specify this now?) in Boston and Charlottesville and everywhere have been pretty consistently called “anarchists” by the right-wing media and Trump himself. Violent anarchists and communists, because this is the 1950s.
Antifa is apparently made of anarchists. Because fascism is a form of government, and since that section of the press, and apparently America, hates antifa, so that must mean that the government that antifa hates is the American government. Who are all fascists now, which is confusing because Fox News really likes claiming that people they don’t like are fascists in an attempt to discredit them. Okay. I mean, if these people want to keep digging themselves into a bigger hole I ain’t gonna stop them.
Point is, it’s incredibly interesting that Lonnie goes out of his way to tear down that stereotype (which was probably a result of propaganda from decades ago, the more I think about it) riiiiiiiiiiight as this stuff is hitting critical mass. It’s impossible for this to have been planned, but damn if it isn’t interesting as all hell to see. Kinda like how the League of Shadows served up pseudo-white supremacists and nihilists!
Glad to see we’re back to business as usual with these; Intelligence just…didn’t work.
DETECTIVE COMICS #963
Plotters: James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela
Script: Christopher Sebela
Pencils/Inks: Carmen Carnero
Colors: Ulises Arreola and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Sal Cipriano