Detective Comics #980 // Review
Penultimate “Batmen Eternal” issue, Detective Comics #980, accelerates action and character development while revalidating neglected characters Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. Writer James Tynion IV deepens Tim Drake’s descent into megalomania, having the mentally manipulated Tim lead his OMAC army to bolster their ranks through the assimilation of Batwing, Azrael, and several members of the GCPD, before coming to blows with Batwoman, Kate Kane. Meanwhile, Batman and the remaining Gotham Knights, Spoiler and Orphan (Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, respectfully) work to sever ties between Tim, the OMAC artificial intelligence, and puppeteer Ulysses Armstrong, AKA The General.
The artistic team of Scott Eaton, Wayne Faucher, and John Kalisz & Allen Passalaqua (Pencils, Inks, and Colors, respectfully) bring the action to life with immersive pages prominently showcasing shrapnel and other detailed objects in the foreground and backgrounds, layered panels, and a liberal use of splashes. Eaton’s pencils provide a moderate sense of realism, with the detail in his settings making the world seem lived in, and his characters’ expressions evoking real emotion without artistically approaching the uncanny valley. Faucher’s heavy inking on cowls showcases his proficiency with characters that populate the Batman family, and the colorists’ consistent contrast of blues and purples against oranges and reds make for an aesthetically appealing issue, while also highlighting contrasts between characters and their settings. One of the artistic highlights of the issue is seen in the depiction of OMAC-Tim and his army. Using shades of blue to illustrate OMAC-controlled bodies, while simultaneously avoiding dark black outlines on the characters, the colorists make the army appear in flux with the rest of Gotham, giving the cybernetic collection an ethereal appearance.
Issue #980 explores the theme of parallel timelines and how the actions of different iterations of a character can influence or even define their prime selves. Tynion IV explores this thread through two parallel plots, offering opposing perspectives. In the battle between Tim and Kate, the OMAC-influenced Tim pushes the narrative that the future timeline he saw was inevitable and that both of them were doomed to become the dark versions of themselves seen in Savior’s chronicles. While this is the perspective Tim is trying to convince Kate of, it’s clear that Tynion IV will eventually have both Tim and Kate conclude that the future is yet to be written and work towards becoming the opposite of those iterations, marking those versions of them false. In contrast, Cassandra and Stephanie tearfully discover, through Savior’s records, that in a previous timeline they had both been far more meaningful members of the Bat-family, with both of them having spent time as Batgirl and Stephanie having also spent time as Robin. Instead of viewing this more accomplished alternate as an indictment of her current status, Spoiler sees it as proof of her eternal greatness, and decides to use all the stored information of the alternate universe Batgirls to help take down OMAC, essentially integrating her more storied past into her current identity, making her alternate’s story part of her own.
Setting up the conclusion of “Batmen Eternal” and Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics, this issue focuses on pushing character arcs to the point of character change while using fun, flashy action to progress the plot. Significant revelations are seen as a result of actions set in motion dozens of issues prior, and divergent storylines come to a head. For long-time readers and casual comic fans alike, Detective Comics #980 is eternally entertaining.