Rise of the Batmen is something of a launch for a new status quo for Detective Comics in the post Rebirth DCU. Someone is putting together a literal army of Batmen – a black-ops team with skills comparable to members of the Bat-Family, except they’re willing to use deadly force. So, Batman puts together his own team to stop them.
This story has a much stronger female presence than Death of the Family did, with not only Stephanie Brown/The Spoiler/Robin IV/Batgirl III on the team, but also Kate Kane/Batwoman, and Cassandra Cain/Batgirl II/Orphan on the team as well. They are joined by Tim Drake/Robin III/Red Robin and, in probably the most narratively interesting part of the story, Basil Karlo/Clayface.
Considering that one of the common complaints about the Bat-books is that there’s a lack of any real attempts at rehabilitation of members of Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery, with perhaps the exception of Two-Face and maybe Mr. Freeze, I appreciate having story arcs that demonstrates that Batman is willing to extend a hand to those who have previously tried to kill the crap out of him, and is willing to help those people go straight. This worked for me when Riddler was going straight, and I like this a lot here with Clayface – in particular, because Riddler’s attempt to turn hero was treated with skepticism, while here Batman is actively trying to help Clayface – both in terms of helping him control his powers so he can be a hero, and also providing the resources he needs so he can return to being a part of society.
That said, the antagonist of this volume feels like a variant of the Court of Owls. The Court of Owls worked because of how they connected to Gotham’s history, and how they indirectly tie in with the deaths of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Here, while there’s something of a connection to Kate Kane and her military background, they still don’t have quite the same connection, making them underwhelming.
Don’t take me wrong – as villains, they’re still a threat, but they’re one that I feel less invested in. They’re like Cobra on steroids, with only the vaguest pretense of noble intentions.
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