Wednesday, August 7, 2013

SPOILERS: Detective Comics #23

A few years ago, Batman would take down the lowlife burglar who'd eventually become Scorn. When Clyde Anderson was brought in, he didn't blame Batman for his arrest, but had a growing resentment towards the police, and would continue to file lawsuits against them, eventually being released early under a work-release program, overseen by E.D. Caldwell, the man Bruce Wayne believes is the Wrath, and is responsible for the death of Anderson.

Sometime later, Bruce finds the Wrath once again trying to assassinate police officers, but is able to thwart the attempt. The two fight, while Wrath takes a particular interest in the technology Batman is using. Wrath eventually bests Bruce temporarily by pumping his suit full of 60,000 watts of current, allowing him to live, if only to test out his "toys" again sometime later.

The next day, Bruce decides to try and get proof that Caldwell is indeed the wrath, as both he and Alfred plan to meet with Caldwell, in order to do some snooping. Later, the two arrive at Caldwell industries, and meet with Caldwell himself, who is being interviewed by Bullock about Clyde Anderson. Once Bullock leaves, after thanking Caldwell for the tech donated to the GCPD (which tips Bruce off to Caldwell's plan) Caldwell asks Bruce if he's reconsidered his offer to by Wayne Enterprises, suggesting they "negotiate" while sparring in his gym... whose martial arts ring hands out the side of his tower. Caldwell makes his intentions known, he's not interested in most of Wayne Enterprises, he just wants to mass produce the technology the company creates for Batman, which Bruce obviously doesn't go for.

Alfred stays behind, and with the help of some tech on his watch, does some snooping. Once Bruce and Caldwell's sparring match is over, Caldwell plays off like he's adjusting a contact, but it's actually a camera where he sees Alfred arriving to a secret bunker, then excuses himself. Sure enough, Alfred finds proof that Caldwell is the Wrath, but also proof that he's about to start a war, as the bunker is full of weaponry and vehicles. Think The Dark Knight Rises, when Bane gets access to all the tumblers and what not, only much more. Alfred calls Bruce to alert him, but as he does, Wrath shows up, and orders his assistant to take Bruce into custody.

So begins Wrath's true plan, as cameras across the city show many of the bullet proof vests donated by Caldwell Industries emitting an electrical charge, disabling tons of cops. Wrath picks up Alfred's watch and asks which of the "bosses" he's speaking to, Bruce Wayne or Batman. Bruce, having disabled Caldwell's assistant, has already called in the Batplane and gone full on Batman, which pleases Wrath, because he lets Batman know he's coming for him next.

In the back-up, we learn a bit more about Francine, and her employer. We already knew that her marriage to Kirk was a sham, sort of cooperate espionage, but we didn't know the who or why. Turns out Francine worked for Caldwell Industries, who wanted to weaponize the man-bat serum, and there's your tie. Everything was going well, until the moment Kirk had to use his own formula, which forced Francine to do the same to try and get him back, and then she became addicted. Kirk, still unaware of this, confronts his wife, which leads them to both bat-out, and fight. Even though Francine's marriage to Kirk was a lie, she's unable to kill her husband, given the chance. Instead, she leaves in Bat form, free of her old life, and free of Caldwell.


The Good:

Don't get me wrong, the main feature of this issue was good, Layman and Fabok continue to deliver great Batman, but I think the back-up stole the show. The one issue I've taken with the current Man-Bat back-up is that it felt pretty standalone, compared to what Layman was doing with Emperor Penguin in the first issues of his run... and then that's completely addressed with the tie to Caldwell. The tie is so simple and small, but works perfectly, and makes the entire Man-Bat story supplemental to the current arc. Those connective threads between plots are what I've really come to love about this book for the past year.

The Bad:

Not really a big deal, but who is going to sit here and tell me there wasn't a camera that saw Bruce take down Caldwell's assistant, then hop into the batplane?

I also wish there was a bit on why Caldwell hates cops so much. Maybe next issue?

The Bottom Line:

As with last week's annual issue, I really believe it's the supplemental back-up that stole the show. Layman's back-ups do more than just fill space, they tie in the main feature, and make it all the more richer, while continuing to tell their own independent story. Because of the general strength and entertainment factor of the main features, mixed with the great back-ups, Detective Comics under Layman, Fabok and Clarke has really become a bat book to reckon with, against the likes of Snyder and Capullo's Batman. Are they two completely different books? Sure. But do they offer up similar value in entertainment? Absolutely.



  1. When he was first introduced, it was revealed that Wrath's parents were criminals killed in a shoot out by Jim Gordon when he was a beat cop, similar to how Bruce's parents were killed by the mugger Joe Chill. That may or may not come up in later issues.

  2. I'm loving this series now too. The artwork just SCREAMS 'Detective Comics'