Thursday, December 26, 2013

"The End" Week: Detective Comics #881!

I've mentioned before that I got a bunch of DC's "last" pre-New 52 issues out of the quarter bins. Here's one I never thought I'd live to see: the last issue of Detective Comics, Detective Comics #881, "The Face in the Mirror" Written by Scott Snyder, art by Jock (Mark Simpson) and Franceso Francavilla.

Featuring one of the final stories with Dick Grayson as Batman, this issue also featured James Gordon Junior as the villain. Prior to that, JGJr was best known for being the child thrown off a bridge and saved by Batman in Year One, and here he's a young man. (Probably too old?) And a calculating, clinical, cold psychopath; who tortures his sister Barbara (aka Batgirl or Oracle, depending on when you ask, and I'm not sure they were blood-related.) for always knowing what he was. JGJr also recognizes Dick as the current Batman, since he sees a televised report of him grinning before going into action. (This has some precedent, since Tim Drake recognized Dick's acrobatics as Robin; they really should avoid TV!)

Already a murderer, James had volunteered for a clinical trial for a new medication, and briefly does feel empathy; which he then rejects as weakness. Coupled with the TV report, he sees Batman--who cares far more deeply than he ever could--as "the weakest man in Gotham." His plan was to drug infant formula, to bring about a new generation like him, without weakness or empathy. Batman stopped him--maybe. It's left open if maybe James couldn't have already succeeded in tampering with a future generation, something we've seen before. Now, James intends to finish murdering Barbara, who isn't going to make it easy for him, and holds out until a tracer Dick had planted on James kicks in. While Dick tends to Barb's injuries, James makes a break for it, only to be shot in the legs by his dad, who refuses to let him fall again.

Later, Commissioner Gordon visits Dick, to thank him; he pretty obviously knows his secret. Together, they wonder what more Gotham can throw at them...and if James Jr. was lying or not. This was a dark, dark issue; but the timeline doesn't quite line up for me. If James Jr. was maybe six in Year One, he seems somewhere between 18 and 26 here? Which kind of fits with Dick being Batman, but would make Bruce kind of old. I know James Jr. has turned up in Gail Simone's Batgirl now, but I couldn't say how much of his history remains.

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