Considering that he is often seen as a lone vigilante who strikes criminals like a creature of the night, Batman has always had a sense of family, from his trusted butler Alfred to the number of Robins who have allied with the Dark Knight throughout the decades. As we learned from The Lego Batman Movie, "friends are family" and that is a key theme in James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics since the start of Rebirth.
Since the conclusion of the run’s first arc "Rise of the Batmen," where the family witnessed the death of Tim Drake, the team has felt fractured. Not only was Bruce Wayne being haunted by this tragedy, but Stephanie Brown left to start her solo vigilantism as Spoiler. However, in reality, Tim is very much alive, held prisoner by the mysterious Mr. Oz, a figure who had remained anonymous until he was finally revealed in the pages of Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics.
There has always been a discussion between the readership about why Batman needs a kid sidekick, given that Bats was originally conceived as a dark antithesis of the more optimistic Superman. The main reason is obvious: for a character who delves into the darkness in order to fight it, Batman needs the light to guide him out of the abyss. What’s wonderful about the opening issue of this volume, which is a conversation between Red Robin and Oz, is we not only see flashes of Tim’s origin into the Bat-family, but Tim stating that very reason why Batman needs a Robin.
Now I won’t give away the Mr. Oz reveal, but it really doesn’t leave much of an impact here as it does towards Superman, who does make a brief appearance. However, what it does set up is the best story Tynion has written since the initial issues of his run.
I’ve always gotten the sense that Tynion is taking his cues from previous writers such as Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder as we have seen previous Robins such as Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne donning the cape and cowl, albeit through pre-New 52 continuity or Elseworlds. However, Tim Drake’s return to the family (or as he calls the team: the "Gotham Knights") does bring back an element of optimism that was missing throughout most of the run, while still applying a hint of darkness in how we see the future Bat-Drake functions and how his motivations set up a possible conflict within the Knights later on in the series.
It is also the delight to see the return of artists Alvaro Martinez and Eddy Barrows, both of whom make this book a stunning visual read with a clever use of panel layouts, as well as the dynamic blockbuster-styled action with numerous characters fighting with various gadgets against a variety of villains.
What concludes this volume is a two-issue arc (drawn by Carmen Carnero) where we see what Spoiler was doing before A Lonely Place of Living, which was partnering up with Anarky. Although the villain’s plot is strangely reminiscent of season four from TV’s Arrow, while we still await the reunion between Spoiler and Red Robin despite a touching opening showcasing their romance before things went wrong, the real star is Clayface. I’ve never understood why Basil Karlo became part of the team, but this arc presents why Clayface is trying to redeem himself with a possible cure in development and with moments such as his relationship with Cassandra Cain, there is enough emotion in telling the story of the clay monster trying to regain his humanity.
Following disappointment from recent volumes, A Lonely Place of Living has brought the best in James Tynion IV and his cast of characters and makes me excited to see what will come in the future.
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