Henri Ducard and Batman may be fighting on the cover of this week’s Batman: The Detective, but make no mistake, they were once allies. Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert further probe this unique relationship while also revealing a more intimate and younger Bruce Wayne before he’s totally figured out how to be Batman. It’s a flashback issue, but how does this all tie into the mystery of who is killing those Batman saved? Considering we know very little about this slightly alternate take on Batman this issue may fill in some gaps.
This issue marks the halfway point of Batman’s globetrotting efforts to find the person killing people he’s saved, but it opens with Batman attempting to save Ducard’s life. He was shot full of holes last issue and Batman takes Ducard to a secret hospital for mending. When asked how he knows Ducard the flashback kicks in and we’re now on board for a interesting look at Bruce as a younger man trying to find his place as Batman.
This issue does a good job capturing the innocence of Bruce Wayne and the not-yet perfect form Bruce Wayne eventually takes as Batman. Taylor uses Ducard’s expert manhunting skills and suave demeanor to pull out Bruce Wayne’s earlier personality while showing us how another crime-fighter could do things. Ducard kills, for instance, and he’s also a bit of a jerk. Batman, famously, never kills and has a much stronger moral code. These elements are revealed in an opening flashback where Bruce saves Ducard, but then also years later when Bruce is finally Batman. Their relationship, and what Bruce learns from Ducard, are interesting facets that help define both men.
It’s also great fun to see different stages of Batman. Andy Kubert captures the more innocent and emotional Bruce early on, but later we see he’s more honed and serious. In the later scenes — with Batman wearing his blue costume with yellow bat-emblem — we get a more familiar take on Batman who is deadly serious and much more honed. Kubert is a master at capturing progression in a scene through strong framing and careful attention to body language. Brad Anderson’s colors play to Kubert’s semi-cartoonist style with bright, atmospheric colors that tend to use warm glow throughout.
Taylor smartly has the story come full circle utilizing handcuffs. Batman literally uses them, but they also act as a symbol for the kind of hero Batman is by comparison to Ducard. Even at an early age, Bruce wanted to do the right thing and save others while Ducard was always a man for hire who didn’t mind killing. One could surmise from this issue that Batman learned from Ducard even though he didn’t agree with his tactics, but by the time Bruce became Batman it was evident they were nothing alike.
This issue takes a turn from uncovering the main mystery or at the very least has become less obvious about how this all ties to the deaths of those Batman saved. Without an obvious clue or connection it makes this issue read like a side quest or backup story about Ducard and Batman. For a character who wasn’t there in the first issue (and a story arc that has so far not been solely about these two), it’s an interesting choice.
Batman: The Detective #3 is a smartly written comic thanks to a careful understanding of how Batman rose up as an earnest young man looking for guidance. That dynamic isn’t often probed and here it helps us understand Ducard, but also Batman.
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