In the third chapter of “Robin War”, writer Ray Fawkes and artist Steve Pugh steer Detective Comics #47 back to the political roots of Robin War #1 while capturing some of the sassy humor and little differences between the Robins in the character driven Grayson #15. And they use the name (Detective Comics) and traditional protagonist (Batman) of the comic to cast a sympathetic ear on the GCPD police officers while also advancing the conspiracy mystery featuring the Court of the Owls. Fawkes writes Jim Gordon’s Batman as a kind of middle ground between the corrupt Gotham status quo under Councilwoman Noctua and the vigilantism of both the original and We Are Robin group and uses his inner monologue to frame his struggle between staying within the system and getting justice. This is also inherent in the dichotomy that Jim Gordon is both Batman and a police officer.
The main political issue that Fawkes and Pugh look at in Detective Comics #47 is the horrible nature of the American prison system, which contains 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners. Damian Wayne, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, and the We Are Robin kids are also held without observing due process or contacting their parents or a lawyer. This is eerily similar to Holman Square, an off-the-books interrogation compound in Chicago where police officers held underage suspects without a lawyer for 12-24 hours, beat suspects, and didn’t “book” suspects in official arrest records. Pugh puts his own bird themed twist on these illegal facilities with Gotham’s new supermax for children wearing the Robin insignia in which they’re confined to cages overhanging the cell floor in a jaw dropping double page spread that causes Harvey Bullock to darkly joke about “early retirement” because sending kids to Guantanamo Gotham-edition wasn’t what he signed up for.
The nature of this prison complex and the treatment of these children also causes good cops like Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock to examine their actions up to this point. Throughout the comic, Fawkes reveals some of Gordon’s childhood, and that he always played the “cop” in his childhood games of cops and robbers, which is what he compares the situation with the Robins to. On the surface, this might seem like a simplistic black and white view of law and order, but Gordon’s thinking has some great nuance later in the story. Juxtaposed with a series of panels featuring Damian Wayne unearthing a hidden batarang against his bright green, Chris Sotomayor colored mask is Gordon’s narration about a kid he used to play with. This kid wasn’t a robber because he was bad, but just because he liked the thrill of wearing a mask and standing out. And standing out isn’t a problem for Dick Grayson.
The biggest thrill of Detective Comics #47 is definitely the fight and chase scene between Jim Gordon as Batman and Dick Grayson. It begins with the harsh black and oranges of the opening page with Gordon and Dick kicking and whacking each other. Then, Pugh’s marries the cutaway diagram used by Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four and other early Marvel books as well as Jamie McKelvie more recently in Young Avengers with the single take hallway fight scenes in the Daredevil and Arrow TV shows. The result is spectacular with a non-stop flurry of blows between Gordon and Dick while the Owls watch silently in the background. And Pugh knows when to get intimate as he and Fawkes flash forward to the combatants just flailing at each other with fists and Escrima sticks and no buildings to provide the backdrop for their battles. With a flame red backdrop from Sotomayor, Fawkes picks his spot perfectly for Jim Gordon to unmask, reveal himself as Batman, and work more productively with Dick from here on forward. But their fight is a wonderful piece of action ballet from British comics vet Steve Pugh as passions run high for both defenders of justice.
And Detective Comics #47 also advances the larger plot of “Robin War” between the humorous, yet impudent banter between Tim, Damian, and Jason, political allegory, and gorgeous action choreography. The fight and conversation between Jim Gordon and Dick Grayson cements them as de facto leaders of the Robins as they do some old fashioned detective work and have hunches that something isn’t quite right with Councilwoman Noctua. Then, Pugh gives us an ode to happier times with Dick Grayson and Batman flying through the air, chiseled abs, bunny eared robot suit, and all in a poster ready splash page. But Sotomayor continues to make the background an ominous red sunset, which is a perfect segue into the Court of the Owls casting aside the veil of the police and taking direct action against the Robins detained at the new prison in a deadly cliffhanger.
Three chapters, three completely different titles, and three creative teams later, “Robin War” is still making a case for the comic book event of 2015. In Detective Comics #47, Ray Fawkes, Steve Pugh, and Chris Sotomayor combine real world political analogues with energetic action sequences, and making Jim Gordon the POV character puts a fresh set of eyes on the status quo shaking events of the series so far. Plus he, Dick Grayson, and Harvey Bullock do actual detective things like follow hunches, leads, have ethical crises, and take smoke breaks. (Harv does at least.)
Detective Comics #47
Written by Ray Fawkes
Art by Steve Pugh
Colors by Chris Sotomayor
Letters by Wes Abbott
Published by DC Comics
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Logan is a nerdy, bisexual ginger, who recently graduated university with a degree in English Literature and Overanalyzing Comic Books. He loves comics, music (especially New Wave and BritPop), film (especially Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright), sports (college football and NBA), TV, mythology, and poetry. Joss Whedon is his master, Kitty Pryde is his favorite superhero, and his current favorite comic is The Wicked + the Divine.