“You destroyed my life. You destroyed all of our lives. We are the victim syndicate. We’re here to return the favor.”
— James Tynion IV, Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 2) The Victim Syndicate
James Tynion IV continues his unexpectedly entertaining run of Detective Comics with volume 2, The Victim Syndicate. Taking place directly after the unfortunate events in Detective Comics (Volume 1) Rise of the Batmen, the story starts off by serving us an aftermath assessment for each character in the newly formed squad under Batman and Batwoman’s wings. Inevitably, the events that lead to the loss of a comrade have taken a huge toll on every one—some more than others—and things seem to be a lot more fragile for everyone. Questions about their purposes in life and their motivations on a daily basis are put through the blender and mixed in with a hefty amount of doubt. There’s nothing like a new group of freaky and shady characters to make matters a bit more dark and complicated. This story arc introduces fans to a brand new set of villains who have had a grudge for quite some time and are ready to react in order to see change in Gotham.
The Victim Syndicate is definitely not your typical squad of villains as they have joined forces for one particular reason: they see Batman as the cause of their supernatural conditions. Being the collateral damage of an altercation between Batman and big-name villains, each of the Victims find solace in blaming Batman and his friends for their predicament. This alone can be seen as a brilliant premise to investigate the idea that their are innocent victims that get hurt or die while the focus of the action remains on Batman and his nemesis. By diving deeper in the psyche of those that never asked to be in the middle of a battlefield, the rise of the Victim Syndicate brings light to the ignored and the forgotten. But does it actually set things up for something extraordinary for this story arc? Yes and no.
What was particularly well-done was the leader of the Victim Syndicate, the First Victim. His character remained mysterious throughout the whole story arc and his mere presence installed fear and demanded caution. His origin was kept a secret for the better part of the story, while every other member had a rapid-fire revelation on who and how they became who they are now. Even in the final showdown, everyone (except the First Victim) was dealt with in a quick and efficient manner. This style was quite effective as they always packed a punch and remained straight-forward. However, while some of these moments were quite powerful, some of them also fell short. I’d probably point my finger at the writing. With James Tynion IV, you get the most wordy dialogues ever, but they aren’t consistent in quality—their pertinence can sometimes be questioned. In fact, he sometimes overdoes it for my taste and deviates from the character’s personalities.
Spoiler (Highlight To See) : «Spoiler (Stephanie Brown)» plays a big part throughout this storyarc, especially because she’s the one who’s having the hardest time to deal with the loss of you-know-who from the past volume. Throughout the story she often serves as a cliff-hanger for a lot of moments; just when you think you know what’s going on, something else is delivered. I can definitely appreciate these plot twists and find them quite tantalizing. Two other characters are also newly introduced into this Rebirth series, Spoiler (Highlight To See) : «Batwing and Jean-Paul Valley». While the former gets a more prominent role in the narrative, the latter was teased. In fact, he was teased so hard that the transition from his cliff-hanger moment to his reveal in the next issue made no sense to me. I wish they had taken the time to build him; it honestly would’ve been quite a “rebirth” for that particular character.
I believe it was the last issue of the storyarc regarding The Victim Syndicate that had me hesitant. For one, I wasn’t sure anymore what the First Victim’s powers/weapons were. One second he seems unbeatable, the next he’s just a wooden log ready for the next big round house kick. Second of all, the arrival of the “game-changer” character, Spoiler (Highlight To See) : «Spoiler (Stephanie Brown)», also sort of bothered me as well. While the story was obviously being built-up for this very moment, it’s the speech and the tactics used by said character that felt so underwhelming and unconvincing. However, I do understand the whole idea behind this move and what the volume as a whole was trying to tell us. After all, you’ll never see a more doubt-ridden and sad-faced (I’m not even kidding about this one; it really gets weird to look at sometimes) Batman anywhere else.
Similar to Batman (Volume 2) I Am Suicide by Tom King, this volume also features a two-part story at the end, involving Batwoman however. Co-written with Marguerite Bennett in order to promote the Rebirth series of Batwoman that came out around the same time as the last issue, this story connects with the crossover event Night of the Monster Men and continues along the sub-plot regarding Batwoman and her dad who was mentioned earlier in The Victim Syndicate. This mini-story somehow managed to make the crossover event sound a lot more interesting than it actually was. The artwork is quite decent and the idea of tackling the purpose of Batwoman, compared to Batman, was also interesting. However, the way they conveyed her purpose felt wrong, but it’s quite hard to grasp the extent of it until you actually go ahead and read Batwoman’s Rebirth series. In fact, this two-part story simply sets things up for Batwoman Rebirth #1 and didn’t have anything more to offer regarding the Victim Syndicate. In the end, volume 2 continues in the right direction and James Tynion IV is definitely a great writer for this series. There are things that need work, but this is nonetheless entertaining.
Did you read Batman: Detective Comics (Volume 2): The Victim Syndicate yet? What did you think about it?
You haven’t read it, you say?
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★☆☆/