Detective Comics #1039 sees Huntress come face to face with Gotham’s most monstrous villain and become a monster herself.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for “The Neighborhood – Finale” from Detective Comics #1039 by Mariko Tamaki, Viktor Bogdanovic, Daniel Henriques, Norm Rapmund, Jordie Bellaire, Aditya Bidikar, on sale now.
Gotham has been full of monsters lately. With Batman’s influence over the city threatened both by the changes to his personal life and the encroaching influence of Future State’s Magistrate, the city could soon be overrun by even more monsters. Detective Comics #1039 takes this turn rather literally, as the mystery behind a series of murders is revealed to have a monstrous origin and, to make matters worse, it just claimed Huntress.
The discovery of Gotham’s hidden monsters started with the death of one of Bruce Wayne’s new neighbors, Sarah Worth. Although the police believed Bruce to be the killer, the real culprit was her partner, Sam. The reason he killed her though surprised even the Dark Knight. He was infected with a parasite, spreading throughout Gotham, that made its victims crave violence. The Huntress was also tracking these violent murders, which brought her to the Sarah Worth case and Batman’s investigation. Together they found the body of Neil Betterman, a member of Mayor Nakano’s office, and discovered the connection all of the victims had — Hue Vile.
In Detective Comics #1039, Huntress comes face to face with Vile and confronts him about his heinous crimes. Although she believed taking him in would be easy, cuffing him brought about a horrific surprise. Vile’s mouth opened up in four pincer-like shapes, revealing glowing green tendrils for a tongue, and delivered a toxin to the unsuspecting hero.
Throughout “The Neighborhood” story arc, Hue Vile has gone from a minor figure in the Mayor’s office to an downright sinister presence. It came as a shock when this unassuming bureaucrat was revealed as the source of Gotham’s escalating rage issues. The story’s finale reveals the origins of the strange parasite living within Vile. The “fungal infection,” as doctors called it, resided within him since he was a child, growing more and more ravenous until Vile knew what it wanted and how to satisfy his twisted cravings. He infected others, making them his puppets, and had them commit violent acts to satisfy the bloodlust this infection created within him.
Vile manipulated the anger of Sarah Worth’s father to cause chaos throughout the city that he was then able to use to his full advantage. With Batman occupied by Worth and the rest of the Bat-Family trying to bring order back to the streets, the lone Huntress became yet another victim of Vile’s sick hunger. Even though Huntress was able to stab him during their struggle, that didn’t stop her from becoming another one of his monsters. The glowing green tendrils emerged from her mouth, just like Vile, signaling that she too had succumbed to the rage-inducing parasite.
Vile used his new puppet to attack Batman but, unlike most of the other victims, Huntress was able to fight back. She was able to tell Batman that light was the infection’s weakness, giving the Caped Crusader the opportunity to subdue her and deny Vile another meal.
Despite their best efforts, Vile still managed to escape, escorted away by one of Penguin’s men. The Bat-Family may know who he is now but he’s still lurking in Gotham’s underworld, and very capable of continuing his quest to engulf the city in rage. As for Huntress, even though she was able to fight the parasite, she’s not out of the woods yet. After the battle, she and another victim were placed in chemically-induced comas. Since she was only recently infected, Huntress is responding well to the doctor’s treatment but she still has a long way to go before she is completely healed.
This monstrous parasite is yet another example of the horror theme permeating DC’s Batman titles. From Scarecrow’s terrifying tactics and the very real horror of the Magistrate’s police state in the main title, to the unexpected horror of the new villain Cheer from Batman: Urban Legends, it’s no wonder Gotham is headed towards an event titled Fear State.
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