When DC and Marvel Comics issue press releases to introduce the latest 'hot' new hero or villain (like DC did for the new Batman "villain" Miracle Molly a couple of months back), you tend to take it with a grain of salt.
"Nothing will ever be the same" the publishers like to tell us … a lot … but the punchline is, mainstream comic books almost always eventually go back to exactly how they were before (DC's cross country rivals Marvel Comics have practically mastered the concept).
So it wasn't without a hint of skepticism that I perused an advance copy of May 4's Batman #108 the other day, the full-fledged debut of Miracle Molly after a cameo first appearance in March's Batman #106.
And as I read through her quite lengthy, and what I found to be very thoughtful introduction, it slowly began to dawn on me that not only did I like Molly as a character, but that she reminded me of another new high-profile comic book supervillain many of us met recently. And in invoking similar concepts, writer James Tynion IV may have also hit on a similar narrative strategy that could serve him well and put a definitive stamp on his Batman era.
Maybe Gotham actually will be changed in a significant way from here on in...
Spoilers for Batman #108
Over 12 pages, entirely a Sorkin-esque walk-and-talk dialogue with Batman, Molly reveals herself voluntarily, and just that simple exercise feels refreshing.
While it sort of resembles the classic bad-guy trope of revealing their dastardly plan thinking they're about to kill the hero, what's different about Molly is her lack of gamesmanship or self-involvement. She doesn't appear to be setting any traps for Batman. She's not serving her own ego by taking a victory lap. She simply reveals her motivation to Batman because he asks and because she has a perfectly legitimate reason to tell him.
Batman is as surprised as the reader is.
The dynamic is engaging. Molly makes it plain Batman has no need to use his world's-greatest detective skills, and she in fact sees through the 'Matches' disguise that he arrives in when he tries to infiltrate what he believes is the headquarters of the Unsanity Collective (the organization/community of which Molly is second-in-command).
Molly also does not appear to be any physical match or threat to Batman either. Her powers and/or skills are that she's a genius at creating wearable and/or cybernetic tech/human enhancement (it isn't clear if she is a metahuman or just very smart). Tynion gives no indication she's enhanced in a way that gives her physical prowess.
Series artist Jorge Jimenez also draws her as unimposing. Batman physically towers over her in the panels they appear together, and her colorful but looks-like-she-purchased-her-costume-at-the-Gotham City-Target aesthetic enhances the dichotomy and the differences between her and other Gotham villains, who are often gothic, grotesque, fun-house mirror reflections of people's fears.
But despite all this, Molly is clearly in the driver's seat of their entire interaction. Batman is there to learn, and Molly is there to tell him anything he wants to know, mostly because it follows her and the Unsanity Collective's core principle to allow Batman to join their cause if he chooses to.
And it's that confidence in her cause and the absence of any fear of Batman, along with her youth and lack of physical intimidation that reminds of Erin Kellyman's Karli Morgenthau/the leader of the Flag-Smashers of the just-completed The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Almost certainly entirely a coincidence since Molly was announced months ago and certainly conceived long before that, the similarities are still present. While Molly has yet to show a willingness to kill to make a point like Karli did, their politics … their 'woke' politics ... share some common ground.
Karli and Molly both fight for the downtrodden, for people left behind by society. In Molly's case, echoing some of the classist politics hit on in The Dark Knight Rises, she fights for who is in her view the Gotham City every-person who clings to a false hope of playing by the rules and succeeding in a system that's stacked against them. She describes those who aspire for just a modicum of safety and security but who are instead living in fear of never obtaining it or the little bit they get slipping through their fingers. In her view, living that kind of life is insane, the opposite of what society tries to dictate it is.
While Molly could certainly be described as an extremist, Tynion never reveals her as a zealot. She's calm, grounded, and never displays a hint of fanaticism.
Batman pushes back against some of Molly's bolder ideas and declarations - particularly her dismissive views about the wealthy (she's able to deduce Batman comes from wealth as well) but Tynion clearly doesn't have him offer much resistance or a counter-argument. Molly's views appear to be views Tynion is invested in, even if exaggerated somewhat for effect.
Molly doesn't appear to want to rule the world or even Gotham City; her main motivation doesn't seem to be to punish the rich; and she certainly doesn't seem interested in being Batman's polar opposite.
For now, at least, Tynion seems to want us to view her more as an anti-hero than villain who's willing to break the law and perhaps do some harm to those whom she considers the villains of her story to rescue who she believes are victims.
There's not a hint of nihilism or cartoon evil to Molly. She seems more like a committed progressive liberal you might encounter on Twitter, projected through the lens of a comic book world of a billionaire urban vigilante who dresses like a bat.
Someday, Batman may have to fight Molly and/or her foot soldiers wielding technological weaponry she creates. And maybe she'll be forced to keep secrets from him winding up in a battle of wits, putting his detective skills to the test. But for now, Batman and Molly's real opposition seems to be in the ideological arena, with the Dark Knight finding himself unprepared in a legitimate debate of topical ideas.
An unprepared Batman. Think about that.
Which makes Miracle Molly a very interesting "new Batman villain" indeed.
James Tynion IV may start putting some pressure on an edit of the best Batman stories of all time.