A backup story from Detective Comics reveals that a major ally of the Dark Knight has always had very pointed doubts about the good Batman can do.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the story “3 Minutes” from Detective Comics #1037 by John Ridley, Dustin Nguyen, John Kalisz, and Tom Napolitano, on sale now
Previously, Lucius Fox was one of the most crucial members of the Bat-Family of heroes. For years, the genius was a key part of the fight to protect Gotham City, working largely from the sidelines in crucial ways. Although he never went into the field, Lucius’ innovations and inventions made him a crucial piece of Batman’s war on crime, resulting in many of the Dark Knight’s greatest weapons and tools.
However, his opinion of vigilantes in general and Batman, in particular, have increasingly suffered: he was captured by Joker and Punchline in the build-up to “Joker War,” and the torture he suffered at their hands broke his resolve. He ended the conflict in control of the Wayne Fortune and with no intention of allowing Gotham to continue to be primarily protected by the likes of Bruce Wayne, instead helping try to bring “proper” justice back to the city. Notably, this appears to have quietly been something on Fox’s mind for years according to a story appearing in the latest issue of Detective Comics called “3 Minutes.”
The story takes place early in Batman’s career, when Dick Grayson was still active as the first Robin. During one mission, Lucius was brought into the Bat-Cave to to assist with arm dealers. Lucius is initially overwhelmed by the mission and the danger it poses, but gives Bruce a piece of advice on how to activate an EMP to stop the gunmen — however, it’ll also cut off their communications for three minutes, keeping Alfred and Fox from knowing if Batman and Robin have survived.
During their brief time alone, Lucius and Alfred end up having a conversation about Dick Grayson, who Lucius genuinely worries about. While he can make peace with the self-destructive qualities of Bruce’s mission, he can’t believe a child has been involved in his war. Alfred tries to explain that he and Bruce both believe giving Dick the constructive outlet of becoming Robin will help him become a better person and keep the rage over his parent’s death from consuming him. But Lucius believes that eventually, doing this will get them killed, leaving young, innocent blood on Batman’s hands.
Lucius agrees to continue working with Batman, but not for Bruce. Intstead, he intends to stay to protect Dick and whomever else ends up becoming inspired by Batman’s “cult” and getting themselves into danger. At least as a part of the madness, Lucius can help protect them from within. It’s a startling shift for Lucius’ early motivations, painting his relationship with Batman in a far darker light and giving his recent doubts more grounding. It appears that Fox has always had his problems with Batman’s war on crime, especially when it came to how it could get other people involved in Bruce’s crusade to avenge his parents.
This makes his current trajectory as a character make perfect sense, while also hinting at an unseen tragic edge of their friendship, where neither man really understood what the other was doing. One of Bruce’s greatest allies never truly believed in his cause, and Lucius lost his faith in Batman years before the present day. With revelations like this in mind, future encounters between the two will be all the more dramatic, compounded by the fact that both of Lucius’ sons have become masked vigilantes as well.
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