Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SPOILERS: Batman #28

NOTE: If you don't know what happens in this issue, I'm going to tell you right now, that trust me... this is one of those better read, as my write up can't do it proper justice. Just saying.

One night, sometime into the future of Gotham, Harper Row is out alone on the streets, which are being monitored heavily by security and police, who find Harper and inform her that she’s in violation of curfew. After some sarcastic banter from Harper, before the cops enforce some police brutality on her, she tells them “Midnight in Gotham is the bee’s knees.” The cops stop, and instead of giving her a nightstick sandwich, they take her away in a van instead. The next thing Harper knows, she has a hood taken off her head, having said the magic words, she’s in The Egyptian, a secret nightclub within Gotham.

Security uses a high-tech Waynetech scanner to see if Harper is hiding anything, but nothing comes up. She’s asked why she came, and Harper tells the man interrogating her that she came for her brother, he’s infected “with it” as they’re in the Narrows, which is also known as “ground zero.” The man tells Harper that if her brother is infected, there’s not much they can do, but Harper has heard the new kingpin of Gotham can make anything happen for the right price.

With that, the man decides to lead Harper deeper into the casino, where a group of fairly large men away her. The largest, with many scratches on his face, tells Harper that the password she used was three days old, and they’re not going to help her, instead, they plan to hurt her… Which is funny, because Harper tells them she’s there for the same reason, and cuts the lights. When the lights come back on, Batman has taken care of the room. Bruce isn’t all too pleased with Harper, knowing she brought something he specifically told her not to, which Harper sarcastically confirms, but nevertheless, before going for what they’re in The Egyptian for, Bruce calls into the cave for a report on the floor and how many guards are armed.

The thing is… Alfred doesn’t pick up the phone so to speak, a fairly young person (who knows Harper by name… I’m betting it’s Cullen) picks up, and while gets the job done for Bruce, admits they’re still fairly new at the job. With the intel from the cave, Bruce gives Harper a look for a moment, then tells her to get dressed for work.

A moment later, a door to the main floor of the club/casino blows open, with Batman and a suited up Harper emerging. Now the big question is? What’s Harper calling herself? Nightwing? Nope. Bluebird is her code name. Just getting that one out of the way. Bruce takes the floor, telling Harper to go high, and we get to see some of the tech Harper’s got. Ever play Arkham Origins? You know that remote cable thing you get from Deathstroke? Harper’s got something similar, and some hooks on her boots she uses to hang from, allowing her an ideal vantage point to use her gun which basically shoots pellets… which are also charged with quite a bit of electricity. The fight goes on for a bit, until the person Bruce and Harper are looking for arrives and calls of their men… The new crime lord of Gotham...

Selina Kyle.

Bruce and Selina’s relationship has clearly gone south, as most of what this issue teases is found in their conversation. Selina drops hints about where Batman is in the world right now, him having apparently lost a lot so far, the police, his friends, the city, and herself. She goes on to explain that she saved the city’s underworld from itself, and making it work how it’s supposed to work, but at a cost… Selina has become a huge target to some, with a bounty of $800 million on her head, which she takes as a compliment.

After telling him that he could have come and asked for whatever he wanted nicely, Bruce tells Selina that baed on her current life decisions, she shouldn’t expect him to play nice anymore and things turn ugly, as Selina goes for her whip and Bruce’s neck. With Bruce pinned to the floor, she makes it clear that their past relationship is dead, no more masks, innuendo, roof-top chases, that Catwoman is dead, and she blames Batman for leaving her to die. She goes on to tell Bruce that the city belongs to her now, and if he steps foot in her building again, she’ll kill him herself. At this point, Harper says tell hell with whatever weird relationship those two have got, and just points her massive gun at Selina’s head.

Selina stand’s down and tells Bruce she like’s Harper, as she’s feisty… But then makes a vague threat after learning Harper’s codename, telling a story about how Isis dropped a dead bluebird on her pillow after eating its head. Bruce gets up and tries to reason with Selina to get what he came for, reminding people that people are dying. Not being a complete villain, Selina reminds Bruce that all he had to do was ask nicely, and leads him to what he’s come for.

The three are lead to a large safe, and when it’s opened, Harper thinks what she’s looking at is a joke, but Selina tells them quite the opposite. You see, there’s a person in the safe, and according to Selina, after a couple hours of questioning, she’s the real deal.

“Her name is Stephanie Brown. She calls herself Spoiler, and she’s the only one in this city who knows how to stop what’s coming next.”


The Good:

Late Monday night, you may have seen some tweets along the lines of “HOLY SHIT!” from me… Yeah, this is what I was talking about. I went into this not expecting much to be quite honest, as I’ve heard the “This is big! This is crazy!” lines before, but was expecting a good deal of hyperbole… But no, god, no… This is just as big and crazy as expected. With everything that was teased, the answers given to Harper’s place in the Bat family, Selina Kyle’s new role, the return of Stephanie Brown and all the questions that this issue brought up, I was grinning from ear to ear after I first went through this issue. I haven’t been this genuinely excited for a Batman story in quite some time, and CANNOT wait to read Batman: Eternal, and whatever happens in this title after Zero Year.

Lest we forget the fact that Dustin Nguyen drew this issue as well… Never leave me again, Dustin! His and Derek Fridolf’s work in Gotham was some of my favorite in recent pre-New 52 memory. The art on both Detective Comics as well as Streets of Gotham was great, and after an absence from Gotham for a couple of years, it’s absolutely great to see another issue drawn by Nguyen and Fridolfs set in Gotham. Here’s to hoping they do more than a single arc on Eternal.

The Bad:

Only thing I didn’t really like is a holdover from the one issue I sometimes have with Nguyen’s art, and that’s how he draws characters proportions. There are some panels early on where Harper looks like a child, but in some panels she looks bigger, and by the time she suits up, she looks generally much larger in stature generally. It’s not a big deal, really, but it was definitely some cause for last minute doubt about whether or not Bluebird was actually Harper.

The Bottom Line:

Prior to reading this issue, I saw a comment on a message board about how they didn’t get why this was going to be a spoiler issue and thought it made zero sense… that sentiment is laughable. The idea of this issue was to throw readers into the middle of the shit, with no context  at all, and show them all sorts of craziness to get them excited to read Batman: Eternal to see how things get to this point. It worked, holy crap, did it work. In terms of comics, I’ll fully admit that I can get jaded, or perhaps become too cynical, but I always have that soft spot for Batman… that said, going into this issue, I kept my expectations in check, which was probably the best decision I could make, as they were soon blown out of the water. I don’t know when the last time it was that I was this excited to read a Batman story. This issue set out to do one thing, entice us with a whole bunch of great WTF moments, and it did that gloriously.


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