For the most part, Scott Snyder’s Batman has been brilliant. The Court of Owls storyline was absolutely terrific. Death of the Family, while flawed in the end, was a fun read. Even the smaller in-between issues have generally been good. But this one … just doesn’t work for me.
The last issue ended with Bruce seemingly injected with a serum that has been killing all sorts of people. It’s a serum that rapidly alters peoples’ appearances and bone structure, to the point where it kills them outright. This issue opens with Bruce seeming perfectly fine, and there are a few throwaway lines that suggest that he was just injected with a crude antidote. It’s disappointing.
The fight between Bruce Wayne and the villain, Karl, is decent enough. It’s refreshing to see Bruce actually injured in a fight scene, and even saved by the cops for once. After that is when the issue really falls apart. This issue explains exactly why Bruce doesn’t trust the cops at this point. I can see what Scott Snyder was doing here, but it doesn’t work all that well. Apparently Gordon and his partner made a bunch of stops on the way to the station after Bruce’s parents were killed. Would the cops actually do that? Especially when they’re taking a billionaire kid to the station after his parents were killed, they would probably head straight for the station and have a backup cover their neighborhood. It would be a valid reason to not trust the cops, but it’s not a very likely situation.
The biggest problem for me though, is the confrontation between Bruce Wayne and Gordon in the hospital. Bruce doesn’t even attempt to hide his combat skills or his toughness. When Gordon has already shown suspicion, this probably would have revealed his secret on the spot. There should be no way Gordon doesn’t know that Bruce is Batman at this point, but Gordon doesn’t seem the least bit suspicious. It’s almost as though he has a mental blindfold on. And I get that Bruce Wayne is determined to stop the villain, but shouldn’t he be smart enough to know it’s probably not a good idea to be running around with a cracked skull? Would he even be able to focus with all the pain that’s probably in his head? And you’d think he’d be arrested after he pulls a gun on a police officer.
Despite all these complaints, there is stuff to like about the writing. Bruce Wayne’s distrust of the police can make for some interesting storytelling, especially when most cops don’t trust Batman either. The cliffhanger at the end is a good one. The art is also very good throughout the issue. Karl looks terrifying in his morphed form. Bruce appears to be in great pain as his skull is being crushed. The environmental detail is impressive throughout, from the hospital bed to the very flashbacks to Bruce’s past, making it always easy to see exactly where he is to those familiar with his backstory. The art always helps tell the story in this comic; it’s pretty much flawless.
No matter how good a writer is, not every story he or she writes is going to be gold. I’ve very much enjoyed Scott Snider’s Batman since the relaunch, but this issue just doesn’t do it for me. It’s less confusing after a second reading, but its flaws are all the more apparent. If you’re a regular to Snyder’s Batman, this is still worth reading, but it’s probably the weakest issue yet. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who isn’t already reading Snyder’s run though.