Author: John Bierly (Follow @JOHNBIERLY)
Date: July 10, 2015

SYNOPSIS: More surprises around every corner as the all-new Batman hits the streets of Gotham City!

My hopes that BATMAN #42 would go lighter on the meta commentary than #41 were squashed immediately by a page-one standoff where a kid with a traditional Dark Knight figure tells a kid with a Mecha-Gordon-Zilla figure that all the toys in the world will never make it the real Batman.

One page later, Jim Gordon's carrying on a similar conversation with Julia that keeps coming back to "the car" (or Jim's lack of one) in a little nod to BATMAN FOREVER. Gordon does get his own Batmobile -- a "Bat-Truck" as big as a river barge and as long as a city block -- but it's just another reminder for Jim of what Kid #1 told Kid #2 on the book's first page. Everything is gadgets and apps, and those things alone do not a Batman make.

Which is why I like what follows, when writer Scott Snyder takes us inside Gordon's head as he views the Narrows from the ramp of his Bat-Airship/Drop-Ship instead of from the ground-level angle of his street-beat.

But Gordon's musings are cut short by an attack from a super-powered piece of scum he recognizes -- not from the original Batman's rogues gallery, but from the GCPD mug books. It feels similar to Jim's first battle as Batman in #41, right down to Jim coming at the bad guy as a cop first, which I love, though stories with designer drugs that turn thugs into super-villains are become more than a little overdone.

But then something happens that changes everything; and it's got a lot to do with how #41 began and ended with Bruce Wayne hanging out on a park bench. And it's no surprise that he's alive; his "death" was only ever going to be temporary anyway, and even #40 made a point to show him alive and well in its final pages.

BATMAN #42 Cover

(The mystery, then, is what did he do with The Joker? Because if Bruce made it out alive, then know that The Joker did, too, because Bruce wouldn't have left him to die. So where did he take him? Unless this "Bruce Wayne" is going to turn out to be The Joker in disguise, which is just too dumb to fathom.)

I won't talk about what happens in any kind of detail, but I will say that it softens my concerns about the abundance of meta commentary that's driven these two issues. In other words, I thought Snyder was telling one kind of story, but this issue tells us he's doing something else entirely.

The problem is that I can't decide what I'd like more -- a pure Gordon-as-Batman story, or this other thing that it seems we'll actually be getting. I'm just glad the book seems to be making a decision and sticking to it, rather than hovering in some awkward area in between as #41 did. I love #42's final panel, and I'm way more excited about reading #43 than I was about reading this one going into it.

What else is there to say about Greg Capullo and his art team? I'd love a print of that colorful final panel that's bursting with color and character. And Capullo's having a lot of fun with Gordon's Bat-Armor and Gordon's new look. (Check out Jim's jawline in the cowl, for example, when he's talking to Maggie Sawyer. Capullo really captures that it's Jim in the cowl and not Bruce. It's so identifiable as Jim in the mask that your brain can practically fill in the mustache.)

With this issue's third act evaporating my concerns in a hurry, I've gone from cautious optimism to full engagement for this arc. I'd say that things are about to get interesting, but by the end of #42, they already have. - John Bierly


John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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