Author: John Bierly (Follow @JOHNBIERLY)
Date: August 16, 2015

SYNOPSIS: In the start of a new epic, a new villain stalks Gotham City. Will Batman be able to uncover the mystery of Mr. Bloom?

BATMAN #43 might not be the book you were expecting it to be when you read that glorious final panel of #42. After Bruce Wayne shuts down Jim Gordon's request for help, one of Batman's "Super Friends" pushes Alfred to tell the tale of Bruce's recent rise from his broken, bloodied fate beside The Joker's own ruined bones to his brand new life caring for children in a Narrows youth center with rekindled love Julie Madison by his side.

(The Super Friend doesn't ask about The Joker's fate, nor does Alfred offer any information. So that particular mystery endures. For now.)

"Don't you see?" Alfred implores. "Batman died. And Bruce Wayne came back." In other words, Bruce doesn't remember having been Batman, and Alfred plans to keep it that way by any means necessary... including threatening the Super Friend with what will happen if the Super Friend tells Bruce the truth.

Alfred covers all the bases of why this renewed Bruce wouldn't last a night as The Batman, and he also shows the Super Friend the beginnings of Bruce's cloning machine that we saw in action in last year's BATMAN: FUTURE'S END #1. Shouldn't Bruce be spared of the terrible burden? (Bruce has clearly been spared of having any curiosity; not once does he ask why Alfred is so conspicuously hiding his right hand's fate behind every object imaginable.*) And isn't it time that someone else took over as Gotham's protector?

Which brings us back to Jim Gordon, who's hot on the trial of Mr. Bloom and his special seeds that give dastardly abilities to Gotham's criminals. As the situation spirals out of control for Gordon and his team, Mr. Bloom has a bloody confrontation with a major player from the Rogue's Gallery, and someone at the youth center proves to be far more curious about Gordon's visit to Bruce than Bruce is.

Greg Capullo's art team makes it all beautiful, with the issue's frequent character conversations capitalizing on Capullo's gift for expressive faces. He also has a lot of fun depicting the adventures of Bruce's future clones during Alfred's explanation of the infinity machine. Danny Miki inks the lines with a perfect precision that makes FCO Plascencia's colors pop. Plascencia is particularly working overtime here, especially on the flashback pages that evoke the palettes of faded photographs. It's easily one of this team's most beautiful issues.

BATMAN #43 Cover

This is all interesting stuff. I'm just not sure how interested I am in another entry in the seemingly endless parade of stories that take Bruce Wayne out of the cowl, especially since this one seems destined to go the way of Grant Morrison by eventually proving yet again that only Bruce Wayne can truly be Batman. This issue certainly serves its purpose of establishing what's going on with Bruce, but it rushes all of the Gordon stuff to do so, despite beginning with yet another meta-reminder from writer Scott Snyder that Jim's being Batman is "unnatural ... but still, it's where we are."

It's not the worst place to be. But it's still a long way away from feeling like home - 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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