The introduction arc for Jim Gordon as the new Batman set the stage for how Gotham City is going to be moving forward. Now that we have an idea of how Jim Gordon’s version of Batman is like it’s time to see if he has the legs to keep going. Will Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo continue to develop a character study of Jim Gordon? Or will the looming shadow of Bruce Wayne weigh too heavily on this series? Let’s find out with Batman #43.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In some unknown location Mr. Bloom is talking to someone about giving them something he just made for them.
At a recreation center Jim Gordon tells Bruce Wayne that he needs his help. Bruce commends Jim on his actions as Batman but says that he does not know anything about Batman anymore. Even with Bruce saying this Jim still decides to show Bruce the “Seed” that Mr. Bloom is using to give people super powers.
Bruce still doesn’t get why Jim would need his help. Jim says that to him Bruce is the key to Batman. He explains that while the suit he currently wears as Batman was given to him by Powers Incorporated it was all developed by Bruce. Jim then asks Bruce to help in reconfiguring the tech in his Batman armor and suit so that he can work without always being spied on by Powers and the GCPD.
Bruce talks to Jim about the history of the rec center, saying that Lucius Fox built it as a safe place for the neighborhood and that on every person’s first day they would make a brick to put out back. He goes on to say that after Joker’s recent attack leaving the neighborhood wrecked the wall still stands with those bricks that have been created over the decades.
Jim tries to talk but Bruce says that whoever he was before is not his current self. Bruce then says that his sole focus is helping out at the center and building a new life from there.
Before they can continue their talk Julie Madison enters the room. Julie mentions that she couldn’t recognize Jim with all his physical changes. She asks Jim to stay for lunch but Jim says he has to get going. Before he leaves Jim puts Mr. Bloom’s “Seed” in Bruce’s shirt pocket. Julie wonders if there is anything wrong but Bruce says there isn’t anything wrong.
Outside the rec center Clark Kent says that the person inside is not the real Bruce Wayne. Alfred corrects Clark and says that is the real Bruce inside. Clark then wonders what happened to the old version of Bruce.
While driving back to the Batcave, Alfred explains how he felt when Bruce disappeared after the cave collapsed on Bruce and the Joker months back. At that time Alfred felt like Bruce was dead up until his daughter (Julia Pennyworth) called him saying she found him. Upon driving to the park Julia and Bruce where waiting for him Alfred instantly recognize the guy as his Bruce Wayne.
Inside the Batcave Clark takes a look at a hologram of the new Bruce’s brain scan and says that it does not look like Bruce’s mind. Alfred explains that Bruce was in fact dead for several hours after the cave collapsed but he then healed. Clark remembers the Dionesium and says that it somehow not only healed Bruce but it also reconfigured Bruce’s brain while healing the dead tissue.
Alfred then recounts how when he brought Bruce back to the mansion Bruce did not remember any of his history. Alfred says that he did end up revealing all of Bruce’s tragic history including his time as Batman. It was at that moment that Bruce told Alfred that while he feels bad for that in his current state he can’t be that person anymore.
Alfred then remembers how Bruce disappeared for two days and when he reappeared Bruce told Alfred that he wanted to help Gotham the way his parents once did. It was at that same moment that Julie showed up to check up on Bruce. Alfred says that he believes Julie showing up at that time was Gotham’s way of showing Bruce what he had to do with his life.
Clark does not accept the story and says he will tell Bruce he has to return to being Batman. Alfred takes out a kryptonite ring to show Clark that Bruce’s current state is just like when kryptonite takes away Clark’s powers. He goes on to say that the new Bruce has lost all of the combat and detective skills that took 15 years of training and experiences to achieve. Alfred explains that if Clark forces Bruce to return as Batman he would only be leading Bruce into a death sentence since the scar that created Batman does not exist anymore.
Clark still can’t accept that fact so Alfred shows him a machine Bruce was building before Joker’s attack. Alfred explains that Bruce built the machine to grow future versions of “Bruce Wayne” to ensure that there would always be a Batman. Alfred believes that the reason that Bruce was “killed” before finishing it is because he wasn’t meant to finish such a device. Alfred requests Clark to leave Bruce be happy in his new life and to allow someone else to take on the horrors that Gotham City brings.
Elsewhere, with Julie’s help, Batman is able to use one of the suits functions to sneak into one of Mr. Bloom’s facilities. As Batman enters the building Julie warns him that he will only be able to use the suit as a normal costume since using one of its abilities will alert Powers to his whereabouts. Batman is fine with that since he wants to find out more about Mr. Bloom. As he looks for information on Mr. Bloom Batman says he feels like he is back at square one with how the gangs have taken advantage of his arrest (Batman: Eternal) and Joker’s attack (Batman: Endgame) to regain their grip on the city over the last year.
Batman finally finds a computer that allows him to watch video footage of Mr. Bloom’s current location. Before he can watch any further Qi Tsu appears out of the shadows. Julie contacts Batman to say that Qi Tsu’s gang has somehow found their frequency which is blocking her ability to turn on the suit’s stealth mode.
Batman takes cover behind a desk just as Qi Tsu’s gang opens fire on him. Batman finds an opening and shots one of the gangsters in the head with his batarang gun. Qi Tsu’s gang once again opens fire but this time their shots break the shark tank behind Batman. Batman is able to ride one of the sharks as they all begin eating Qi Tsu’s gang.
A trap door suddenly opens just as Batman thinks he is safe. The trap door drops Batman into a furnace room where Qi Tsu gets ready to burn Batman alive. Just as Batman tries to contact Julia she is attacked from behind inside her van.
At the recreation center Julie wakes Bruce up and asks him if he is ok. Bruce tells Julie that he is still having trouble with Duke Thomas. Julie understands given his history with Duke. Bruce says that even when he wakes up he still feels tired. Julie tells Bruce that it’ll be ok and that they should go home.
Not long after Duke sneaks into Bruce’s office and steals Mr. Bloom’s “Seed” that Bruce stored in one of his cabinets.
Elsewhere, Mr. Bloom asks Penguin what he thinks his “Seed” is for. Penguin tells Mr. Bloom that he has never needed powers to wield power in Gotham, even now when people are buying Mr. Bloom’s “Seeds.” Mr. Bloom corrects Penguin by saying his “Seeds” aren’t for Penguin. Penguin wonders if it means Mr. Bloom doesn’t have enough “Seeds” to share but Mr. Bloom says he does.
Penguin laughs and says that he has heard about how Mr. Bloom’s power has been growing and that he is there before his power takes hold of Gotham. Just then one of Penguin’s men shoots Mr. Bloom in the face at point blank range.
Just as Batman is being burnt alive, Mr. Bloom gets up and stabs Penguin and his men with his extended claws. Mr. Bloom tells a bleeding Penguin that weeds aren’t so easily killed but they are easy to grow. Mr. Bloom then appears to grow several feet from his previous height. End of issue.
The Good: For a 22-page comic book Batman #43 was an incredibly dense read. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo spent so much time developing several plots that it felt like I was watching a Breaking Bad episode rather than reading another comic book. This is an extremely rare thing for a comic book to do which makes everything that happens in Batman #43 feel even bigger.
One of the more impressive things about Batman #43 is the fact that nothing about the characters involved in this issue feel out of place. Even when we have Superman or Duke Thomas from We Are Robin have a part in this issue it all feels like a natural progression to the story Scott Snyder is telling. These two characters feel perfectly in place in a world where we have a weird plant based villain and a gang that has horns growing out of their heads. It’s a type of world building that helps re-affirm how this Gotham City is being created around Batman rather than the other way around.
It’s in this way that as a reader I have full confidence in the direction that Snyder is taking the Batman franchise. Snyder understands that the best Batman stories are those where Gotham City is shaped to challenge each version of the Dark Knight. It’s something that he showed when Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson wore the Batman cape and cowl and is now doing it with Jim Gordon. Everything about what is going on in Gotham City has been crafted to uniquely challenge Jim’s version of Batman.
This sense of direction helped continue to make the majority of the story continue to focus on Jim as Batman. Even when we had Bruce back to take center stage it didn’t seem like the complete focus was on Bruce. Instead, Snyder made sure to have an equal split between Jim’s conflict with Mr. Bloom and Bruce’s change in character when they were on screen together.
The same goes for Duke Thomas guest appearance in this issue. Even though that character is getting a bigger spotlight thanks to the We Are Robin ongoing his story in Batman #43 was still based around what Jim is dealing with. This is something I hope Snyder continues to do because he needs to have Jim own the role of Batman and that can’t happen if there’s disconnect between Jim and other character stories, such as Bruce’s.
This is where the threat of Mr. Bloom feels more personal as we continue to learn how Gotham’s newest villain has used recent events to gain power in the city. In just having Jim mention to Julia that his recent arrest was used by Mr. Bloom, Qi Tsu and the other gangs to gain power showed us how personal things are. It once again speaks to Jim’s pride as a member as the GCPD that he feels that he personally needs to handle Mr. Bloom because he blames himself for Gotham’s current situation.
This mentality also gives the story in Batman: Eternal a greater sense of importance to those who read that series. It’s a small thing but I’m happy to see Snyder using specific story beats to add value to both this series and Batman: Eternal, which only ended a short time ago.
At the same time I do like that even with how much Jim has trained himself physically that he is still struggling in his role as Batman. Not only are we seeing how much trouble he is having with doing things his way but he also isn’t able to handle things on his own. Jim getting cornered by Qi Tsu was a perfect example of how far he still has to come if he is going to be a good Batman. Because if Jim is going to continue to go on these “rogue” mission he’ll need to find more creative ways to still use his suits powers than just having Julia hidden away in a van.
This inexperience that Jim showed as Batman also added to how big of a threat Mr. Bloom is to Gotham City. Not only does Gotham City now have a Batman that is not as experience as the previous but Mr. Bloom is not someone that is joking around. This is clear by the meeting Mr. Bloom had with Penguin. The way Mr. Bloom interacted with an establish villain like Penguin helped to elevate the threat he poses. Also, getting a first-hand look at how dangerous Mr. Bloom’s powers are was a good way to establish what the new Batman will be facing off with.
As for Bruce’s part of this story I was surprised with how convincing Snyder’s explanation that we aren’t going to see Bruce as Batman for a while. Establishing the fact that Bruce did indeed die when the cave collapsed on him and Joker was smart. It plays with the reality our last image of Bruce and Joker. And using the Dionesium as an explanation to Bruce’s resurrection once again shows Snyder’s own long-term planning in this current storyline.
Even though Snyder is clearly leaving the door open for Bruce’s return to the cowl for now it’s not a door Bruce is looking to go through. And it makes sense given what we know of Dionesium and that Bruce did die for several hours that Bruce is not the same man that first put on the cowl. That man is effectively gone, which is only verified to both Superman and us as readers with Bruce’s reaction to what Alfred said when running down his personal history.
That reaction alone established the reason why Alfred was justified in telling Superman that forcing Bruce to return to being Batman would be a death sentence. Because as he is now Bruce may survive a mission or two but would ultimately die since he has lost the drive that made him go beyond the reality of death. It puts into question what exactly has to happen for Bruce to regain all of that experience that motivated him to become a God-like legend.
I also wonder how the machine that Bruce was building will play into Snyder’s story in the future. Because as with the Dionesium or anything else Snyder has introduced in the past this machine won’t just be collecting dust. Snyder had Alfred show Clark Kent this machine for a reason. If that reason is to bring Bruce back to who he was is still unknown but I wouldn’t be surprised if we continue to see this machine here and there moving forward.
Through this all of this dialogue heavy issue Greg Capullo was still able to standout with his artwork. Once again, Capullo finds different ways to compliment the story that Snyder is telling. Simple things like character reactions or showing us four very different versions of Batman showed his flexibility in telling a story through his artwork. This strong artwork during the dialogue heavy scenes made the brief moments that we did get some action be even more eye catching. He did an especially great job making Mr. Bloom appear as terrifying as possible at the end of this issue.
The Bad: The one problem I did have with Batman #43 is with how little of Jim’s supporting cast that we saw. The only supporting cast member that we saw for Jim was Julia and even her presences was kept to a minimum. If Snyder wants to make Jim’s run as Batman successful we need to see his supporting cast have a bigger presence in this series. If we don’t get that it will be hard to see the Batman franchise as nothing more than Bruce Wayne’s house that Jim is just renting for the time being.
Overall: Batman #43 was an excellently dense read. Scott Snyder was able to craft a comic book that felt like it had double its actual page count. Through all of this Snyder was able to provide proper justification for Bruce’s resurrection and why he is not going to be returning to the cape and cowl any time soon. This explanation opens the door for some fresh character development for Bruce Wayne. At the same time, Snyder spent an equal amount of time developing Jim Gordon as the new Batman and how dangerous Mr. Bloom is. All of this equated to a comic book that I wanted to read over and over again which is what all great comic books