Review by Paul Bowler
In the aftermath of Endgame, Jim Gordon is now Gotham’s new robo-suited Dark Knight. Batman’s investigation into the deceased criminals with enhanced abilities, who were poisoned by the radioactive implants that gave them super-powers, has now become personal. In Batman #43 a new super-villain begins to make his presence felt in Gotham City, but what can Batman uncover about this mysterious Mr Bloom?
Batman #43 sees Jim Gordon’s life as Gotham’s new corporate funded Batman getting even more challenging, as Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s new story-arc finds the former marine and Police Commissioner seeking assistance in his investigation from someone with a connection to the Bat-Suit’s technology – Bruce Wayne!
Entwining flash-forwards, flashbacks and the present with superlative ease, Superheavy Part 3 continues to enrich and develop Jim Gordon’s new role as Batman. Following Bruce’s apparent death in Batman #40 while battling the Joker, issue #41 and #42 then went on to reveal that Bruce Wayne had indeed survived, and was now working at a Recreation Center in Gotham. Now in Batman #43 last issues surprise cliff-hanger begins to unfold as Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne meet for the first time since Jim took over as Batman.
Scott Snyder deftly wrong-foots us again with another surprise plot-twist that few could have expected or predicted. Yes, Bruce’s back, well, sort of, but he’s not exactly the same man he used to be either. Bruce is working at the Lucius Fox Center for Gotham Youth, where he has dedicated himself to the charity helping the neighbourhoods badly affected by the chaos unleashed in Endgame. Gordon has gone to Bruce to ask for his opinion on the seed-like implants Mr Bloom has been selling to criminals in the area. But Jim also needs Bruce’s help with the co-opted Waynetec in the Robo-Bat-Suit, so he can work more covertly as Batman without his every move being monitored by Powers Corp and the GCPD. However, this is a very different Bruce Wayne now, one whose been building the foundations of a new life – with goals and ideals which he cares deeply about.
As much as the Superheavy arc has been about Jim stepping into the role of Batman, this issue illustrates how its still very much a story about Bruce Wayne, primarily by address the burning issues of how Bruce Wayne came back, and why he stopped being Batman. As detailed in Alfred’s especially moving account to Clark Kent, the extraordinary circumstances of Bruce’s resurrection means his life is now free of the dark shadow of his parents murder, and in this remarkable issue Scott Snyder provides us with a fascinating insight into what kind of man Bruce would be if the Batman died and only Bruce Wayne came back. While Bruce is not exactly suffering from amnesia, he’s now a man who could no longer be the Batman, certainly not in the way we once knew, and on the flipside, with Jim Gordon becoming the new Batman, it’s also highlighted the enduring power of Batman’s legacy like never before whilst simultaneously re-examining why the Dark Knight matters so much to the people of Gotham, and the world itself.
Characters from Zero Year also return in Batman #43, including young Duke Thomas, and Bruce’s former girlfriend, Julie Madison, is back as Bruce’s new love interest. Julie Madison is also working with the kids at the Rec Center set up by Lucius Fox; which is open to all the neighbourhoods of the Narrows to provide a safe environment for the kids to play and meet up. Julie brings a fascinating dynamic to this storyline, she’s someone who understood Bruce long before he was Batman – and it’s clear she will have a key role to play in this arc. Alfred also makes a welcome return this issue – in perhaps one of Snyder’s best scripted scenes ever – alongside a rather bemused Clark Kent as the circumstances of Bruce’s miraculous return become apparent…
Batman #43 is a glorious fusion of story and art. Greg Capullo’s work on this issue is nothing short of outstanding: from the barbed enticement of a flowers allure on an impressionable young mind, to the everyday setting of the rec center, along with the beautifully dream-like quality of Alfred’s monologue, the unsettling implications of the final invention, and the excitement of the action-packed closing moments all collectively – in my humble opinion – make this one of Capullo’s finest issue to date. Every aspect of this issue is brought to life in vivid detail; each emotional beat of the story resonates perfectly, effortlessly drawing us into the characters lives and their surroundings.
Bruce is also sporting a new look, with slightly longer hair, and with the beard completing the transformation, Lumber-Bruce will certainly be an interesting change of pace for the character. The scenes between Gordon and Bruce were another big highlight of this issue, surpassed only by the interlude with Alfred and Clark, and of course we also get our first look at the new villain of the piece – Mr Bloom – whose gangly distinct look sublimely befits the character in more ways than one. Danny Miki’s inks bring added flourish to enhance Capullo’s art further, making every detail jump from the page, and FCO Plascencia’s wonderful colors are as exquisite as ever.
As you may have guessed from Greg Capullo’s stunning cover for Batman #43, Mr Bloom finally steps from the shadows in this issue. So far, Mr Bloom’s true motives have remained unclear, although Jim has a hunch about links with events that happened in Gotham years ago. Mr Bloom’s plans begin to take shape this issue, as his unique brand of evil – which has taken root in the cracks in society caused by Endgame – begins to flourish in the Narrows of Gotham. Scott Snyder has created a complex and compelling new adversary for Jim Gordon, and it looks like Mr Bloom will certainly be a challenge for the new Batman.
This issue builds to a tense and menacing climax. Stepping out from the Bat-Bot for the evening, Jim takes to his black and yellow-trimmed EVA Bat-Suit to investigate a warehouse – with Julia Pennyworth providing backup via the com-link – and figure out how Mr Bloom has drawn all the gangs to him. Web spinning wisecracks and Robocop references quickly spiral into a mash-up of bullets, sharks, and batarangs that tips Batman out of the frying pan and into the fire while Mr Bloom’s clandestine business dealings proves that he is no mere weed as be begins blossoming in the fertile soil of Gotham’s dark garden of crime…
If any doubts remain about the direction of this current arc, this issue goes a long way to put them to rest. Far from just killing Bruce off in Endgame simply for the sake of it and putting Jim Gordon in the Bat-Suit to shake things up in the Bat-Universe, we can now begin to see the whole picture, and its evident that Scott Snyder is crafting a story here that brings a new aspect to the 75 year mythos of Batman in a way that’s entirely fresh, and exciting.
With Bruce’s return I was expecting this to be a less Gordon-centric issue, fortunately that’s far from the case, if anything, it actually puts Jim and Bruce right at the heart of this storyline, and I’m really enjoying how this arc is developing. Batman #43 is a sensationally good issue, this is a master class in storytelling from Scott Snyder, and Greg Capullo’s art continues to make every issue of Batman a visual epic on every level.