After a break for backstory last month, this issue gets back to the main plot by diving headfirst into the Sampson family’s motivations and exploring Jim’s fate. With a return to the present, will the momentum pick back up or will it continue to meander forward? Let’s see.

It is refreshing to be back in the present this issue. With both the Annual and last issue both being explorations of Jim’s history, the plot feels like it’s ground to a halt. And while it doesn’t really move forward as much as I’d like it to here, it does start to pick back up a bit.

The issue is focused primarily on two elements: further exploring the Sampson family, and getting readers caught up on what’s happening with Jim Gordon. It reads pretty quickly, and stepping back quite a bit of it feels a bit like filler fluff but it does also get the narrative back on track towards an eventual confrontation between all the introduced parties in this story and for that I appreciate it.

It’s the Sampsons that the issue opens on. Most of this section is dedicated to a flashback to their history, just after they’d found oil on their land but were still dealing with the teen that escaped from them. I like this scene because we’re seeing the events play out instead of being told what happened. That said, a lot of what we get is repetitive in one way or another, we know a lot of the facts we see here because we’ve either seen them before or been told them. What makes it feel even more repetitive is when later in the issue Harvey shares most of this information with Jim in the form of newspaper articles he’s found. I get that Jim needs to learn this information, but I’m sure there’s a way we and Jim could have learned it without doing it twice in one issue.

Speaking of Jim, I’m pretty disappointed in how his injury is handled. Very quickly we learn he’s patched up and back in Gotham because Barbara has “connections”. Additionally, he’s up and moving much faster than he really should be. The narrative tries to give a few excuses as to why and how he can be up as fast as he is, but I’m not buying it. Jim Gordon is no Batman –not that Batman himself should be ready to do battle as often as he is– and that stab wound should have him down for longer than a plane ride or two. Comics logic is often pretty fuzzy but it can’t be more than a few days at the most since he was stabbed and Joker abducted, which is not long enough to be on the go again after being stabbed in the chest.

I get the drama of having him stabbed to create a cliffhanger, it could have been a very cool moment going into the next issue. However, it’s effect has been totally squandered by flashbacks, us not getting to see any kind of rescue, and the narrative itself requiring Jim to be healthy and hale enough to jet off to Texas. So I have to ask why even stab him in the first place? All the tension and energy from a move like that has backfired on the narrative by becoming plot holes and implausibilities. There were better ways of getting him both back in Gotham and out of action long enough for the Sampsons to get away.

Despite my complaining I do like the direction the story is taking. Like I said at the start of the review, it looks like the various characters impacted by Joker are all coming together again, and the plot is moving forward. This issue does quite a bit to keep that on track by getting Joker to Texas, Jim and the others moving, and even keeping Julia Pennyworth in the loop. I like that momentum and I want to see it going forward instead of falling into the bad habit this series has of spending most of to full issues on flashbacks for various characters.

There’s quite the cast on art this month with Giuseppe Camuncoli is on pencils, Cam Smith, Lorenzo Ruggiero & Adriano De Benedetto on ink and both Arif Prianto & Romulo Fajardo Jr. on colors. They do a great job altogether keeping the look of the book on par with the rest of the series. The colors are dark and fit the morbid vibe of what’s happening in the pages, and as a whole the book looks great.

It’s a fairly quite issue with little action, but Camuncoli keeps up the movement and tension with well drawn scenes that feel alive. I particularly like the opening few pages. The feeling is dark and spooky, with fire lighting the characters profiles in a way that captures the feeling of this deal with the devil taking place.

There’s a couple delightful visual gags thrown in that tie in with Jim’s narration that I want to point out. Specifically the “Knightsman” store Jim visits. As a Kingsman nod it’s pretty funny, and Tynion’s bit of meta about the rich of Gotham wanting stylish outfits that act as protection is something I chuckled at. I actually kind of love the idea of Gothmaites lifestyles being impacted by the city and it’s villains in a way that impacts fashion. It’s little ideas like this I’d love to see more of.

I’m happier with this issue than I’ve been in a while. It feels like the story is finding its stride again. I only hope it doesn’t lose that fresh momentum next issue with another flashback or sidestep away from the main story.

Score: 5.5/10


Punchline Backup

I love the Royal Flush Gang. I can’t really pin down why I like them so much, maybe it’s because they feel more like the crime families of old we see little of these days, or maybe I just really like how they were represented in Batman Beyond back when I was a kid, but they’re a group of villains I do enjoy seeing. So I’m equal parts happy and frustrated by their inclusion in this backup. Here we see some of the inner workings of the King and Queen of diamonds, and how Cullen’s new friend is involved in everything. It also shows that while Punchline’s won over the younger crowd she hasn’t quite swayed everyone in Gotham, try as she might.

The rest of the back up jumps back to Kelly, Harper, and Leslie as they’re trying to convince the prosecution that Kelly is a reliable witness. Honestly, this bit is really frustrating to me. The prosecution’s arguments don’t make sense, I’m not sure why it’s so important that Harper be at the trial. And I’m incredibly confused by Leslie’s involvement. Why is she here? What is she supposed to be–a lawyer? A doctor? A psychiatrist? Why’s she even here and this deeply involved in the trial? I don’t think the narrative itself knows either.

The more I read this backup, the less I feel like we’ll actually reach a satisfying conclusion, or even one that makes a whole lot of sense. However I will give it points for including one of my favorite villain groups and writing them in a way that did actually get me invested. Everything else I’m still not a fan of.

Score: 3/10

Recommended If

  • It’s about time the series got back to the plot, and you’re here for it
  • You’re a fan of the Sampson family’s part in all this
  • Apparently major injuries mean nothing and that’s fine

Overall

While I’m glad to see the series returning to the plot, I’m disappointed by how much the momentum has suffered and the fact that this issue really only moves things forward marginally. It feels less like a confident step forward and more like the pieces are being set back up after falling. Elements that could have been played up for tension are misused or totally shoved to the side as well. Still, there’s something about this series that keeps my interest despite the shortcomings, and I am curious to see how everything plays out going forward.

Overall Score: 5/10


DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.