This is the second issue in the long-awaited, long-advertised story arc from Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. The first issue was less than promising, though an in improvement from the issues given to us before by Scott McDaniel and Paul Cornell.
The second issue opens with three angels, two children and one woman standing in the cold. The woman holds a device with a timer before they jump from the building, a voice over informing us this is the Langstrom family about to fall to their deaths. Of course the next page shows Batman and Robin grappling in to rescue them and get them to safety. They press for information from Francine, while telling her about the attack from Kirk. She tells them about the device she was holding. The building they jumped from begins to fluoresce, glowing with a white light.
A top the building, the White Knight of Gotham stands and bids goodbye to darkness.
Batman and Robin grapple over to the glowing character, listening to him tell them Gotham needs to be illuminated as the first step. What it's the first step toward, we do not get to find out because Batman and Robin attack him. He claims no one can stop the light, that it will always find a way to burn back the evil in everyone's hearts. Before Batman and Robin can get a hold of him, he blows some sort of aqueduct, washing the pair away from him.
The two manage to grapple out of the torrential waterfall, while the Langstrom's look on and Francine assures the children of Batman and Robin's safety. After escaping the water, Batman and Robin can't seem to find any trace of the fluorescent villain.
Back at the Bat-bunker, Alfred, Dick and Damian begin to dissect the clues as they know them. It's determined that Ketamine is used on the victims as a sedative, leading to emergence effect, also known as hallucinations. This element, in conjunction with the audio buds in the ears, leads them to determine these falls are nothing more than staged suicides. The degree of care in constructing the wings leads them to determine the villain cares about giving them a proper sendoff in this life, enabling them to fly to heaven in the next life. Since the wings are constructed from real feathers, including peregrine falcons, Dick and Damian decide to do some reconnaissance.
In costume, Batman and Robin look around Gotham, Batman showing Robin the reason there aren't more pigeons in Gotham. Peregrine falcons kill them to feed to their young and use their feathers to create their nests. Since the falcons are protected by the EPA, there's no way to stop them from killing the pigeons and since they roost in higher up areas, the only people who would have access to those spots would include window washers and building maintenance people.
Before they get too far into the analysis, Alfred lets them know the jumper from the first issue has been identified as Douglas Zsasz, the brother of Victor Zsasz. It turns out to be the connection they were looking for. The White Knight is targeting relatives of Arkham's inmates. A call comes from Gordon as Batman and Robin soar across the sky.
We go into the White Knight's lair, where he has a tree filled with hanging effigies of the Arkham inmates, tags hanging from those to denote family members. The first card shows Douglas Zsasz as deceased. He changes the Langstrom's from deceased to blank again. He swears not to fail them again as he clutches the effigy of The Mad Hatter, the names of the Tetch family listed underneath.
He kneels at the base of the tree and says it needs to be refreshed from time to time with the blood of martyrs, and that the sins of the fathers and mothers are the sins of them all.
At a crime scene, Gordon fervently wishes he had a teaching degree. In the living room, a family of four hangs suspended from the ceiling, dressed in the same angel costumes as the previous victims. Batman notes the White Knight's idea of ascension seems to have changed. The victims are identified as the Randalls, but a call from Municipal Records indicates that while they may go by Randall now, they were originally know by the surname Tetch. Though they had made an effort to distance themselves from Jervis Tetch, his craziness came back to haunt them.
Batman informs Gordon their number one priority is to find everyone in Gotham who is related to anyone who has spent any time in Arkham before the White Knight does. The final words appear on the final page, where we see the White Knight standing over a collection of people, wrapped in their "Angel" gear and probably drugged.
Overall, I found this issue to be an improvement over the last issue. The pacing felt a little better. While a new villain was hardly needed, he's an interesting villain. I hope the somewhat murky motivation will be cleared up in the next issue, though I have my own ideas on what it is.
Patrick Gleason did some stunning work in this issue, particularly the panels showing the fluorescing of the building after Francine Langstrom's rescue. His strength seems to be highlighting the architecture of Gotham. The splash page of Batman and Robin flying over Gotham was one of my favorite pages in the issue. I wish the drawing of the actual characters was a little more distinct than it is on certain panels, and the complete featurelessness of the White Knight bothers me, but not enough to detract from the issue itself.
Batman and Robin #21:
Reviewed by Melinda