Synopsis (spoilers ahead): On the rooftops above Gotham City, Batman laments to Catwoman over the way things used to be. He remembers the good old days, gliding through the city with Robin and knowing that Commissioner Gordon would meet him at the Bat-signal. Batman reluctantly confesses to Catwoman that Joker was right, that Batman’s been doing this wrong for a long time.
A week prior, Batman visited Lucius Fox. Outside of Fox’s home, Batman dueled with Grifter, a bodyguard Lucius hired after the events of Joker War. Lucius and Batman talk about the state of Gotham. Fox is now one of the richest men in the city, thanks to those funds stolen back by Catwoman and transferred into his account. Overnight, it seems that Joker’s army has vanished and hidden, though Clownhunter is still out there tracking them down, one-by-one. An emergency election is also going on as Gotham grapples with how it will adapt going forward.
Fox tells Batman that Bruce Wayne is still under suspicion and that the Wayne Enterprises Board of Directors wants Bruce gone. The government also has its eyes on Bruce’s former fortune, so Batman will have to operate without his money. Fox weighs Batman’s options and leaves Bruce with a hard decision to make.
In the present, Catwoman asks Batman what he’s going to do. Batman tells her that he’s going to move into a brownstone he owns in the city. He’s going to leave the mansion for the center of Gotham and operate much leaner. Batman then brings up that their relationship will be difficult. After robbing the Underbroker, Catwoman is the most wanted woman in the city. During their talk, Catwoman gives Batman an ultimatum. They each have one year apart to deal with their problems, and after that year, they’ll make a final decision.
Before Batman can argue against Catwoman’s ultimatum, she shuts him down. For the moment, they’re going to spend the night together. Then they’ll get to work.
Analysis: After the finale to Joker War, writer James Tynion IV and artist Guillem March take a breather to inform readers of the new status quo for Gotham City and Batman going forward. Batman will work without his fortune and his crazy gadgets, operating from out of a brownstone in Gotham City rather than Wayne Manor.
The city is in turmoil. The Wayne name is toxic, and directors on the board for Wayne Enterprises are already making moves to sell off pieces of the company, distance themselves from Bruce Wayne, and rebrand. An emergency election is also bringing into question the established authority of Gotham as citizens recoil in fear and anger. Meanwhile, Clownhunter is tracking down the rest of Joker’s army, most of whom have put away their masks and submerged back into society.
Readers also get an update on the state of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s relationship, which proves to be another year or so of separation. Tynion handles this soft breakup well, balancing the love Selina and Bruce have for each other with seemingly a DC editorial push to keep Batman and Catwoman apart. While this news is yet another disappointment for Bat/Cat fans, it’s handled as respectfully as possible, given that this is seemingly a directive from higher up.
Though not much happens in this issue, it’s a decent readjustment that sets the stage for what’s to come. Earlier on, when Batman reflects on how Gotham used to be, Guillem March delivers a nearly full-page spread of a very classic blue and grey Batman gliding through the city with a Tim Drake Robin. In the upper left of the spread, March pencils in Commissioner Gordon, and in the lower right, there’s Alfred above a shot of a retro Batmobile that looks eerily similar to the Tim Burton Batman 1989 design. It’s a beautiful snapshot and arguably one of the best moments of this issue. It also serves to parallel where Batman is going next.
In the 70s, Batman operated from a penthouse in Gotham City. The retro Batsuit featured in that flashback is the same one Batman wore in this classic era. Though Tim Drake wasn’t around in the 70s, Robin very much was a staple at this time, and this callback could be foreshadowing the return of that status quo. We’ll have a less youthful Batman this time, however.
In the flashback, the image of Batman that March gives us is youthful, slender, and energetic. Few lines burrow into his features. In the present, March’s Batman is haggard, worn, and scraggly. Tons of lines dig into his face to the point of excess, to where this Batman looks elderly. It makes sense why March went with this look, but placed next to a youthful Catwoman, it makes the two characters seem like there’s a 20-year difference in age. Some panels are more intense than others, and there are a handful of extreme panels that make Batman appear like some sort of reanimated ghoul.
For those who are fans of the character Grifter, he makes an appearance here. Grifter spars with Batman in a section that seems to be included just for the sake of having the two meet. For readers who have no frame of reference, this fight, albeit fun, might come across as strange. It does, however, serve a small purpose in telling us that Lucius Fox is no longer relying on Batman and is now hiring bodyguards to protect himself.
Final Thoughts: Readers are treated to a much quieter issue this week as writer James Tynion IV and artist Guillem March exposit the new status quo for Batman and Gotham City. This issue is serviceable, albeit unexciting.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue through Comixology.