Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art by Becky Cloonan, Andy Clarke, Sandu Florea, and FCO Plascencia
The short of it:
Meet Harper Row, she’s a little bit punk rock, a little bit street urchin, and all Gotham from head to toe. Her brother has a habit of getting beaten up by homophobic gangbangers, and she’s not overly keen on leaving his side and being unable to protect him. However, she did wind up getting a ticket to go to a fancy Bruce Wayner party, where her brother has dreams of her meeting Tim Drake and winding up in the Wayne family. Anything beats living in the Narrows and putting up with the trash of humanity that lives there, and from the looks of it it’s just the two of them taking care of each other with no parents. Unfortunately, she returns with a backpack full of stolen desserts to find her brother beaten and with a word I don’t care to repeat shaved into the back of his hair.
This leads to her changing her look and becoming the girl who used jumper cables to bring Batman back to life back in issue seven. This sets up who she is and what she does…she’s a whiz with electronics. She builds super tasers, rewires apartments, and understands the working of the Gotham City electrical grid. She’s smart, and she’s defensive of her brother…which leads to her meeting the Bat for the very first time, as he saves them from a gang. She becomes obsessed with her new hero and goes as far as to realize just how he does some of the tricks he does, which leads to a Bat-tracker of her own creation. She hunts him down to try and help him, something Batman obviously isn’t a fan of, but this surely isn’t the last we’ve heard of Harper Row.
What I liked:
- The art is leaps and bounds different from what we’ve grown used to with Greg Capullo, and I really like it. Becky’s style is perfect for the story that Snyder is telling here, capturing the ages and tones better than any of the gritty artists we’ve seen on the line do lately. This issue isn’t a Batman story so much as it’s just set in Gotham, and she completes the package.
- This is how you done a one off story. It doesn’t feel like filler, it adds depth to a supporting character that has been slowly rolled out, and beyond all of that…it’s a successfully told one and done story. In the era of trades and multi-issue arcs, the one shot is a dieing art form.
- Harper manages to be smart without falling into the common realm of too smart. She’s good with electronics, but she’s hardly unstoppable. She makes her super taser which is almost instantly rendered useless once more people show up. She’s clever and bright, but she’s firmly human.
- Batman actually has a series of devices across Gotham that allow him to kill cameras in his area so he doesn’t get filmed. That is awesome and totally a Batman move, one that makes perfect sense given the way Bruce does business, and one that I’m scratching my head wondering how I haven’t seen it used before.
- Batman fights a guy on a boat in the sewers, and the guy has a tiger. If that’s not awesome than either I need a new dictionary or someone needs to go and update the official one.
- Lately I’ve been saying negatively that I want to pay an extra dollar for a book in exchange for more pages. With this book I’m happy to say that I gladly paid the extra dollar for extra pages!
What I didn’t like:
- This one is totally a personal issue, but what is up with septum piercings? I keep seeing them more and more lately, between movies, tv, comics, and real life and…I can’t express enough how much I hate them. I don’t think they look cool, and I don’t get why people have this urge to look like bulls with big rings through the middle of their nose.
- For as much as I liked Harper, I hated her brother. I’m not normally one to pick on someone that’s already being bullied, even when talking about fictional characters, but this kid seemingly open his door for people to beat the crap out of him. He accepts his beatings and doesn’t stand up for himself and doesn’t even like that his sister does it. He just seems to accept being a victim, and I hate that.
Did you know that Becky Cloonan made a milestone here? She is officially the first woman to draw an issue of Batman or Detective Comics. That’s a tremendous honor, but is anyone else scratching their head at how it’s 2012 and she’s the first? I understand comics is a boys club, but there have been plenty of solid female artists in and out of DC over the years that I can’t believe one hasn’t drawn either of the core Batman titles.
The shift from Becky to Andy near the end of the issue is a bit…well, it’s not subtle. I am a fan of Andy Clarke handling Bat characters, so it’s not really a complaint, but when he goes and tries to do the stuff with Harper and her brother it just seems strange. Becky spoiled me.
I don’t know why there was a tiger on a boat in the sewers that was being driven by a guy with a forked tongue and no exposed eyes, but can we see more stuff like that? Random perfection. Batman vs. a Tiger.
So you can totally write this off on me reading this issue for the first time while handling some stuff at work, but I somehow completely confused myself on the timeline and Harper’s hair until I read through it a second time and saw the scissors comment.
I can’t wait to see where Snyder plans on taking Harper’s character, because after this issue I’m invested enough to keep my eyes peeled for her in every issue Snyder (or James Tynion) writes from here on out.
This very well may be the best single issue of Batman I’ve read in months. Not to knock the Court of Owls by any means, but I mean a solo one and done issue. I didn’t know what to expect going into this issue, what with the cover being Batman hit by lightning, but I may very well have come out of it with my book of the week. Absolutely fantastic.
Tags: Batman, Becky Cloonan, DC Comics, Harper Row, New 52 (DC Comics), Reviews, Scott Snyder