Review: Batman #12 / Author: Scott Snyder / Art: Becky Cloonan, Andy Clarke / Publisher: DC / Release Date: Out Now
After the conclusion of the massive cross-over event that has dominated Bat-comics for the better part of a year – Night of the Owls – Batman writer Scott Snyder has taken a step back from the type of overarching narrative that has defined the title since its relaunch to focus on a quieter, character driven story.
Batman #12 focuses on a young woman named Harper Row, and her younger brother, Cullen, who live together in Gotham’s notorious Narrows neighborhood. As proud graduates of the school of hard knocks, the Row children haven’t had it easy but they retain their strength in their own ways – Harper with her perseverance and Cullen with his optimism. As a legally emancipated adult, Harper works in the tunnels under Gotham, keeping the city’s power grid – and her small family - functioning with, as she puts it, “a little spit and elbow grease.”
Hovering at the edge of this story are two larger than life specters, each with a vastly different meaning for Harper. The first, Bruce Wayne, symbolizes everything Harper sees is wrong with Gotham. Wayne has plans to tear down and develop the building that Harper and Cullen call home and while Cullen believes that it’s to their benefit, Harper cynically views the development as another case of the 1% making money off the poor and disenfranchised. The second is, of course, her less than friendly neighborhood Batman, who saves Harper and Cullen from a vicious, homophobia-fueled attack (Cullen is gay).
After her run in with the Dark Knight, Harper takes it upon herself to pay his good deed forward and uses her extensive knowledge of Gotham’s grid to assist the Bat in his crime fighting endeavors. As per usual, nothing goes according to plan, but Harper’s run-in with Batman, however fleeting, proves to be a truly transformative event for her. Batman #12 is a brief glimpse into the lives Bruce Wayne affects both in and out of the costume and it’s a nice change of pace to have the titular character hover at the periphery while an ordinary Gotham citizen shines.
Though the abrupt switch in artists three quarters of the way through the book leaves something to be desired (Becky Cloonan handled pages 1-21 and Andy Clarke finished the remaining seven pages), Snyder’s storytelling is solid enough that it’s easy to forgive the lack of visual continuity. While the issue serves as a bridge between the Night of the Owls arc and the game changing events coming later this year, this palate cleansing sorbet is just as delicious on its own.