It's amusing to see Bruce Wayne pursue the Red Hood gang viciously and yet he still fails to disband them or break down their systematized criminal operations that seem pretty basic enough. Batman would have had them running scared and badly injured in no time, but Snyder shows us that this Bruce Wayne acting as a vigilante without his iconic mask and trademark theatrics is less effective and does not produce real results at all. It's also worth noting that, just like the previous issue, the second part of Secret City is a non-linear story where we also get snippets of Bruce's childhood.
In this case, we see him falling into a cave and facing an attack from a swarm of bats that surrounded that place. It's a familiar image from anyone who watched Nolan's Batman Begins movie. Snyder was not afraid to apply the same atmospheric condition for that scene.
It cuts back into the present with Bruce and Alfred and we get my favorite scene of this issue yet. We all know that Alfred will always be there for Bruce, no matter what. But I can understand his trepidation and anxiety over Bruce's reckless endangerment, and that he is losing himself to the absurdity of his goals especially when his actions are less than heroic than what we have come to expect and love from Batman now.
I like the fact that Alfred calls him out on his cowardice. He spoke up to tell Bruce one and for all that what he's doing is shameful. He desires to win a war in anonymity while also refusing to identify himself as a Wayne, the very legacy his parents has left to the world. He is running away from what he is supposed to represent foremost in the city, something his parents has worked hard for, all for the sake of putting ahead his single-minded pursuit to punish criminals without even understanding that he has the capacity to do so much more than becoming a vigilante. And Bruce's harsh response to Alfred has earned him a smack to the face. It was surprising for both parties but Alfred is the one who raises the white flag and leaves. That small panel of him pulling out a hanky, supposedly because he was hurt by Bruce's words and the fact that he lashed out, shows that he may have been wiping his tears away. I felt really bad for him at that moment, considering he is all the family Bruce's got and Bruce is so consumed by righteous rage that he ended up pushing Alfred away like that.
Speaking of family, we get another scene with Bruce and his uncle, who threw a surprise party in his name, and is just as forceful in making sure Bruce takes his place as the heir of his parents' enterprise. A few moments later we get Edward Nygma who had a verbal altercation with Bruce himself which resulted into an intriguing dialogue that is visually appealing at the same time, especially that full page design of dialogues being outlined in circular panels. Nygma, ever the enigmatic, leaves Bruce more than just a riddle but a taste of what this future villain is capable of, but Bruce was once again distracted and impatient, eager to get back to his own solitary pursuit of the Red Hood gang; only this time they find him first.
The closing pages showcase yet another flashback of one of Bruce's adventures in a foreign country with another 'teacher' who imparts him with an important lesson about being able to wield the impossible. I think that resonated in this issue through Bruce's outright refusal to embrace his own fears, to kill the boy and let the man live; and in doing so he will always continue to find himself entrapped and pushed against a wall. We see him making the same mistakes with the Red Hood gang. We see him fighting with people like Alfred and his uncle with a misdirected anger and a false sense of entitlement. And we see him ignore the evil that's about to come. All because he is trapped within the limitations of his mind, preventing him from achieving a clearer sight of his goals and the perils he must undertake. Bruce falls into a cave once and continues to fall again every time he couldn't differentiate between who he wants to become and who he was always meant to become--and be able to reconcile how they sometimes aren't the same thing at all times.
*An evolution that examines the psyche of Bruce Wayne before he becomes Batman. A well-paced, beautifully executed and very insightful narrative all throughout.