It's important to remember that five writers are working for this series, as well as a roster of skilled artists, and I think it's unavoidable for them to come up with multiple storylines to make use of everyone's talents (if not to stretch the run of this series to meet whatever dates DC has imposed on their team). Generally, this is a fabulous creative achievement not only for Batman but for the DC flagship itself. As polarizing as it has been, the New 52 launch was still a bold and smart undertaking. It revitalized my interest in comics and got me to the most secure place that I am now with my childhood hero.
But not all issues can be winners.
The previous issue with Tim Drake, Harper Row and Vicki Vale was amusing enough. However, this issue written by Ray Fawkes and Trevor McCarthy, and which now dwelled on the supernatural elements such as the Spectre (Jim Corrigan) and (I'll be damned) the ghost of Deacon Blackfyre, was...distracting and underwhelming. Granted, the first ten pages or so was gripping. I was focused and willing to go with whatever flow I've suddenly been tossed in. But the pay-off at the end was confounding. I believe this is the kind of filler issue that didn't work with its strength or fulfill the potentials with a more nuanced approach. And I actually like paranormal plots especially when they surprisingly work in a Batman story (Grant Morrison's Gothic is forever going to be my primary reference to this kind of Bat-stories because I really loved that one). This was a poor use of the Spectre, considering I barely know this character to begin with and I would have liked to know more about him. Unfortunately, I couldn't care about him or whatever vital role he's playing in the issue's plot/conflict. He was even paired with Batwing but...that's it. We don't get to see them in action. We just see them talk about stuff. It's like a really awkward blind date where neither one knows if they will put out or not. And I actually adore Batwing, and aside from his awesome opening sequence with the Gentleman Ghost in the beginning of this issue, he didn't have much to do after.
One thing that really...distressed me was the appearance of the Joker's Daughter. Just what the fuck, guys?! I have successfully avoided this character since accidentally reading The Joker's Daughter issue #1 one lazy Sunday afternoon that turned sour as soon as I finished that said comic. I just plain disliked her. Her characterization is iffy and I see no purpose to her. So can somebody else try to resurrect the Joker and not this awful, just awful underused and inexcusably sickening character? Anyway, she's the reason the Spectre was in Gotham because she's doing something, er, magical to bring back the Joker from the dead which meant she's collecting offerings in the form of human sacrifices. When did she find time to do all of this? Why does it have to be her? I'm trying so hard to contain my negative bias from polluting this review so let's move on.
To what now exactly? Doctor Phosphorous? The issue did end with a bang. Literally. As soon as I close this comic book, however, I realized how uneventful it was. I was not happy about this but since I thought Trevor McCarthy's illustrations captured the right tone even if the narrative was all over the place (isn't McCarthy the same artist for Batwoman?), I'll be generous with my rating below.