The first thing anyone would notice about this installment is the change in the main writer and artist credit. Detective Comics headliner John Layman and artist Dustin Nguyen dominated the pages of this comic book with the consulting help of Ray Fawkes and Tim Steely for the writing. I'm not familiar enough of John Layman's prose style to form a distinct difference with that of Snyder/Tynion's previous first three, but I did pick up the more leisurely and laidback vibe of the pacing. I think it's actually a good thing. There have been so many dramatic turns and set-ups in the last three that it's about time the characters start to marinate in the chaos and grime of the events unfolding before them.
The issue had a great opening to it. We see Batgirl inflicting extreme force against Professor Pyg's henchmen while these scenes are spliced with those of Jim Gordon's day in court where he was denied bail. Babs bemoans the flawed justice system but is too powerless to have any kind of influence to turn the tides to her father's favor hence her cathartic punching of bad guys in the present. Gordon himself is questioning his sanity and Babs recognized that this is a sign that her father might be reaching his breaking point. And that further fuels her fury. Batman then swoops in to stop her from further spiralling down due to understandable rage and he allows her to take a crack at him before he proceeded to calm her down with cold reasoning. This interaction went okay for me, but I'm not exactly comfortable with the fact that Babs just started going violent in everyone's ass because she's frustrated with the way things are unraveling around her. She struck me as one of the few characters who are collected enough to channel her rage without physically exerting herself. The entire punching-the-anger-out seems more of the Robin boys' style, if you ask me. I would like to think we should uphold Barbara to higher standards, seeing as there have been cases in which she's more capable of dealing with her problems through rational means (which she does later do when she finally stops beating up thugs and chooses to investigate the video footage of train massacre instead).
Meanwhile, Batman welcomes Carmine Falcone back to Gotham and their scenes have nothing tangible to make sense of for now although Catwoman's role is foreshadowed in their dialogue. I couldn't be sure. I need to see more interactions from them to get a keener insight of things. The first interaction between Falcone and Batsy here was a tad anticlimactic though, but it's nice to see characters have a normal conversation instead of just randomly exchanging blows. Bats and Babs did that in the earlier pages and it was kindda annoying. They're supposed to be our noble heroes and it's tiresomely juvenile if they express themselves through hitting each other. Communication works, okay? We are talking about Barbara and Bruce here and they're reasonable people. I've always believed they get on the way they do because they are honest with each other whenever they verbalize whatever struggles they are going through. So perhaps that's why it was hard to swallow this New 52 take on their relationship. There is a thinly veiled resentment on Barbara's part which I want to chalk down to the aftermath of Death of the Family with the Joker, but they never referenced that during their conversation so it makes even less sense now why they're so awkwardly broody with each other.
Enough of that. Let's end this review with Stephanie Brown. Poor girl is still fighting for her life here and the only person she thought would help her (her mother) apparently is also in cahoots with her father who is trying to kill her. This is anyone's worst nightmare come true, isn't it? I hope that the next issues will take her in a new direction because I really don't want to read more of her running around scared and trapped.
Dustin Nguyen's art style is very different from Fabok and it worked really well for the story it was telling. The sombre atmosphere of his illustrations gave most of his panels a haunting look to them in spite of the bright color palate we were served with. I liked this issue but it also made me expect more for the upcoming installments.