Must I mention again how much of an anal retentive I am when it came to pacing? It's probably the most underappreciated and overlooked element of a story but when played just right, the symphony of notes comes together with ease that you just lose yourself in the moments and characters. This issue is a testament to that.
+++++++SPOILERS TERRITORY, Y'ALL+++++++
There are three plotlines and they blended well together:
(1) Stephanie Brown having a supposedly normal night but then she stumbles upon her father dressed as a supervillain among other like-minded individuals and now she's in some shitty danger.This is a fantastic issue, lots of action and thrill, filled with more plot set-ups that define the high-staked pay-offs for the future installments (hopefully). And this is the tone that I wish Batman Eternal will keep up with because it's deliriously enjoyable for me.
(2) Batman pursues leads and confronts the motherfucking Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot; followed shortly after by a gang war erupting from the sidelines.
(3) The GCPD is in a clusterfuck after losing their Commissioner to a frame-up, and now an unlikely leader steps in to lead them to more shitloads of chaos they won't be able to contain.
Let's talk about Stephanie Brown first. I believe this is her re-appearance in the New 52 continuity and from what I can remember, what happened here is pretty much in line with what was established of her character from the original canon. Even if there are two other major things happening in the issue, her story didn't feel forced or distracting. It seemed essential enough, taking up enough space without it being overdone. I'm curious what role her father will play once the chips have fallen and the game has turned with a more decisive stroke. For now, I'm content seeing Brown ran around trying to get away from her own psycho family. I feel terrible for her, honestly. It's like she just stepped into a waking nightmare, no preparations whatsoever. The suspense feel of her pages was handled superbly because of this tension.
As for the GCPD storyline, it directly connects with the reveal that Mayor Hady and the still-elusive Carmine Falcone are back to working together just like the old times (where 'cops ruled as kings and mobs flourished alongside them', UGH). They also appointed Jack what's-his-face (I despise him profusely since issue #1) to lead the police force and the asshole's numero uno goal is to hunt down Batman. Everything suddenly feels reminiscent of the old times, indeed and it makes me sick to my stomach. There was that amusing scene when Jack drew the Bat-symbol on the whiteboard SO PERFECTLY in his first attempt. Has he been practicing drawing that symbol all this time in case he gets to do it in front of his associates? I suppose we will never know.
Lastly, we see Batman kicking ass and taking names, just the way we always like him doing. Playing detective is one of his strongest suits as long as the writing demands and supplies it beautifully, and this issue has done so. Penguin is utterly delightful, chastising a female employee in a bunny costume with his casual air of douchebaggery when Batman rudely interrupts. Penguin is shocked to learn that his nemesis Falcone is back. Just as soon as Batsy leaves, he begins to gather the troops to prepare for any oncoming attack...and the first wave of that heat happens by the closing pages. It's spectacular.
SHIT IS ABOUT TO GET REAL!
On a final note, Jason Fabok and the colorist Brad Anderson have done supremely well for the illustrations of this issue. The sequential storytelling as a whole, in spite of the bulk of the panels and scenes, never feels like it's been crammed up. A small thing I noticed is Bullock who looks...PRETTY and that's sort of jarring to look at. Nevertheless, the visuals are just plain cool.
I asserted that five writers working on story is definitely like having too many cooks in the kitchen and we saw the consequence of the ingredients being tossed around poorly in the previous issue. But they immediately came back with a better grip of things and that makes me happy. I trust that they keep this up! If they do, then it won't be so hard for me to read and review the next issues.