The character interactions among Batman, Bard, Penguin and Falcone were solid gold and were no doubt the impressive highlights of the story. If you've been reading my reviews often then you know how I've stated more than twice that I have a thing about pacing, but I would also like to mention here officially that I also adore thematic stories. In this case, it's the natural order of things which is Penguin's opening sentences. He shared a story about a crime boss known as the Lion (Rex Calabrese) who preceded Carmine Falcone back in the day. Said mob boss claimed that nobody stays on top for long, that there's an expiration date and when the alpha gets old, a young one will inevitably take his place and replace him. Penguin acknowledges that this is just the way the power and status work in general, and that he was the one who pushed Falcone out in the first place so there is no way he's going to lose his grip on the Gotham underworld because natural order dictates that it's his time to reign and Falcone cannot come back to steal that away; Penguin is adamant about this.
It's the first time in a long time that I saw Penguin going creepily berserk in a story and it's a sight to behold all by itself! That supposedly (though not certain) final confrontation between him and Falcone was crazy! Penguin just straight-up murdered twelve men all by his lonesome before he gets to Falcone. It's almost as if I'm reading the Gotham show's Robin Lord Taylor version of Oswald Cobblepot who he could just turn on a switch and kill people without hesitation or mercy and it was insanely enjoyable! Falcone was understandably scared shitless. I actually feared for his life and believed Penguin would have really killed him if it wasn't for Jason Bard, Mr. Timely Interruption, and the rest of the GCPD with Vicki Vale and the press stepping in. I agreed that it was a picture perfect moment too, arresting Falcone and Penguin in a very literal interpretation of the expression hitting "two birds" with one stone (because Falcone and Penguin are namesake of said birds, you dig me?). Bard had also arrested Jack Forbes earlier that night, together with the Mayor who is a conspirator of Falcone (as revealed in issue #2). While locking up these baddies, Bard also managed to find enough time to cure cancer, tax the rich and provide education for the poor because THERE IS NOTHING THIS ROOKIE COP CAN'T DO, apparently. Well, shit, son! He has been pretty fucking spectacular so Vicki Vale, why aren't you dating the shit out of this rock star already?
Bard may be having all the fun and glory in this issue but I can't say the same for the man who recruited him in the first place. We see yet another downer moment for Jim Gordon in Blackgate, who was haunted by the last conversation he had with his psycho son. It's difficult to see a man of integrity like Gordon doubt himself so severely, and the fact that he's actually contemplating about escaping prison. Granted we can still speculate if that really was the case, seeing as Snyder and Tynion purposely left that ambiguous. I did wonder how Batman got there so quickly and right by the time Gordon was standing in that door, claiming he was there to lock it and not at all get out of there. If it was any other character, you would have called "bullshit!" and leave it as that. But this is freaking James Gordon, and we feel like we should give him the benefit of the doubt and trust that he is making the right call. What followed is one of the most honest and disheartening conversation between him and Batman EVER:
There it is again, the natural order of things. Gordon had reached a point where he believed that his reign has ended and that it's time to hang his hat and retire. It saddened me and yet I also perfectly understood the undeniable truth that even heroes can fall, and not get back again to fight the good fight. This revelation was shortly followed by a meeting between Batman and Jason Bard in the rooftop next to the Bat-signal (which was still destroyed to fucking bits, by the way). And another twist slammed us right in the face. I don't know about you, but I certainly felt like a rug was pulled under me when I read that conversation. I won't say anything about it but I will leave you to contemplate Bard's own justification about his decision:
To end this review, I would like to address the opening pages with Scarecrow. I fucking loved that scene sequence! The Master of Fear himself actually scared to death with whatever is chasing him? Mind-boggling and deliciously thrilling to see! However, whoever was tormenting Scarecrow (which was shown at the last pages) was someone I did not expect and was kind of angry about. You know what, I'm just going to say it. Sorry for the spoilers but you better stop reading now if you don't want to know yet.
It's the fucking Joker's Daughter. This stupid, stupid irrelevant character has rendered Scarecrow viciously terrified? I'm sorry but that's just fucking WRONG. So yeah, this issue might have gotten the perfect rating if it wasn't for that crap.