Another striking feature is the fact that we don't get a lot of monologue boxes. I had to check just in case as I type this...and yup, we have no monologues from Batman AT ALL but rather conversations between and among secondary characters, mostly antagonists, as he glides around skyscrapers. There are also no heavyweight A-lister villains here which actually works because at least we can focus on Batman doing his nocturnal crime-fighting on the streets without having to bother with big-event storylines. After all, it's worth mentioning that this issue also enters the Batman Eternal timeline where James Gordon happens to fire at an unarmed suspect and ends up shooting a mechanism that controls a railway train and a colossal shit-party happens (and by shit-party I meant hundreds of passengers died). Carmine Falcone also comes back to challenge the Penguin to an all-out mob war, and bunch of supernatural stuff happens in the background. EXHAUSTED SIGH~! Gotham City is basically the most terrible place to live in, fictional or otherwise. It makes North Korea a more inhabitable place. But I digress. The writers were quick enough to place their own small event in the context of Eternal as well as devote a few pages of Bruce and Alfred discussing about the late Damian Wayne (whom Tomasi will be resurrecting soon in Robin Rises).
As for the story: this gave us a premise concerning Bruce Wayne's business endeavor with one Elena Aguila who shares his philanthropist vision of building a better Gotham (amidst all the shit-storm happening in every goddamn corner. Seriously, why aren't more Gothamites getting the fuck out of this city?) You really have to admire people like Bruce and Elena Aguila for attempting to fix the city so unfixable; and perhaps blame the thugs and criminals less for the way they choose to steal and kill their way to survive a city where its grandest tourist spots are its loony bin (Arkham) and prison (Blackgate) which are filled with the worst people ever offered by humanity, mind you. Manapul and Buccelatto primarily focus on a story arc in which a designer drug called Icarus that literally burns you up (spontaneous combustion is a now considered a new form addiction these days? Holy shit, Gotham!) is back in the streets, much to Bullock's chagrin (which will be explored more on the next issue).
The reason I am giving a higher rating for this issue is because this is visually a beautiful, beautiful comic book with a promising story arc that provides an interesting case while all this shit-storm in Eternal is going on. It also made me go back to reading said title again this week. Also, just like John Layman, this new team is also keen to ensure that all the major events happening in other Bat-titles are instilled in their own stories but through a more meaningful way, and hence adding more depth and dimensions in their writing. Also, I like to read about small-time crooks and gangsters fighting with Batman. It really gives you an idea that the Dark Knight still has ongoing confrontations like this that are minor and yet still important to show. So far, I'm feeling rather optimistic (though I've finished the Icarus run last night and know damn well how it ends as I type this one out...but I won't give y'all spoilers so early here in my review). I still miss Layman and Fabok but they have been a pleasant addition for Batman Eternal roster so I can always just get back to that title if I want more of their stuff.