Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller: Becky Cloonan
Inker: Sandu Florea
Colourist: Fco Plascencia
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy B
Previously, in Batman: Before the assault by the Court of Owls, Bruce Wayne was pushing his new initiative to revamp the less desirable areas of Gotham City. Part of his scheme was to create new buildings and tear down some of the already existing ones in these sections of Gotham.
Whilst trapped in the Court of Owls’ labyrinth, Batman was rescued by a mysterious girl called Harper, who saved his life and made sure he did not freeze to death. Who is the enigmatic Harper Row, and what is her tie to Batman?
I’m really not sure what to think about this issue. After eleven issues of crazy Owl-related madness, we take a side-step to have a look at the “origins” of Harper Row and her brother Cullen and how they tie into the storyline. It’s a big leap of faith that Snyder was able to introduce a character halfway through such an important story arc and not even mention her again until now. We still don’t get all the answers we need about how she fits into his world quite yet, but Snyder creates a likeable character that is easy to get behind, and fits right into his world, despite all of his protests that she does the opposite.
Harper is nicely intertwined with the rest of the Owls’ storyline, though not anything to do with the Court. Going all the way back to the first issue and winding through issues four and six, her relation to the plot is made evident, and Batman’s role in her life is made clear as he makes his presence known to protect her and her brother from gang members who are out to get them because they’re different.
Harper and her brother are fleshed out well, and I do want to see more of them for certain. I’m not sure whether this Batman-lite issue was really necessary to do introduce them however, but I have a feeling that Snyder has big plans for her in the future, so I’m content to enjoy the ride for now. Harper does come across a little too smart at certain points, but her independence and the way she reacts to certain situations throughout the book makes her very easy to root for.
Becky Cloonan’s style reminds me heavily of Emma Rios, another female artist whose work I love, whilst her facial expressions invoke old issues of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, which were drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa. Combining the two together makes Cloonan’s style unique and enjoyable. It’s different to the gritty style that Greg Capullo has been using for the past eleven issues, and fits this more personal story. The scenes in which Harper and Cullen interact are perfectly drawn, and really show the breadth of her grasp of human poses and expressions.
However, as the issue draws to a close, the “back-up” section of the book takes over, with Andy Clarke taking control of the art duties without any kind of warning. This is an extremely jarring effect—with the previous back-up strips, the artist change has accompanied a subject change, or at the very least a scene change. Clarke’s work is clean and more realistic than Cloonan’s, which fits the battle scene that takes place very well, but the transition between the two is poorly handled, and will likely throw the reader off.
One final note on the art—Capullo’s cover is absolutely gorgeous.
So the Court of Owls are gone for now, and most of the hanging plot threads have been dealt with in this issue. Harper Row has made herself known, and Snyder has laid the seeds for her further involvement in the series in an issue that has truly thrown me as to what rating to give it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the issue at all; I’m just not sure exactly where we’re going just yet. However, as I said, I’m prepared to go along with the ride for now, and I expect fans of Snyder and Cloonan will be too.
GO Rating: 3/5