Snyder (former writer for Detective Comics and current writer of Batman, Talon, American Vampire, and Swamp Thing) promises an issue focused on Harper Row, the girl without any apparent role in the DC Universe. Apparently, she will somehow discover Batman's loss of Robin or at bare minimum witness the fallout from the event. Harper appeared to be taking an unhealthy fascination with Batman in Batman #12, so perhaps she has spent all her time since then obsessing over The Dark Knight and she will discover Bruce's identity and need for a Robin in the same fashion as Tim Drake did in A Lonely Place of Dying. Harper has long been rumored to be the new Girl Wonder, so could this be the beginning of the road that leads to Harper donning the yellow cape and domino mask? Only time will tell, but for the moment, another question is at hand. Does Batman #18 deliver a poignant tale of loss for the caped crusader and character development for the mysterious Harper,or is this a forced crossover that fits poorly into Snyder's regular storytelling?
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In this issue, Harper stalks Batman and watches as he becomes increasingly aggressive and self-destructive.
Harper Row Is Officially the New Tim Drake
Why does Tim Drake not act like Tim Drake? Because Harper has stolen his role in the DC Universe.
I am pretty sure I would have loved this issue if I had never read “A Lonely Place of Dying,” the plotline that introduced Tim Drake to the world back in 1989. There is nothing wrong with this story; in fact, it is quite well told with great art, excellent dialogue, and a good flow, but I'll be darned if every single page did not feel exactly like the classic eighties story. There are certainly differences between Tim's origin and Harper's origin, but the similarities just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Harper has not discovered Bruce's identity as of yet, but she most definitely has the same fanboy type admiration for him which made Tim such an easy character of love. Like Tim, Harper has natural computer and technical knowhow. Also like Tim, she has been physically training herself for battle. She approaches Bruce right after he lost a beloved if rebellious son/Robin. She instinctually realizes that Batman needs someone to bring light to his darkness. It is all so very familiar.
This typifies one of my largest complaints about the entire New 52; nothing is really new. DC claims that they are ditching all their old history in an attempt to move forward and tell new and exciting stories unrestrained by past continuity, yet when left to write these “new” stories, writers inevitably end up rehashing the same old plot lines from past years with slight variations. This is not new but redux.
I'm Cool with Harper
Harper will clearly have some role as a protege of the Bat, and though Harper's origin feels completely derivative, I think Harper as a character has a lot of potential. I know many people took issue with Harper-centric issue #12, but I find her to be a very likable character who hits a niche not really being filled by other characters. Like Jason, she has the rough upbringing aspect. Like Harold, she has tech savvy. (her wireless release for her rope is ingenious) Like Stephanie, she has a criminal father. I could go on, but you get the idea. Harper has a mix of a lot of characteristics we have seen in various members of the Bat Family over the years, but it is a rather unique blend which is not really present in Bruce's life at the moment.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of her personality is the way she talks to Bruce. She has a mix of defiance, frankness, earnestness, and respect which I am not sure we have ever seen. She seems to have a way to get past Bruce's emotional walls, cut through his bullcrap intimidation techniques, and really talk to him, and if that is something she can pull of consistently, that would be a truly new take for a Bat protege. In the DCNU, Nightwing has demonstrated an attitude towards Bruce which is somewhat similar, but that came through years and years of being partners, yet Harper manages to bust through Bruce's bullcrap in a few conversations. That is quite a feat.
Does this issue give a proper memorial to Damian? I suppose you could make a case either way. It all depends on what you want from the arc.
As promised, the story is from the eyes of Harper, so Damian is never really discussed or openly mourned in this issue. Do not expect any touching Damian flashbacks or tearful remembrances. However, Harper and Batman do eventually have a heart to heart, and in that conversation, Bruce's pain is very obvious. Similarly, Bruce's self-destructive actions make his heartache rather clear.
Speaking of Bruce's self-destruction, I did like the way that was handled. Yes, it was very, very reminiscent of A Lonely Place of Dying, but it also showed some character development. Whereas Bruce spent months in a rage over the loss of Jason, Bruce only spent a week truly going nuts after the death of Damian. Bruce did not completely shut people out even in the midst of his pain, and again, I think that indicates some growth on Batman's part.
It definitely appears that Harper will become the new Robin, and this issue sets up for her to be a future warrior of the Bat, so in that sense, I can see how some might feel that Harper is trampling all over Damian's grave, but I figure that most people who were big Damian fans want to know how the legacy of Robin will continue, so I do not think many who are buying this issue for the Requiem crossover will be disappointed.
Fill In Artists
Greg Capullo (former penciler for Image's Spawn and current cover artist for Batman) took this month off of Batman, so there were two fill in artists for this month. Andy Kubert (former artist for Batman and X-Men and current penciler for Batman and cover artist for Green Lantern Corps) did the first half and Alex Maleev (former artist for Daredevil and current artist of Batman) did the second, and both halves looked great. I do not really have any complaints about either artist. Kubert is a bit more exaggerated and has a smoother look to his work while Maleev's characters are a bit more realistic (except for a certain dog and owner who had an excuse to look unrealistic) and gritty, but if you put a gun to my head and made me choose, I would say Kubert is my preferred artist, but both of them bring a great look to the series.
1. All the covers for this issue look great.
2. I'm not sure what I think of this portrayal of Blackgate, but I am leaning towards liking it.
3. I have no doubt that we will be seeing Harper's dad again.
4. I would really like to know what is going on in the submarine scene. Is that a Bat mallet?
5. The short bit about the dog fights was really interesting, and I would like to see this expanded though I am not sure it would be substantive enough to sustain an arc.
6. Unless Harper gets a full face mask, (could she be the future Batwing perhaps?) she is going to be very easy to identify between her blue hair and noes ring.
7. I get that Harper's plan for sending a message to Batman was cool and lead to neat symbolism, but couldn't she have just passed him a note?
I hate to give this story such a low rating because it does not deserve it on its own merits, but I cannot help but feel that it is too derivative of “A Lonely Place of Dying,” and that really bugs me. If you are not attached to the old plot line, this is a definite purchase for any Batman fan, but for older fans like me, go in with more moderate expectations.
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