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Batman #12 - Ghost in the Machine; Review

5

What happens when an epic eleven issue story concludes? Scott Snyder fills in the gaps and sets the stage for future stories. Get ready for a different sort of BATMAN story with art by Becky Cloonan and Andy Clarke.

The Good

This is going to be an issue of BATMAN that will catch many off guard. Besides the obvious absence of Greg Capullo's art and the addition of Becky Cloonan and Andy Clarke, we have a BATMAN story that doesn't feature a whole lot of Batman. After the insane (and great) roller coaster ride of the first eleven issues, it can almost be said that Scott Snyder is taking a gamble here. Snyder has shown that he doesn't just write big action stories or twisted and dark tales. There has been times where you can feel the emotions of the characters build up, especially in the final pages of last month's issue. This is a comic that's about the story of the characters involved.

This is an issue I've been waiting for since BATMAN #1. You'll recall the scene where Bruce is giving a speech and we see a mysterious female character present in the same sequence of panels with Jim Gordon, Lincoln March and Leslie Thompkins. Immediately I felt there had to be something about this character. She had to be someone. Snyder teased she'd have a role later. In issue #7 we saw Harper Row in her regular everyday appearance. When issue #10 came out, Snyder revealed that the two were, in fact the same character (you can see more on all this here). The big question is how could this girl go from being all glammed up to more punk appearance she had just a few issues later? This issue explains it all.

Essentially this issue is about finding out who Harper Row is. We meet her and her brother and see that Gotham isn't the glamorous city that we often see Bruce Wayne making appearances at. As with pretty much every city, there is a rougher area. Getting to see life in Gotham from the perspective of the average citizen is a great treat. It's not something we see often and those rare glimpses make Batman's world feel a little more real.

I found myself immediately drawn to Harper's character. She's tough and smart. More importantly, she stands for something. Despite the hardships she's gone through, she still believes in doing the right thing and to her, family is an important factor.

Becky Cloonan's art fits the vibe of the story perfectly. This isn't a Greg Capullo story. Yes we know that guy can draw the hell out of an issue but this story feels like it was written for Cloonan. As the "first female to draw the series," having her work on Harper's story was simply fitting.

The story isn't completely only about Harper. Obviously Batman does appear here. As mentioned, there are some gaps during the first eleven issues and we get to see some events from different angles. Seeing Batman from the 'average person's view' adds a different and welcome feel. What will their interaction be, if any? If you read issue #7, you already know they must have some sort of history.

What will her appearance here mean for the future of the series? Perhaps not much. Snyder teased that she'd have an "important role." I've already seen a couple people suggest she take on an "Oracle" role. Maybe she could take on the role Harold used to have (minus living in the Batcave like a creep). I say, whatever capacity she may serve, all the better for Batman. As awesome as he is, he can't and shouldn't do it all on his own. That was the main point he got out of 'dying' and returning. That's why he formed Batman Incorporated. This is a smart kid and it'd be great to see more of her.

It should be pointed out that the back up doesn't quite have a complete 'back up' feel. The story continues but the final few pages are co-written by James Tynion IV and the art is picked up by Andy Clarke. Clarke and Cloonan clearly have different art styles. The detailed grittiness that Clarke adds makes a great issue even greater.

The Bad

As much as I enjoyed seeing both Cloonan's and Clarke's art styles, it always bothers me when there is a distinct difference in the same story. Despite being a back up story, it essentially continues the main one. There's almost a jarring transition between the two styles. Clarke delivers a different sort of detail that fits with the location of where the back up takes place. Also, Clarke drew the partially shaved head more distinctly than Cloonan so it appeared Harper got a buzz between pages.

The Verdict

Scott Snyder shows us he can tell different types of Batman stories. One thing that wasn't mentioned in order to avoid spoilers is the important message here. If nothing else, hopefully a certain sequence of events will open people's eyes.

Harper Row was a character first seen in issue #1. Now we know what her story is and how she seemed to already know Batman when she saved his life in issue #7. Snyder has teased she will be important so it's hard to say if we'll be seeing more of Harper in the future or if her story is complete here. People may be questioning how come Greg Capullo isn't here but Becky Cloonan and Andy Clarke do a great job with their portions of the story. We should all be accepting of change and take advantage of the opportunity to see different interpretations of the characters. Despite being tied in to events from previous issues, this is also one that could be read and enjoyed on its own. It's also an issue you can share with non-BATMAN readers, if you actually know of any. This was another great issue. It stands separately from the Snyder/Capullo issues but definitely will stand out on its own for what it accomplishes.

42 Comments
Posted by Dark_Vengeance_

of course I am going to pick this up.

Posted by _jackbauer

Im heading out to Comics and More on Danforth in Toronto Canada to pick this up now!

Posted by shrmntnk62

I didn't care for this as much. I had already almost forgotten about this Harper chick. I also really didn't like the art in the first half of the book. Too retro I guess. Like X-Statics, which I also hated.

Posted by Zenistar

Can't wait to pick this up ;)

Posted by Loki2u

Excellent Review G-man!

Can't wait to read this later today. Any chance we could be seeing a Robin in the making here?

Is Capullo back with issue 13?

Posted by PortlandsBatman

@Loki2u: He is back for zero and 13 and on.

Posted by sinestro_GL

Been a bit behind with my Batman readings so far...I must rectify this.

Posted by Rise2Ragnarok

I thought this was a great change of pace issue for the series after so much craziness that has been happening recently. I also really liked the character of Harper and could see her in a Oracle-esque role. Can't wait to see what Snyder does with her next!

Posted by Cavemold

Greg will be back by issue 0

Posted by batmite0178

@Rise2Ragnarok:

I completely agree. After the unrelenting action of the Court of Owls arc this was a great decompression issue.

I also loved the exchange between Harper and Alfred, awesome!

Posted by Booster_Bronze

Great issue and a nice break from Batman getting his ass handed to him over and over again, and to see Harper's origin explained. One odd thing though: my issue had a double cover attached to it, as in I had a cover, then I opened it and another same cover was just below it. Did this happen to anyone else?

Posted by snowtires

The art in this issue made my eyes hurt. It's like manga with color. Gag me.

Posted by MadeinBangladesh

Picked it up! can't wait to read it.

Posted by JonesDeini

Relly enjoyed this issue Becky Cloonan is a great, great artist. And props to her for being the first (far as I know) female artist on Batman. Loved her art here and Snyder delivered a great POV every man story here. My only complaints were the okay backup feature and a few typos that slid past editorial.

Posted by InnerVenom123

Great issue.

The second half's art bugged me, though.

Posted by jsphsmth

Snyder writes a five star worth fill-in issue. This man can write.

Posted by longbowhunter

Big jump in art. Pretty jarring. Good news is I loved both artists. Becky Cloonan was a perfect choice to tell Harper's story. And it was a good one. Just like Gotham Central this was a story about the people of Gotham and how Batman affects their lives. I'd like to see more issues like this. And more of Becky Cloonan and Andy Clarke. Just not in the same story.

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Posted by TDK_88

I, actually disliked this issue. Nothing was over fascinating and I didn't really care about Harper that much. Perhaps I don't care for generic batman arrives and punches random bad guys and zips off. Perhaps I don't care for using a victim of homosexual bullying as forced characterisation. It wasn't the great reveal issue that was hyped.

Posted by Brucekent

I cant get to my LCBS til Fri., but am excited to get this book as well as B&R. Snyder has been rocking this book since number one, and Oct. wont come fast enough so we can begin the Joker story!

Posted by derf_jenkins

@TDK_88 said:

I, actually disliked this issue. Nothing was over fascinating and I didn't really care about Harper that much. Perhaps I don't care for generic batman arrives and punches random bad guys and zips off. Perhaps I don't care for using a victim of homosexual bullying as forced characterisation. It wasn't the great reveal issue that was hyped.

I tend to side with this viewpoint. I think the whole "Zero" issue thing could be a waste of time. Those seem to be filler issues too. Why do we need an issue like this right before it? I really cannot complain though too much. I think the new 52 has been a success, especially Batman. In no way am I disappointed. I just don't know if Harper is going to have a great role in the future.

Posted by kerosene

First off let me say that while there was nothing really bad about the issue, there was nothing really good about it either. And while I did pick it up, I felt that I wouldn't have missed anything if I hadn't. With that being said, here are my thoughts. 
 
The art will come as a shock to those who have followed the book thus far. The art wasn't bad, but in my opinion, it isn't a good fit for the book, but maybe this particular story. I for one cannot wait for Capullos return in #0/#13.
The second half of the book had a different artist and while it's much better, it still isn't great. The writing wasn't bad but my main gripe is that this story didn't really need to be told. I have no vested interested in Harper Row, though I do like her name.  There are no major reveals, no story continuation, and it is very wordy. I have never said this about Snyder's Batman but I could not wait to finish reading the book and was happy when I had. 
 
So to sum it all up: story didn't need to be told, art did not go well with Snyders writing. Weakest issue to date, in my opinion.

Posted by eduardoy7

I actually enjoyed the issue, the art was pleasant enough and the character and background of Harper Row was interesting; I am definitely looking forward to seeing her role (whatever it is) play out later in the series.

My only complaint is waiting two months for the Joker arc to begin.

Posted by leosol

Great issue, Favorite Cover so far :D

Posted by AtomBlast

It was a good issue, nothing special.

Posted by DarthShap

I did not like this issue. It reminded me of Love and Monsters, the worst Doctor Who episode in history. The everyday life of fanboys and stalkers is just not that interesting.

Posted by TDK_88

@derf_jenkins: @derf_jenkins said:

@TDK_88 said:

I, actually disliked this issue. Nothing was over fascinating and I didn't really care about Harper that much. Perhaps I don't care for generic batman arrives and punches random bad guys and zips off. Perhaps I don't care for using a victim of homosexual bullying as forced characterisation. It wasn't the great reveal issue that was hyped.

I tend to side with this viewpoint. I think the whole "Zero" issue thing could be a waste of time. Those seem to be filler issues too. Why do we need an issue like this right before it? I really cannot complain though too much. I think the new 52 has been a success, especially Batman. In no way am I disappointed. I just don't know if Harper is going to have a great role in the future.

I however think the Zero issue will be a little better than this. It is important to have filler issues but yes, one after the other is unfortunate as it takes the winds out of the sails so to speak. I agree I think the new 52 has been a huge success and whilst I do think Harper will play an "important" role in Snyder's run, thats most likely where it will stop. I just think the issue was lack luster, the themes weren't that great, we could have Harper saved by an ordinary cop and form a duo obsessed with batman or something.

Edited by Owie

Nice storyline and characterization.  The art in the first half was OK but not great; there was a mix of inkers too, and that made it even more uneven.  Clarke's art was pretty sweet though.
 
Also, I agree with the kid in the comic, it was a cool scene when Batman beat up the bullies.  It's what every bullied kid dreams of.

Posted by Jake Fury

5 stars for what amounts to nothing but filler?

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Posted by stormtrance1618

This was a MEH issue at best! It did not make me care for Harper any. In fact, I liked her brother better. The whole bullying angle seemed a little forced. Overall this isn't bad, but it's not good either. Defiantly not as good as the critics are making it out to be. It's an issue that can and might should be skipped.

Posted by jaredbright

IT's a great series. HOwever, I don't get the almost 'Mike Allred-ish' type art in this issue. Not just for consistency of the title, but I don't get how it goes in a Batman book. I know you can't find fill-ins for Capullo everywhere, but something a little closer to his art would of worked better.

Posted by TheBatcave

I think that it's important to take a break between legendary or extended conflicts. I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I was a bit exhausted after the Court of Owls arc. Not that it wasn't excellent and that I didn't immensely enjoy it, but to have jumped immediately into an epic Joker arc would have been overkill. While we learned a lot about Batman and his role/perspective in the New 52 Gotham, his character can and should be developed in smaller piece-meal stories that can stand alone from an arc. It appears that I may be the only one that holds this point of view.

I think that G-Man had an excellent point in that Harper could act as an Oracle figure since Batman really can't take all of the burden upon himself. It is interesting to note that must of the dialogue happened in 7 word sentences throughout the entire story. Did anyone else catch that?

A good issue, but certainly filler. Can't wait for the next issue!

Posted by urstenky

The verdict for issue #12: 2 stars out of 5. I'm glad this one is over. The art needs to go back to the pages of Speed Racer. Scott Snyder, you could tell, had his mind on future issues as this story about Harper Row was a dud. Let's hope this story is never collected!

Posted by DocFishstick

i liked it. it was something new. it makes me want to see more of Harper and where her role in Batman will take her.

Posted by thedrudo

Despite it not being Capullo, I really dug Becky Cloonan's artwork. Wish she would have done the entire issue though because the switch near the end almost took me out of it.

Posted by The Stegman

I actually really liked this issue, a lot.

Posted by YMCMB

I've loved Snyder's run so far, but I think 5 stars is a bit too high for this issue. Issue felt pretty boring to me and I didn't like the new characters too much, also I'm not tryna sound hateful but another new gay character in the DC universe makes me question how well DC understands their readers...

Posted by jojobinks70

My first reaction when I opened and started flipping through pages, was "Ugh

, not digging this art style". But than I started reading and I didnt get through the first two pages before my issues with the art seemed to disappear. I suppose this is talent of a great writer. It also helped that Harper Row is a very interesting character, who I hope will be someone we are going to get to see a lot more of in future stories. So I can definitely say I found this book a welcome change and very much recommend it.

Posted by MANCUB

@TDK_88 said:

I, actually disliked this issue. Nothing was over fascinating and I didn't really care about Harper that much. Perhaps I don't care for generic batman arrives and punches random bad guys and zips off. Perhaps I don't care for using a victim of homosexual bullying as forced characterisation. It wasn't the great reveal issue that was hyped.

THIS!

Posted by tim_mik

Tony is spot-on with this review and Scott shows (like Christos Gage) that he can work in a gay character without seeming to be doing it just because he feels like he has to. I am really interested to see what happens with Harper in the future.

Posted by entropy_aegis

@Jake Fury said:

5 stars for what amounts to nothing but filler?

Honest opinion? only the first issue of this series was 5 star worthy and the next 3 were 4 stars,everything else was 3 at best.

I could'nt care about Harper simply cause of the way DC has been treating Steph,Cass and some of the other characters I happened to like.

Posted by daredevil21134

@entropy_aegis said:

@Jake Fury said:

5 stars for what amounts to nothing but filler?

Honest opinion? only the first issue of this series was 5 star worthy and the next 3 were 4 stars,everything else was 3 at best.

I could'nt care about Harper simply cause of the way DC has been treating Steph,Cass and some of the other characters I happened to like.

Co signed

Edited by SlantedRoom

Just read this issue and to be honest it was one of my favorite in the series so far. After all the craziness of the court/night of owls stories this had just the perfect, slightly more light hearted (although still serious), tone the series was in dire need of. Batman was getting to the point where I only wanted to read it on rainy-kind-of-downer type of days due to the harsh tone it had established. It was grueling and, while I like and appreciate their ability to sustain that pace for 11 issues, some change was definitely welcome. This issue definitely brought that change and with it, it brought a great message (the head shaving) and some beautiful new art. I'm glad they recognize when the series is in need of a change of pace and I am looking forward to more issues like this in the future. In the meantime though, I am thoroughly excited to start A Death in the Family.