By Grant Morrison (story), Tony Daniel (pencils) Sandu Florea (inks) Guy Major (colors)

One thing I appreciate about this story is that it keeps the reader guessing. It’s too early to say if this story will be heralded as “classic” (remember the big let down that was Hush?), but so far, I’ve been thoroughly entertained. As last issue set the stage (no pun intended), this issue works very quickly to move the pieces into position. Two things surprised me here: The lack of The Joker’s presence after previously being so prominently featured, and the speed of which The Black Hand executes its plan.

Quite a lot happens in this issue, but the real meat is the dissection of Bruce Wayne’s psyche. It seems like everyone has an opinion on what’s rattling around in Bruce’s head, and Grant Morrison presents a nice analysis from several points of view. No one seems to know Bruce better than Doctor Hurt, and when he pushes his plan forward Bruce is powerless to stop him.

Jet, Bruce’s new love interest, has definitely entered the picture at an opportune time, and it makes me wonder which side she’s on. She genuinely seems to care about him and presents a nice contrast to his views, but her quick-to-judge personality makes me wonder if she knows more than she’s letting on. Lastly, the new revelations presented of a certain Butler’s past really blows the doors open on the story. Most readers had a feeling Alfred knew more than he was letting on, but now it’s clear his hands are definitely dirty.

There’s not much to say about the art, other than it delivers on all levels. Tony Daniel has been consistently good with his storytelling, and Guy Major’s colors have draped a dark cloud over Gotham even though Gotham is nearly empty of major crime. The present is bright, yet, has never felt so dark.

As you can probably guess, this issue created more questions than it answered. But it’s loaded with mystery and motives from so far back, it seems like only Bruce’s dead parents may only know the answers. Long time readers of Batman may be well rewarded if they’ve got enough historical knowledge under their belt. But I have a feeling most of this is all coming out of Morrison’s head. Whatever’s going on, it’s a heck of a dark journey and a lonely one for Bruce Wayne. (Grade: A-)

– J. Montes