Scott Snyder’s Gotham is a paradoxical place, an enormous city wrapped in shadows, their black folds thick and stifling, pressing in until a screaming sense of claustrophobia permeates the very air. It is a world of heroes swimming in an aether of evil, a city where no nobility can rise above tragedy and no power deny the foundation of ultimate weakness on which it rises.
In short, the place is an open sewer.
Snyder evokes all of this brilliantly, and therefore poses the ultimate paradox. Why would anyone in their right mind care about this place? Why would any sane person try to defend this combination of nightmare New York and Golgotha? The answer, unfortunately, is that Batman, in Snyder’s estimation, is not sane. Which raises the question of whether one can truly consider him a hero. We don’t have that explicitly asked, nor do we get an explicit answer. But the question hangs, huge and silent, over Gotham.
All if this is hinted at by none other than Alfred Pennyworth in the conversation at the heart of Batman #43. Clark Kent has come to Gotham to discover what happened to his old friend. The simple answer is he died, and then was revived by the Dionesium that seeped into the cavern containing his crushed body. The revival process rewired his brain, erasing his memories. He is now only Bruce Wayne, free of the curse of the bat. Alfred reveals that Bruce was working on cloning and memory transfer technology, the same that we saw in Detective Comics #27, but he had not yet achieved the crucial breakthrough before he died.
Bruce, meanwhile, has informed Gordon that he can’t help the former commissioner with Bat technology. It seems that Gordon is not entirely trusting of his corporate sponsors. Bruce is determined to build a life for himself with Julie Madison and the children of her center, whether Alfred has told him about all the members of his own family is not apparent. Gordon is left to rely only on the help of Julia against Mr. Bloom and the super powered criminals he is growing.
Bloom, as it turns out, is very particular about the cross-pollination of his villainous garden. He refuses to provide powers to the Penguin, leading to a deadly confrontation in which Bloom turns out not to be what one would call human, and maybe not even what one would call alive. Duke Thomas, meanwhile, seizes one of Bloom’s seeds that Gordon left with Bruce, evidently determined that it can help undo the manifold wrongs visited upon him since the Joker’s return.
Over writing has long been one of Scott Snyder's problems, and it is present here to a huge degree. We have an inhuman and possibly undead Mr. Bloom, meddling turns by Clark Kent and Duke Thomas, an overwrought Alfred, a plethora of pop-culture quips, and both brain rewiring and cloning technology. All this in a story where tragedy is barreling down on the characters with the subtlety of an overloaded semi that's lost its brakes. It is a testament to Snyder's skill that he can make such a complete mess actually interesting. One hopes that the interest does not turn into the type that comes with seeing a bloody traffic wreck.