Volume 1 (#1-21)
by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV (story)
In the wake of Forever Evil, the world looks at heroes in a different light, creating tension between Batman and his allies and the Gotham City Police Department. When a gang war breaks out and new villains arise, it's up to the Dark Knight, Batgirl, and more to turn the tides as best as they can—but will the GCPD be a help or a hinderance? Plus, a fan-favorite character makes her long-awaited DC Comics—The New 52 debut.
Ex-mob boss Carmine Falcone (of The Long Halloween fame--which makes me so happy to know that it's now considered canon, since it's one of the best Batman comics to date) has returned to Gotham after being silent for the last five years. With him comes a wave of chaos that the whole Batfamily has to deal with. Family is important in any Bat-story. There are some who believe that Bruce works better alone, but he has flaws--flaws that the others make up for.
In this instalment, Bruce has to deal with the internal workings within the Batfamily, as they introduce several new characters into the mix.
With Carmine in charge, he buys out the mayor, who in turn, buys out the police force. This sneaky plot wages a war against the cops and Batman, a tale of good versus the corrupt.
To be honest, I wasn't a fan of the supernatural aspects of this book. Because it's so disconnected from the rest of the story, it feels like needless padding. And for a book that planned to be 52 issues, it really depended on the padding.
In another desperate grab for padding, Barbara Gordon--Batgirl--is filled with rage. An all-consuming rage that leaves her defenceless and at risk. Jason Todd--ex Robin, now known as the Red Hood--knows a thing or two about rage, and comes to be her mentor in finding ways to channel that rage. It's disappointed me that people have started to ship them together, but it is what it is. They have a little mission in South America where they run into Batwoman. From there, it's just more padding.
It's a huge disappointment that Dick/Nightwing isn't here (instead, he's apparently dead, but really just starring in the woefully awful Grayson series.) What does his absence mean for the batfamily? It's already frail from the events of Damian's death, and Death of the Family, and I would have liked it to be discussed more, and perhaps shown his rocky relationship with Babs (I won't let DC sink my ship).
A long-missed character, Stephanie Brown--former Robin and Batgirl--has finally been introduced into the New 52, completely by accident. She walks in on her father in costume, only to find out that he's a super-villain. Now, she's on the run, and using the moniker The Spoiler (because she spoils her dad's plans, duh). I can't wait to see where she fits in within the Batfamily, and whether her relationship with Tim pre-52 will be rekindled (another ship I refuse to part with).
Her role in the story is, as expected, disjointed from the rest of the narrative, but it's one that I'm fond of, if only for the happy memories she brings back. I accept Stephanie Brown as my queen and saviour, as my Spoiler.
A new hero pops up in the pages, a girl with blue and purple hair, piercings, and a ring of tasers around her belt. She doesn't take shit from anyone, especially Red Robin. Her name is Harper Row, aka, Blue Bird. She's a character I'm very interested in, and would love to see her have her own series, because she's just so badass. She's computer and technologically savvy, and could easily be the next Oracle, which I'm hoping for in the future. Her relationship with Tim is fun, and it's clear that he's become her accidental mentor. It's hilarious to see her call him the "Winged Weinie" and make fun of him for being such a dork.
All in all, it was a decent story, bogged down with too many plot threads, some that seemed totally unrelated in the slightest. I enjoyed myself, and I had a lot of "WHAT?!" moments, and times where I'd squee. But I just found it wasn't strong enough to sustain all that weight.
While it felt too heavy underneath all that plot, the characterisations were flawless. The building of new relationships--as well as sustaining old relationships--was a large focal point, and made each character unique and flawed and relatable.
A word on the art: on the most part, it was impeccable. I adored Dustin Nguyen's pencils, as well as his covers. His design of Steph and Harper are beyond perfect, and they make me so so happy. The other artists were very talented, too, but they didn't quite stand out. (And it doesn't help that Dustin had my heart from the very moment he started Li'l Gotham.)