In “Batman” #47, Jim Gordon explains the rules of a poker game variant invented by Detective Bullock called Gotham Card Played Down. In it, the game revolves around an unexpected moment where — with no warning — a mystery card is flipped over and suddenly everything in the game is turned on its head. It’s an apt story to be told here, as Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Danny Miki throw the “Superheavy” storyline into high gear — and, just like in Bullock’s poker game, everything gets upended.
So much of “Batman” #47 sets up the remaining chapters of the “Superheavy” storyline. Jim’s battle against Mr. Bloom gets extremely dangerous, with an unexpected victory by one of the combatants. Duke gets help from a surprise source, even as many of Batman’s rogues try to stop this new Robin before his career even gets going. Bruce Wayne’s past confronts him in a dangerous way that not even he can continue to ignore. Then, just when you think you know what’s happening, someone flips over the mystery card and everything changes again.
Snyder’s story works because “Batman” #47 isn’t a story about shock value. If this was merely a bunch of crazy twists and turns designed to make people jump, the impact would be quickly lost. “Batman” #47 stands out because Snyder carefully builds on everything from the “Superheavy” storyline; each step along the path has moved towards this, from Gordon’s desperate attempt to prove he is still worthy of being Batman to Bruce’s work at the center and his discovery that the seed was missing. As pieces fall into place, though, it’s done with an elegance that makes it all feel natural.
More importantly, there’s a lot of heart in “Batman” #47. These characters are all on journeys that are personal and goal-driven. Each of these characters — Gordon, Bruce, Duke — is searching for something that involves not only self-validation but also the well-being of others. The moments of victory each of them are reaching for might not be physically tangible, but they’re much more rewarding to see in play than a simple physical object. A hero trying to get a random artifact is nice, sure, but what each of these characters want feels more powerful.
Capullo’s drawings of Mr. Bloom are so wonderfully creepy that it feels like the character was created with Capullo in mind. Mr. Bloom’s long, stretching limbs-as-tendrils are unnerving to look at as they unspool across the panels and pin Gordon down. Even as they’re based off of plant life, you can’t stop from feeling like these are unnatural and should not exist. It’s that strange feeling of familiarity and revulsion mixed together that makes the visual depiction of the character work so well. Even something as simple as Mr. Bloom’s “face” is dangerous looking; who knew a flower could hold so much menace?
Then again, even Bruce Wayne holds some menace under Capullo and Miki’s lines this month. As he holds a baseball bat while standing over the fallen body of one of his enemies, he looks positively formidable. That’s something that’s been deliberately absent up until now; the amnesiac Bruce has always felt a little soft. While Bruce’s memories are still gone, seeing him pushed into a corner brings a real danger to him, and it’s the art that helps bring that presence off of the page and towards the readers. Capullo and Miki show us that Bruce might not remember being Batman, but Batman still lurks inside of his soul somewhere.
As much as Snyder has made us care about Jim and Duke in this storyline, it’s Bruce who truly takes center stage this issue. The confrontation in the subway tunnel is a huge turning point for the new Bruce Wayne, and the comment about the negative space in his history will make some readers cheer. With that in mind, it’s also the one part of the story where the final page pulls out the one true, dangerous, genuine shock moment. While it fits in with everything else that’s happened in Snyder’s “Batman” run to date, there’s also no denying everything in this storyline has just been scattered and the remaining pieces are in desperate need of picking up. All of the readers who were cheering a few pages earlier? They’re now shrieking, because that’s how you create a cliffhanger. Well done, Snyder, Capullo and Miki. You got us, and you got us good. Here’s to 2016 so we can see what happens next.