Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia's "Batman" #48 takes the double-cliffhanger from last month -- Bruce meeting a disguised Joker by the lake and Mr. Bloom rising up to destroy Jim Gordon -- and makes both situations even tenser.
Before those two story threads intersect, each provides a very different sort of menace. The conflict with Mr. Bloom is a very physical danger for both Gordon and the city of Gotham. Mr. Bloom has become literally larger than life and his influence quickly spreads to everyone near his seeds, which were carefully scattered throughout the area. Even as the city scrambles to get as many Batman suits out as they can to try and stop Mr. Bloom, we get a message from our villain about lashing out and taking revenge on those around us. It's an offer to those willing to accept that might makes right, and the tools are handed out to everyone that does. It's a thousand little detonations (figurative and literal) across the city, a bad problem getting exponentially worse. Capullo and Miki make Mr. Bloom wonderfully exaggerated and grotesque here, unleashing his form in a way that twists across the page in an eye-catching manner.
All the while, Snyder and Capullo follow the confrontation between Bruce and the Joker as it spins out in a different sort of arena. If Mr. Bloom's siren song is to rise up and take the tools to stop everyone you feel is wrong, then the Joker's is a neat inversion of that idea. The Joker offers an easier road: walk away from what's in front of you. If Mr. Bloom wants those around him to react in the extreme, the Joker wants Bruce to retreat and avoid. After Bruce's determination to avoid his past through all of "Superheavy," hearing the Joker echo those ideas has an uneasy dimension to it, as we're reminded why this would be such a bad thing.
As the two plot threads finally intertwine, we're given the final piece of the puzzle, with a reminder of why some offers to step forward are bad while others are for the good of others. Bruce's firsthand glimpse of Mr. Bloom's promise of power is horrific, brought to life in a disturbing manner by Capullo and Miki. Seeing the corruption of Mr. Bloom's seeds pushing its way through a taker's system is repulsive, a gruesome call to action, even as Capullo and Miki spare us and cut away from that awful final image.
And so we arrive at that final page, which sets up the remaining chapters of "Superheavy." It's powerful in part because we know not only what's being left behind, but what had to happen in order to get there. Capullo, Miki and Plascencia rise to the occasion and deliver a fantastic image to go with that single line of dialogue; the determined set of Bruce's jaw and the glint of his eyes, the wrinkles forming around Alfred's own eyes as he tries to shut them as tightly as possible, the way that he's trying to block out the sound of that damning, no-turning-back sentence. Even the red smear on Bruce's face packs a punch; it's light enough that it doesn't draw attention to itself, but it's there just enough to remind us of what Bruce just saw happen and how it left a mark.
"Batman" #48 features the moment Batman fans have been waiting for, but Snyder, Capullo, Miki and Plascencia make the journey there just as exciting and gripping. It would have been easy to rush through these post-"Endgame" issues of "Batman," but this careful buildup has turned out to be far more iconic and attention-grabbing than a quick reversion to the status quo. Once again, nicely done.