Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Jim Lee (p), Scott Williams (i)
The book opens with Batman lying seemingly helpless as a group of thugs close in, and since Batman was responsible for numerous injuries that these goons have suffered over the years we see they're quite eager to return the favor. However thanks to some automated systems that Batman had incorporated into his costume, he's able to hold them at bay until the Huntress arrives responding to the calling all crime-fighters distress call that Oracle sent out when she realized Batman had gone down. After the Huntress deals with the thugs we see her load Batman into the waiting Batmobile, which transports the gravely injured Batman back to the Batcave. However when Alfred concedes that Bruce needs medical attention that is far beyond his ability to deliver, we see a plan goes into action where one of Bruce's cars is driven off the road, and Bruce is placed within the twisted wreck to make it appear his injures are the result of a car accident. While Bruce manages to pull through the surgery he undergoes, we see that the surgeon who brought Bruce back from the brink is a childhood friend of Bruce, and from the flashback we receive it looks like this childhood friend played a large role in shaping Batman's personality.
I do like the idea that Jeph Loeb is playing up the idea that Batman is only human, and as such when he falls several stories & slams into the ground he won't be getting up. I also enjoyed the idea that when Batman does go down, Oracle swings into action, and is able to provide the back-up that Batman needs. There's also a nice sense of foreboding attached to the scene where the Huntress is loading Batman's body into the waiting Batmobile, as her on-site assessment nicely plays up the idea that Batman's suffering from some serious injuries. I also enjoy the fairly clever way that they managed to get Bruce Wayne the hospital care he needed without endangering his secret identity. On the other side of the equation though, by offering up a Batman who run through the wringer so early in the story, I'm a bit concerned that Jeph Loeb has played this hand too early in the game, as it would feel redundant to have Batman seriously injured twice in this yearlong arc, and as such this element has been effectively removed from the table. Plus, I doubt the hard-core Batman fans would appreciate a steady trip to the hospital, as it would lend a sense of incompetence to the character.
There's also some nice little moments in this issue that I have to make mention of, starting with the boy-scout "always be prepared" moment when we see Batman has actually planned for the classic comic book scenario where he's unconscious & the villains are posed over him ready to remove his mask. There's also a fun little exchange between Oracle & the Huntress, as we see Barbara lets it slip that she's not exactly convinced that the Huntress is the tool she wants to use in Batman's rescue. There's also a nice moment where we see Batman provides the reader with his thoughts of the Huntress' abilities as she is busy dealing with the thugs, and I have to say that it's nice to see her time in the JLA didn't dull this character's sharper edges, as I rather like the fact that the Huntress isn't towing the party line when it comes to reigning in her more violent impulses. This issue also offers up something that I truly didn't expect, as we see that before his parents were murdered, a young Bruce was being exposed to the ideals that he would eventually embrace in his war against crime, as he had himself a childhood friend who was positively creepy in how his way of looking at conflict mirrored that of the present day Batman.
Jim Lee is the other half of this creative team supreme, and to tell the truth it's likely his presence on the title that has this book firmly entrenched as DC top selling title for the next year. Jim Lee gets a chance to show off his ability to deliver beautiful women in this issue, as we have the Huntress, Catwoman & Poison Ivy putting in appearances in this story, and they all look quite lovely, with Poison Ivy's brief appearance in this issue doing a great job of playing up the seductress element of the character. The art also does some great work on the action sequences, as the Huntress' attacks look downright painful. The art also does some nice work on the classic elements of this book, as the Batmobile interior is a high-tech wonderland, while the Batcave has a nice sense of majesty to it. As for the Huntress' new costume the exposed midriff does seem to be a bizarre costume design, as leaves one of the most vulnerable areas completely exposed to attack. However, the rest of the costume isn't half bad, and expect for the aforementioned belly window, the costume looks pretty functional. There's also a lovely flashback sequence in this issue, where the art almost takes on a painted appearance.
This issue offers up a pretty solid glimpse at how Batman's support system operates, as right from page one of this issue Batman has one foot in the grave, and we see that not only is he extracted from the rather harrowing situation that last issue left him in, but by the end of the issue he's received the medical attention he needed without compromising his secret identity. Now the material is a bit slow in its delivery of several elements, as the villainous plot that Batman was investigating before his tumble is advancing as a snail's pace, and the big mystery villain has hardly made much of an impression thus far, though at the moment I suspect that the mystery villain and the childhood friend/surgeon that saves Bruce's life are one and the same. Still, the issue does have it's moments, as there's a fun exchange between Oracle & the Huntress, and the glimpse at Bruce's childhood was pretty solid, as it's rare to get a scene when Bruce isn't the most serious person in the room.
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