Catwoman has captured Stephanie Brown and is keeping her hostage in her new casino lair. Batman can’t get in to rescue her, so it’s all down to Harper Row, in a thrilling heist issue! Except, uh, they don’t actually do a heist here, she just runs in and starts fighting people. Also, Batman does actually show up. But it’s a fun issue regardless of all that! It’s Batman Eternal #43!

Writer: James Tynion IV
Consulting Writers: Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Tim Seeley and Kyle Higgins
Artist: David LaFuente
Inkers: Victor Olazaba and Scott Hanna
Colorist: John Rauch
Letterer: John J. Hill

Good news everybody! David LaFuente is here! Possibly the most distinctive artist on the series since Ian Bertram all those years ago. I’m actually dead excited for this one, because it looks like it’s going to be a heist issue, rescuing Spoiler from Catwoman’s lair. And David LaFuente’s here! I hope you didn’t forget that bit!

In The Narrows, Batman and Harper – no, now she’s called Bluebird – assess her apartment. Batman says it’s designed to be one of the safest places in Gotham, which is good because it’s been broken into at least three times so far this series. Once by Batman himself, if I remember correctly. Bluebird doesn’t want her apartment to become a safehouse for Spoiler, but she’s willing to negotiate the space in exchange for combat training from Batman. He says he’ll consider it, which means he’s probably already designed the training programme she’ll be on for the next six years. In the apartment, Steph is already… there? So there must be some timey-wimey stuff where, which is a little misjudged for a heist issue. She bonds with Cullen over their shared nightmare kidnappings, before Harper arrives to tell them both off for being so whiny about the whole, y’know, nightmare kidnapping thing.

Steph rises straight up to it, however, which is refreshing because nobody ever really calls out Harper this way. Steph doesn’t trust Batman at all, and actually seems to have preferred her time with Catwoman. That’s… believable, actually. Cullen tries to calm them down, and I just realised he’s wearing a “Cloud Atlas” hoodie throughout this scene. Shut up, Cullen.

We rewind the clock to when Steph was in Catwoman’s lair. She’s woken up by a cat pawing her in the forehead, which is an effective use of Catwoman in this issue. Steph wakes up in shock and falls backwards in her chair – which she is tied to, so she probably just broke both her hands, ouch – and finds herself looking up at Catwoman. As you might expect, LaFuente is having a hell of a time drawing Selina. Catwoman explains the situation, and how she ran every other casino out of town so The Egyptian, her club, is the only one left. Tonight is opening night, it sounds like?

The bounty on Stephanie’s head keeps rising, and Selina is considering cashing it in – unless Stephanie can explain what’s happening, and why she’s worth so much money to this mystery bounty-collector. She then offers Stephanie some wine. Catwoman rules now.

Outside a shop called “Robot Pony” – which has such a prominent logo it almost looks like an advert – Harper is taking her little brother to go buy some anime as a reward for not being possessed by robots anymore. I assume we’ve gone back in time again. He’s curious about the fact she’s a superhero now, which makes her panic about her secret identity being revealed. Harper, your hair is the most distinctive in Gotham and you barely disguise yourself – literally anyone who meets you is going to realise who you are. Speaking of, Tim Drake walks in wearing his street clothes, and catches up to them both. A quick costume change later, he’s preparing to set her a new mission.

Ah! So this is how everything sets up. I don’t know why this couldn’t just be told chronologically, but he shows Harper some photos of Stephanie Brown, and reveals that there is a bounty set on her head which keeps rising. He goes through all the spiel about her dad being a very minor supervillain, he hacks into her facebook and shows a few curated photos (which Harper makes fun of) and then reveals that Steph is currently stuck in Catwoman’s lair. He describes Catwoman as having an “advantage” over Batman, which is one way of putting it. She also has some kind of fancy scanner which means none of Batman’s known associates will be able to sneak in without being caught. So… that leaves Harper.

Back at the Egyptian, Catwoman surveys her empire, which seems a bit tackier than I would’ve expected. Maybe add in a few plants or something, break up the room a little? Catwoman has a pretty amazing read on Stephanie already, which is that she’s still trying to protect her father, subconsciously. Rather than do anything to actually stop him, she’s instead writing her blog, leaving clues like some kind of Clue… master. She refuses to talk to the police, the FBI – or Batman – which means she must have something on Batman which is stopping her from actively seeking his help. That’s a smart read, and although it does sound like Catwoman has been reading ahead on the scripts for this series, it’s also very effective in showing just how smart she is. People downplay it sometimes, but she’s as resourceful and insightful as Batman is.

A guard walks in to let them know that somebody just tried to get in using some old passwords, which Catwoman realises means Batman has sent somebody into the casino. Stephanie panics when she hears that – she seriously is scared of Batman, which I hadn’t clocked onto before – and Catwoman tells her they just entered endgame. In the club, sure enough, Batman and Harper are both in their costumes, breaking in loudly. I thought there was a scanner which meant Batman wasn’t going to be involved with this? Whatever. Harper screws up another superhero landing and is inadvertently saved by a guard, whom she promptly tasers using that massive unwieldy gun of hers. After a sufficient enough fight has happened for Catwoman to have really enjoyed herself, she cuts things short and tells Batman to just talk to her instead.

The three head over to the vault where Steph is being locked up, and Batman says he wants to take her with him. Catwoman leaves Steph the choice of either going with Batman or heading out into the streets again, to fend for herself. She reluctantly picks Batman, which is the story of his life. He takes her with him, acknowledging she doesn’t want to talk yet – but that he’ll feed her and keep her safe until she trusts him. As they leave, Catwoman throws a stray flirt his way, to which she receives nothing but huffiness. Some men have no appreciation.

Heading back to the present day, which means Harper and Steph are in the apartment, bonding over their mutual respect for Catwoman. Steph admits that she was trying to make her dad proud by playing his game, and that Catwoman saw right through her. Harper follows up by asking why she doesn’t trust Batman… Steph says that it’s because she saw someone in her house, working with Cluemaster and Signalman and all those other minor-league villains. And that man was the man who bankrolls Batman – it was Bruce Wayne!

(it was Hush)

 

9 issues to go!

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