With Mr Freeze now on ice – a sadly short introduction for one of the most sympathetically portrayed of Gotham’s villains – we return to Bruce Wayne’s quest for vengeance. Will he find what he is looking for, and if he does, will it destroy him?
One of the most important themes in the whole Batman saga is the tension between revenge and justice. While the original character was clearly a champion of justice, motivated mainly by the desire to protect the innocent, modern portrayals have tended to depict him as a darker character driven by revenge. Gotham’s young Bruce Wayne could go either way, and at the moment he’s leaning towards the dark side – Selina’s supplied him with a gun, and he’s gone in search of ‘Matches’ Malone, who, according to Silver St Cloud, was the killer of his parents.
Both Alfred and Selina advise him that he’s following a dangerous trail, but our Brucie screws up his face and forces Alfred to accompany him into the dark places of the city, and his soul.
Poor old Alfred, he certainly gets the short end of the stick so far as the master/servant relationship is concerned; having recently recovered from being skewered by Tabitha Galavan, now he’s beaten to a pulp by the boss of a gang of scavengers while searching for “Matches’ Malone. We never hear anything about Alfred’s work contract, but it should include hazard pay.
Bruce continues the hunt himself, but Alfred puts Gordon and Bullock on his trail. There’s a rich scene with Gordon questioning club boss Jeri (Lori Petty, Tank Girl), mistress of a proto-Joker cult, who we can’t help feeling will make a reappearance – maybe as a female Joker, or as Harley Quinn? Certainly it would be a shame not to exploit such a convincingly unhinged portrayal.
But Gordon is too late to stop Bruce from confronting Malone. In a tense scene, where Malone taunts Bruce but never quite convinces him that he did kill his parents, we face Bruce’s essential struggle. In leaving the gun, does Bruce know that Malone will use it to kill himself? Does it make it better, or worse, that Malone seems to regard the killing of the Waynes as just another night’s black work?
Whatever the case, Bruce’s thirst for revenge is not slaked, because whether Malone pulled the trigger or not, someone commissioned the crime, and that trail must lead back to Waynecorp.
Bruce learns enough about himself to know that he doesn’t know enough about himself; and he leaves a note for Alfred saying that he is going to stay in the city with Selina Kyle. This is the beginning of the real education of Batman.
Elsewhere, the net is closing in on Ed Nygma; Lee has realised that Kristine Kringle’s disappearance is suspicious, and asks Jim to investigate; paranoid Ed assumes that Jim is onto him, while in fact Jim is blissfully unaware of Ed’s guilt (pretty implausibly, since he knows that the two were involved – for heaven’s sake, he and Lee had dinner with the pair).
Ed’s evil alter ego takes over and he begins to plot the downfall of Jim Gordon – for the first time we see the green question mark which is to become the trademark of The Riddler.
Equally significant developments take place for Oswald Cobblepot, tortured in Clockwork Orange style by the sinister Professor Strange. When Strange declares that Oswald is now ‘sane’, the relish with which he pronounces the word is a gleeful clue that he in fact intends the full madness of Penguin to be unleashed on the world. But as the glum Oswald makes his way to freedom, where will he go, and how will he cope if his violent nature has been repressed?
Oswald’s first step will surely be to turn to his friend Ed – and that should be a hoot.
For all our Gotham reviews, go here