One of the most infuriating parts of the "Superior Spider-Man" debacle was that Slott and Wacker insisted that Peter was truly dead. It's not that I could never believe a story where Peter died; it's just that I didn't believe that one, where he loses his identity to one of his greatest enemies. It's just not how Peter's story is going to end, and we all knew it. Slott and Wacker insisting (in fairly obnoxious ways) that it was the end made it all the more frustrating. Every time they went to great lengths to prove that Peter was dead, I'd roll my eyes harder. At a certain point, I felt like I was dismissing 40 percent or so of everything that Slott wrote.
Snyder has taken a different approach here. Sure, he's explained that the dionesium has completely rewired Bruce's brain so he can't ever again be Batman because he's lost all those years of training. But, he's certainly been winking at us the entire time. It's mostly small moments -- a comment here or a movement there. But, we take that a step farther in this issue as Tynion shows us that Bruce might not be as incapacitated as we thought.
The premise of the issue is that Clayface, Mr. Freeze, and the Riddler want revenge on Bruce for funding Batman. They're furious that he's gotten a happy ending where he doesn't remember his parents' death, so they're going to kill Alfred and Julie in front of him to re-create that trauma. (It's a pretty solid, if super-villain-y, plan.) But, Bruce manages to fire a shot that disables the jammer that the Riddler created to prevent Geri Powers (also captured) from calling Batman. He also perfectly times activating a defense system that Alfred had told him existed just a few moments earlier. It...raised my eyebrows.
Sure, it's not as if Bruce, I don't know, karate chopped the Riddler across the room and then insisted that your average Joe could've done the same thing. It is theoretically possible that a regular human could do everything that Bruce does here. But, something about these actions taken together clearly leaves you feeling that the old Bruce might not be as lost as everyone thinks that he is.
That said, the brilliance of the story that Snyder and his collaborators are telling is that you wonder if it's a good thing if Batman is still in there. Bruce has gotten his happy ending, and you have to wonder why you'd want to snatch that ending from him. That feels like an ending. As such, paradoxically, Snyder is making me believe that Bruce may not return by hinting that he will. It's obviously a damn good reason to keep reading.
*** (three of five stars)