This issue is...just bad. Fletcher and Stewart throw a lot of new plots our way, but they don't provide enough details to make them stick. I can tell that I'm going to open issue #47 in a month and feel totally lost. It's one thing to have a bunch of sub-plots on a slow burn in background, but this issue is essentially all sub-plots. It lack any sort of major plot to give it focus. Instead, we just bounce from hint to innuendo. I'll try to summarize them here as a group:
- Babs and Nadimah are going door-to-door in apparently the only bad part of Burnside, trying to gather information from residents about...something. It's not actually clear. They try to speak to a woman who is afraid to talk to them because the whole area is run by gangs. (Burnside must be a pretty big neighborhood to cover such a wide range of socio-economic classes I thought the biggest problem in Burnside was finding an open spot at an indie-owned coffee shop.) Despite insisting that she didn't want to talk to them, the woman changes course, confessing that the gangs are "using" her boy, though she doesn't say how he's being used. Later, her son is arrested after police received an anonymous tip, and the woman is seen on TV blaming "the red-haired girl."
- Barbara is forgetful and suffering from nightmares, something that she blames on her too packed schedule. (She forgot that she and Nadimah had interviewed people at three residences, not two, the previous day.) Fletcher and Stewart don't elaborate; it's the sub-plot at the corner of our eye that we can't yet fully see.
- Frankie wakes up Babs, and she's upset that she overslept. She's supposed to meet someone named Greg that she's known since high school who she's also invited to stay with her and Frankie. Before letting Babs get a cup of coffee or shower, Frankie tells Babs that she received a neural implant, and Babs freaks out. Frankie argues that it's the same as the implants that Barbara received to walk again, and Babs just as suddenly accepts this argument, agreeing to them being partners. (The implant connects Frankie to Babs' Batcycle.)
- On patrol, a well dressed dude named Lewis tazes one of a group of gang members (the Foster Lane Gang) attacking Batgirl and, after the fight ends, asks her to meet him by the Docklands. Once there, he tells her possibly the most convoluted story that I've ever read in comics. (I know. That's saying a lot.) He claims that he's friends with Spoiler and that she's wanted by the Hasigawa crime family. (Stay with me, it gets more confusing.) Eiko Hasigawa's father was apparently murdered, and she vowed revenge against the mob families of Gotham. She apparently got that revenge, gathering all of them in one place and executing them. (It seems like it would be a pretty big deal if the members of all the Gotham mob families were killed. I'm surprised that we haven't seen it in other Bat-titles.) However, apparently Stephanie (dressed as Stephanie and not Spoiler, might I add) tried to stop her, for reasons that aren't explained. Moreover, we don't learn how Stephanie knew about Eiko's plans in the first place. All we know, thanks to Lewis, is that the Hasigawas see Stephanie as a loose end. To make matters more confusing, Lewis -- whose knowledge of these events Babs never questions -- claims that Eiko wouldn't want Spoiler harmed, but she can't help because she's conveniently gone deep underground. Babs traces the communicator that she gave to Stephanie a while ago and arrives just in time to save her (with Frankie's help) from the Hasigawas. Babs later stashes her at Luke's crash pad.
- At dinner with Luke, Babs talks about her nightmares and then shows him a drawing of a blue print for some sort of "energy weapon" called the "negahedron." (I have no recollection of that, but she says that she saw it a while ago.) Given her photographic memory, she's trying to recreate the blueprint, even though she acknowledges that it's a bad idea given how dangerous it is. Luke takes a look and claims that, "with a few adjustments," it could be "billion dollar big."
See what I mean? We're just all over the map here. Is Barbara losing time because someone's manipulating her brain? What project are Barbara and Nadimah conducting that could solve Burnside's apparently burgeoning gang problem? I assume that it's related to her thesis, but since when did they get information door-to-door? Who's this Greg guy? For that matter, who's this Lewis guy? How does he know Spoiler, and how does he have the inside scoop on Japanese mob activity in Gotham? As I mentioned, it's always good to have a few mysteries in the background, particularly in the Bat-books. It creates a more realistic vibe, a reminder that they don't address one villainous plot at a time and need to stay constantly vigilant. But, Fletcher and Stewart go too far here, throwing too much at us. I get that they're trying to have us feel as overwhelmed as Babs does, but we need to at least understand why we're overwhelmed. Here, most of the plots that they throw at us don't even remotely make sense.
Although I loved last issue, this issue had the same problem as issue #44, with too many ideas coming all at once. Hopefully the guys'll put several of these plots on the back burner where they belong and focus on one or two of them for the next few issues. Otherwise, it's going to be impossible for the reader to get through these issues without the help of Adderall.
* (one of five stars)