Given the three different stories running through this issue, it's probably better to keep them grouped together.
- We learn here that Mother gave one of her children, Jean-Paul Valley, to the Order of St. Dumas in exchange for a suite of software so advanced that it can foil even Tim's attempts to hack it. It's a pretty brilliant way to introduce Jean-Paul to the New 52, I have to say. That said, the way that the guys get the information is pretty unbelievable. They find Valley's file by searching for the "exact signal wavelength" that Mother used in Gotham. How exactly was the wavelength searchable? Moreover, why would the Order be so careless to keep the wavelength connected to Mother's file? If they went through the trouble of using a fictitious name for Mother to cover their financial transactions with her, you'd think that they'd also be careful enough to make sure that her name wasn't attached to the product that they made for her.
- In a flashback, Dick refuses to take off his mask after Bruce orders him to do so and rejects Bruce's assertion that he's only "support." Bruce returns to Mother and, in his conversation with her, Snyder and Tynion imply that maybe even Bruce is one of Mother's children. He tells a story of a kid in the school yard wanting him to know the "truth" about the Wayne legacy. Bruce didn't believe what the kid told him about his parents, so he beat him senseless. Now, it seems unlikely that the kid in the playground knew that Bruce was bio-engineered. But, Snyder and Tynion are hinting at some dark secret that the Waynes kept that somehow relates to the current story.
- The Dick and Harper story is the weakest, because Lanzing and Kelly skip a lot of steps. Like, a lot. First, we start with Harper somehow knowing Orphan's identity, without any explanation of how she discovered it. We merely see her holding a bunch of bank statements. Then, we see the two of them busting a number of heads, though it's unclear why they're doing so if they already knew Orphan's name. It leads them to the residence of someone named David Cain, but it's unclear what connection Cain has to Orphan. Is he Orphan (making Cass presumably his daughter or sister)? Is he Orphan's father? I'm increasingly convinced that Bruce didn't create Orphan, but Cass, in issue #1. But, if he did, then Cain would be dead if he were Cass' father. As such, we're still left with the question of his identity.
The first eight issues of this series were extremely well paced, with the revelations flowing naturally from the events that we saw unfold. But, Lanzing and Kelly have failed to make those connections as well in these last two issues, with the heroes essentially waving their hands in front of the board to explain how they got the information that they needed (i.e., Mother's file with Jean-Paul's information, Cain's bank statements). I get sometime that we're going to need to take shortcuts, but it's starting to happen way too frequently. I hope the next issue returns to the slow-and-steady approach that so far has distinguished this series from its predecessor.
** (two of five stars)