Every once in a while, a comic writer gets to do a story that isn’t part of a major arc, and is actually just a good story without being part of the BIG HUGE CROSSOVER AFTER WHICH NOTHING WILL BE THE SAME!! (But we all know it will be). Often in these stories, the writer does something different, which is the case with Batman 12. Scott Snyder focuses almost entirely on a minor character who has been popping up lately, Harper Row. She’s not a super hero, and not about to become one, and not a victim either. She’s one of many people trying to live their lives as best they can in the craziness that is Gotham City.
Harper and her brother, Cullen, are two young people living on their own. Harper works as an electrical engineer for the city, finding some minor inspiration in her life from the fact that the old, outmoded city power grid really shouldn’t be working still, but it is. So, if it can get by, why can’t she? Her brother is an openly gay man, and has attracted attention from a local gang of thugs with bad results. Harper tries to take them on, and does decently, until superior numbers tell against her. Just as it’s looking grim and hopeless, smoke erupts around them, and a certain Dark Knight stops by to end the fight. Earlier, having won raffle tickets to a Wayne Foundation event, Harper encountered Alfred and said she doubted Bruce Wayne knew anything about the “real” city that she and her brother had to live in, at which Alfred was amused.
Often, this would be the extent of the story, but Harper is very grateful to the Batman for standing up for her and her brother. She pokes around and notices that the video surveillance cameras in the city tend to go dead just before Batman shows up. Investigating farther, she finds some of his special equipment that not only lets him control cameras, but also siphons some power from various Wayne Enterprise buildings to help shore up the out-moded Gotham power grid. Harper manages to enhance the equipment after studying it, and even sees Batman in action again later. She gives him some minor help which he accepts with his usual gracefulness (“Whatever you think you’re doing, you’re finished.”). Brave young Harper decides she’s going to keep helping him anyway.
One of the things I really liked about this was that Batman/Bruce is almost not in it at all. Not that I don’t like Batman, or I wouldn’t be buying the book, but it’s nice to see some of Gotham that’s not focused on cowls and capes. Harper is a fun character, certainly with some darkness in her life, but she keeps on trying to get by and look out for her brother. Harper is an unusual name for a woman; I can only think of one other one. Somehow, I wonder if the very close brother and sister, with most of the story told from the young sister’s point of view, is a veiled homage to Harper Lee’s famed To Kill A Mockingbird. Or maybe I’m just reading something in that isn’t there.
Either way, it’s a nicely done story, a nice break from the usual hero fare, and almost free of the cursed Court of Owls, even if there’s a mild reference to that crossover yet again here. There are three different artists throughout the book, so the style isn’t consistent. I like some of it, and not so much other bits. Overall, I’d recommend this issue as a good read and a great example of letting a minor character take center stage for a refreshing change of pace.