In Scott Snyder's "Detective Comics" run, he brought to the title that wonderful feeling that there's something nasty staring you in the face, but you can't figure it out until it's reached out and grabbed you. On "Batman: Gates of Gotham," he, along with co-writer Kyle Higgins, began plumbing the depths of Gotham City's history, adding to the lineage of both the location and its people. So, with "Batman" #3 including both of these things? Well, it makes for one excellent comic book.
"Batman" #3 opens with a flashback to some 90 years ago, but it does more than just provide a parallel to the present day story; it's the first concrete moment where you start to get an idea of just how pervasive and long-lasting the Parliament of Owls has been within Gotham. Up until this point we've been told, but here, Snyder shows it to us. More importantly, it sets the stage for the revelation at the end of the issue, giving it extra heft once all the pieces come together. It's one thing to get this sudden surprise on how the Parliament of Owls has remained hidden all these years; it's something else to realize the way in which it was enabled. (And without going for the obvious, "Wayne Corporation has been funding them" twist.)
Throughout "Batman" #3, Snyder adds little touches to make Gotham City feel that much more robust and real. There's a sequence early on detailing how five different criminal organizations are using the various underground train lines to smuggle things into Gotham, and we get to meet one of them in detail. They play a small role in this issue, but there's more information provided here than central villains in other comics receive. It's not only welcome, but it provides that additional sense of atmosphere to the story; Gotham becomes an increasingly dangerous city under Snyder's control, and for the better as far as the reader is concerned.
Greg Capullo's pencils are a little up and down this issue, but on the whole, I like them. Some of the facial expressions are great, like the terrified Alan Wayne held by the police officers, or Alfred's "Sir?" when asked about owls. On the other hand, Bruce's friend Lincoln is looking more and more like Bruce with each issue, to the point that a casual bystander might think that it's a dream sequence with Bruce talking to himself. It's the one weak spot in the issue, but moments like Bruce hang gliding over Gotham or discovering the Owls' secret are so great that I'm willing to forgive this strange lapse.
"Batman" after the relaunch has been a strong series, and this issue is no exception. It's a good time to be a Batman fan.