Alternate dimensional stories are fantastic at giving us different takes on familiar faces and raising the stakes by reminding the reader that survival of these beloved characters isn’t guaranteed. They can also function to establish emotional stakes and bonds quickly as familiar readers will have handy short-hands and already know who someone is and what they want. Alisa Kwitney shows a Gotham City very similar to the prime one, but different in its own ways as well and having undergone a startling, bizarre change. For instance: we’re dropped right in to the fact that Cassandra Cain is back and is an established character (Black Bat) while Stephanie Brown hung up the mantle of being Batgirl a year ago in this timeline after the Brainiac dome came up. The highlight of this issue is easily the sights that we see in Gotham as they've tried to adapt to this strange new life. We’re jumped straight into the action as the champions clash in the brutal tournament, but motivations quickly come under question as does agency, particularly with the villain they’re having to deal with.
Rick Leonardi is on pencils and does a great job with organically moving the action from one panel to the next, creating a sense of flow and the illusion of motion so that the reader can easily picture what’s happening between panels while Steve Buccellato emphasizes the bleak, scorching heat of the desert. The colors are bright and bold, but they’re used to create a sense of weariness and blindingness rather than comfort and whimsy. Mark Pennington's inks give the action a sense of impact and the characters a sense of real weight.
It's strange calling this an alternate universe, as it used to be the main one but as these are alternate-universe versions of the characters, particularly one character who hasn’t even shown up in the New-52, some establishment is necessary and is not in the least bit forthcoming. While there’s an odd novelty to seeing the pre-Flashpoint characters show back up, there’s also almost nothing that establishes the intervening time between when Flashpoint happened and now. The characters come off as interchangeable, except for Cassandra Cain, but only because her speech is more robotic to the point of, at times, being absurd. This becomes even more problematic when one considers the fact that the New-52 was meant to draw in new readers, and by many accounts it succeeded in that, who would have absolutely no clue who at least two of the main characters are, what their relationship is, and even what motivates them. This leads to their dialog coming off as stilted and inorganic while still not really supplying the reader with any information.
While the art has a great sense of flow, the details and characters look muddy and indistinct. The linework isn’t contained and there are some panels where characters almost appear to spill from one into the next, and generally lack finer detail of any kind from top-to-bottom.
It’s difficult to tell who this coming is for. If it’s for fans of the Bat-Family from before the New-52 began, it spends too much time recounting where the characters were in the intervening time and also doesn’t make it clear that that’s who we’re dealing with. If it’s for new readers, they’ll be completely baffled by this cavalcade of new faces and masks. While the pacing is good and the flow is great, and there are some stand-out character moments in the writing and concept, the whole experience falls flat and feels muddled.