|First Published:||March 13, 2013|
|Previous Issue:||Batman #17|
|Next Issue:||Batman #19|
Despite her own reservations, Harper Row agrees to drive her brother to Blackgate Penitentiary in order to see their father, Marcus. Hopeful that his father will be proud of him, Cullen explains how he got a job as one of the youngest editors on a magazine called Larynx which prints submitted stories from teens. Marcus doesn't understand it and asks to speak to Harper, commenting that he'd like to speak to both of his daughters. The comment upsets Cullen, who is upset that his father doesn't accept his sexuality, and he sneaks off to compose himself. Angrily, Harper complains that they only came because Cullen begged her to take him. When she asks what her father did to get put in prison again, he responds that it was her special friend's work that put him there, suggesting that she should know what that means. They run out of time before she can make him explain what it does mean.
After getting home, Harper assures Cullen that he doesn't need to see their father again, that the man just pollutes their lives. Cullen promises he won't go again, but Harper knows he will. As she has for most nights of the last few months, Harper dons a catsuit and sneaks off into the night. Though Cullen worries for her safety, she is determined to keep up her work.
Ever since he specifically told her not to, Harper has been tracking the Batman by following his electronic footprint through Gotham's power grid. At first it had been defiance and curiosity that kept her doing it, but over the last week or so, she has seen him become more reckless, and now she is tracking him out of concern. Though she doesn't know why he is being so reckless, she is sure that if he continues down this path, he could be killed. He has been throwing himself so fully into his work that he has been seen during the day - which had previously been a rarity - and he looks like he hasn't slept besides.
That kind of dedication is familiar to Harper. It is the dedication of someone who is working to forget; working to avoid thinking. In his face, she has seen a pain that she recognizes as one she has felt herself. It is the pain of loss and grief, and it is the kind of pain that can eat away at someone until there is nothing left.
Concerned, Harper vents to Cullen of how she has seen Batman getting slower and clumsier, having allowed himself to be stabbed in the leg recently by a half-drunk back-alley mugger. She worries that one of these nights, he will be surprised by someone who has an edge he wasn't expecting, and wind up getting killed.
That night, Batman seeks to put a stop to a dog fighting ring, and attempts to question one of the dog trainers. Unfortunately, he is not prepared when the man reveals that he has been dosing the dogs with Venom. Though the Venom eats through the creatures' stamina quickly, he has a lot of dogs, and a lot of Venom. He unleashes a pack of dogs, all affected by Venom, and Batman attempts to stop them with batarangs, but the weapons are ineffective. Just as they are about to maul him, a high-pitched squeal fills the air, and sends the dogs running away from the sound. The dog trainer turns to see Harper Row there, and before he can stop her, she tases him in the groin. As he regroups, angrily, he is given only seconds before Batman's fist makes contact with his face.
Before Batman can say anything to her, Harper comments that she has been training, and did pretty well, considering. Coldly, Batman responds that if she has been training, she should block this. The "this" in question is an unexpected punch to the face, that sends her careening through a wooden fence. Towering over her, Batman shouts that her training means nothing to him; that she was foolish to expect that he might take her under his wing. People with far more training than her have died in that position, and if she pursues that, she will too.
Wiping tears away, Harper explains that she knows that she's not ready yet, but that he can't stop her from continuing her work. Furthermore, she has no interest in knowing who he is behind the mask, because he is supposed to be an idea - and he can't be that if he's dead. He could have died tonight, and if he doesn't face whatever he's avoiding right now, he will surely die sooner or later. Batman - the idea - doesn't have the luxury of dying, and she will not sit by and watch her hero fall to some back-alley thug. She warns him not to pretend that she means nothing to him, reminding him that it was him who locked up her father at Blackgate. Gritting his teeth, Batman silences her, claiming that he doesn't care what she has to say, and has no idea who her father is. He advises her to go home and give up training, because her fantasy is over.
The next day, Harper assures her brother that it is not over, and prepares to take a big risk. Cullen warns that she will just be turned away at the door, and that there is no point in trying to get back at Batman for breaking her nose. After a moment of reflection, Harper steels herself, and decides to go through with it.
At Wayne Tower, Bruce Wayne spent the night in the office, and is unable to tell Alfred Pennyworth whether he will be home that night either. He is interrupted by his assistant Wendy, who explains that there is an insistent young girl there to see him. Instinctively, he knows that it must be Harper, and agrees to see her.
Harper explains that she is not there to talk about the Narrows Projects, in which she is supposed to live, but rather about Batman, the man whom Bruce Wayne funds publicly through Batman Incorporated. As his financier, she expects that Mr. Wayne will have some kind of concern for his investment's well-being, and she explains that she has a message she wants him to relay to the vigilante. She presents an electrical blueprint and explains that she thinks the message could help him. Wayne agrees without much hesitation, explaining that he thinks Batman might need to see the message right now. He thanks her, and Harper leaves with a sense of satisfaction.
That night, Harper is interrupted from her waiting by Batman, who explains that he acted rashly the other night. She responds that saying so doesn't count as an apology for breaking her nose, and he softens further, apologizing formally. He claims that she couldn't understand the things that are going on in his life right now, and she points out that while she doesn't know the details, she does know the pain of loss. Her mother's murder is common knowledge in Gotham, and after she died, Harper punished herself by working and starving herself of food and sleep. And by driving herself into darkness, she had dragged her little brother down with her. Tonight, she hopes that her message will be the light for him that will help drag Batman out of his own darkness. To remind him that the city his his family and that it needs him to be its light.
Batman admits that he was the one who put Marcus Row in Blackgate. He had involved himself with bad people, and he didn't want it to come back to haunt Harper and Cullen. Harper admits that she envies her brother's ability to have hope for their father, because all she feels is hate for him, and she worries that the hatred is defining her. Batman responds that sometimes, people need someone who will push them to give others another chance.
As the message is about to go on display, Harper takes her leave, noting that the message is just for him. She explains that the message is just one word that her mother had used to say to herself when she was having dark moments. After she has gone, Batman watches Wayne Tower, and slowly, the word "RESOLVE" is spelled out, one letter at a time. As the R is projected onto the wall of the tower, Batman realizes that this message means a lot to him after all.