Welcome to the beginning of an overlook of the DC Comics weekly comic series, Batman Eternal. This ‘review’ will be taken into a different format. Every six weeks, we will examine the series and its many plots, characters, artwork and take a look at its great moments and its really low points. We will also take a look at where the series could be going. By its very nature, these reviews will contain spoilers from the issues.
You may ask: ‘Why are you doing these every six weeks instead of every week?’ Two reasons. The first is time and sanity. Due to outside scheduling, I only have room for two review articles a week. I try my best to keep a variety, so dedicating one slot to the same weekly would get boring for me real quick, despite whether or not I like the series. Second reason is that, due to the weekly nature, there is more decompression to such stories which allows for finer character moments (or at least I hope). As such, I felt looking at this series in chunks would be far more interesting than once a week.
So, let’s begin.
Batman Eternal #1-3: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV (W), Jason Fabok (A)
Batman Eternal #4: John Layman (W), Dustin Nguyen (A)
Batman Eternal #5: James Tynion IV (W), Andy Clarke (A)
Batman Eternal #6: Ray Fawkes (W), Trevor McCarthy (A)
It’s Always Apocalyptic in Gotham City
A question in the first part of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Zero Year story was answering the question of why anyone would chose to live in Gotham City in spite of all the corruption, hatred and darkness. There was quite a poignant scene with Bruce discussing that, in spite of all the hardship of Gotham, people can overcome and become stronger for it.
Does this apply to city-wide destruction?
The first image of the first issue is a fast-forward to the end of the story where a de-masked and heavily injured Bruce Wayne tied to the broken Batsignal where someone off panel gloats at Bruce while Gotham City burns. That last part is not hyperbole, either. Look at the image. Now, we’ve seen Gotham City get knocked around a lot; the most recent examples being the hurricane in Zero Year and the villains taking over in Forever Evil: Arkham War, but this is Rome literally burning to the ground. I get supervillains will cause damage but after such an example, why would we even think there would be a Gotham City at all? It’s a hook, but it’s one that really bends that Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
Yeah, I know, ‘go big or don’t go at all’ and ‘we have 52 issues to see where it goes’. I know I know.
An Inciting Incident
So, we return to the present (this whole series takes place after Forever Evil) where Commissioner Gordon and Batman are currently targeting Professor Pyg, one of the deranged villains introduced during Grant Morrison’s run. However, what should be a normal bust (Okay, normal for Gotham. Shut up) turns into something much more as Commissioner Gordon… causes a train to crash.
Okay, there’s a bit more to it than that, but suffice to say, Gordon appears to be framed in causing a crash in the Gotham subway, causing the deaths/injuries of hundreds. This causes Gordon to be placed into custody by new-to-the-city Jason Bard (whose introduction was a nod to Year One) and bringing resident scumbag cop Forbes to serve as Interim Commissioner. However, this change of power is just the beginning as this event is tied hand in hand with the other major event…
The Return of the Roman
The fans of Year One and The Long Halloween were probably going berserk when this was revealed at the end of Eternal #2. Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, the original gangster of Gotham, the personification of Gotham “old crime” before the Age of Heroes, has returned after being chased off by what is implied to be combination of Batman, Catwoman & Penguin. He is back to take back his city away from the psychopaths and Cobblepot and return his empire back to what it truly was.
I will admit, the solicitation to issue #2 described the New 52 introduction of a major Batman villain. Who I thought it would be will be discussed later on, but I did not expect Falcone. Perhaps it’s because he was used with such infrequency prior to the New 52 that you tend to forget his Bat villain status, in spite of being a central figure in a few highly acclaimed stories.
However, the Roman is not the only villain to make himself known in these issues. We also see the return of cult (shut up) villain in the Bat-Mythos, Deacon Joseph Blackfire of the Batman: The Cult mini-series. I didn’t expect this villain either, but for much different reasons… I’ve never read The Cult. The artists have given the character a great visual and it will be interesting how Fawkes will be using this character in the more spooky areas of Gotham.
Other villains/antagonists that are beginning to make their presence known are a certain old man and his monkey from the backups in Zero Year (and by this and The Woods, I’m guessing monkeys are a motif with Tynion, which I am totally fine with) and….ehhh…Joker’s Daughter. Her sightings in this chunk were minimal, but I know we’ll only get more with her as we go forward.
Perhaps the biggest amount of news that was being floated around in regards to this series was the New 52 introduction of Stephanie Brown. The reboot caused her and Cassandra Cain’s tenures as Batgirl to vanish (as well as, in my opinion, regressed Barbara Gordon into a neigh unrecognizable character) so a massive eye has been kept on the returning
Her actions in these first couple of issues are really setup for her story, where Stephanie discovers that her father, Arthur a.k.a. Cluemaster, is part of a cabal of C-List villains under the employee of a mysterious benefactor. She escapes before she can be attacked and tries to get in touch with her mom. This is where changes are made that are going to be interesting and interesting to see fan reaction. People seem to forget; yes Stephanie is a very optimistic and fun person, but what made her great was her ability to remain optimistic and unwilling to surrender in the face of really crappy situations. So far, we’ve got the crap situation, now we’re going to see how she faces it.
There’s A Tim Drake
Can we let James Tynion IV write a Red Robin solo book?
Like the backup in Batman #0, Tim Drake’s appearance in this book feels like the Tim Drake that would be the partner of Batman. Tim Drake was the detective of the Robins and this series so far has shown that off greatly, discovering aspects about a case involving a nanovirus that even Batman didn’t see.
Plus, we finally get genuine character interaction between Tim and Bruce (I say genuine, unlike that lying Batman & Red Robin #19 issue). Their relationship is somewhat tenuous as the fallout of Death of the Family, the death of Damian and the “death” of Dick Grayson. Tim is clearly hurt by the incredible lack of trust that Bruce has had in him and the rest of the Batfamily. I hope to think this has been a bit of metacommentary on the, in my opinion, ridiculous amounts of angst being poured into the Bat-side of DC and hope this series will move to a stronger Batfamily.
Two of the more intriguing characters that have been introduced in the pages of the main Batman series are Harper and Cullen Row. In particular, Harper’s journey as someone who sees Gotham from the perspective of on the streets and within the more shaken inferstructure. Combining that with her great sense of knowledge in electronics and general gadgetry, we are starting to see her move to adopting the disguise of Bluebird, as seen in Batman #28.
We see her in these issues saving reporter Vicki Vale and her intern, Joey, from a bunch of thugs. Taking them back to her and Cullen’s apartment in the Narrows, we find out they are more connected to other stories, in particular Red Robin’s, as the nanovirus has now infected Cullen as well. This serves as the starting point of Harper’s story and interactions with the Batfamily outside of Bruce.
Now, while I love Harper and can’t wait to see more of her journey, I have a concern with Cullen. As one of the few openly gay characters in the Bat books, I don’t want him to be continuously the Damsel-In-Distress and serve as just Harper’s motivations. This issue sees him down, but I hope down the line he does end up doing more things. Like Harper, the kid has potential.
Comments, Quibbles, and Theories
- Look at all the art! Dustin Nguyen, Trevor McCarthy, Andy Clarke and especially Jason Fabok have all brought their A-games to this project. My largest barrier to a weekly series has been changing art and these four do have different styles, but they alone are all greats.
- In spite of the title having Batman’s name, I am glad the focus is being moved around. Sure, Batman has been in every issue but he hasn’t been the central focus. We’ve allowed characters like Barbara, Tim, Jim Gordon, Batwing and more have their own storylines in this sprawling story.
- More focus on the characters in GCPD, the better. Unashamed Gotham Central fan here.
- Liking the spooky sides of Gotham. We’ve got the Spectre in town and the visuals of Deacon Blackfire have made me curious to go check out The Cult.
- This may be just me, but can we have Tim come out of the closet already? Feels like he has more chemistry with more guys than any of the girls he’s been around. We now add Joey and Cullen to Tim/Red Robin’s ‘fans’.
- Now on to the last comment, my thoughts on who the Grand Puppetmaster in this is. As discussed with the flashforward and Stephanie’s story, there is someone behind the scenes that may be manipulating everything. Now, safe money would be on Falcone, but, judging by Batman #28, that may not be the case. My theory?:
- This kind of manipulation is right in the wheelhouse of Thomas Elliot a.k.a. Hush. What may have given more of a hint to this was the released solicitation for Batman #34, which is returning from Zero Year and tying into Batman Eternal.
All in all, Batman Eternal is off to a fantastic start. There are interesting plot lines and I am hoping for great character moments from not just Batman but all the denizens of the Batfamily and Gotham as a whole.