BATMAN ETERNAL #18-21/August 2014 Author: Bobby Barrett (Follow @BATBOBBY)
September 21, 2014
BATMAN ETERNAL continues into August and delivered some of its biggest revelations yet, even with some hiccups in the writing.
The month kicks off with a three-parter written by Tim Seeley, this arc had three main focuses: Batgirl, Red Hood, and Batwoman seeking the man who set up Jim Gordon in Brazil…Batman, Jason Bard, and Killer Croc (say what?!) hunting down a kidnapped child in the sewers beneath Gotham…and finally a riot escalating between rival gangs in Blackgate Prison that Jim Gordon must try to survive.
The three plots offer plenty of intrigue, I particularly enjoyed the Batman/Bard/Croc team-up. Killer Croc visually resembles his appearances in the BATMAN: ARKHAM franchise, while his personality jives more with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES than anything else I've seen recently - not in the sense that Croc is an idiot, just that he can be a sympathetic character with more to him than the bloodthirsty animal he is typically shown to be.
The unlikely trio's search brings them deep below Gotham's Narrows, and to a group of reanimated corpses under the command of the Ten Eyed Man, tying Batman's current situation with what's happening over at Arkham Asylum.
Meanwhile in Brazil, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, and Kate Kane have unearthed the lair of Dr. Falsario, a crook who specializes in ripping off "A" List criminals' gimmicks. The mad doctor just so happens to have at his disposal a hypnotic suggestion device like the one Mad Hatter uses - one that can make its target see things that aren't there. Finally having unearthed the truth about what happened to Commissioner Gordon at the train station, the heroes just have to take Falsario down. Only problem with that is that he's used his device on Batgirl to make her see her accomplices as her two most dreaded foes: her demented brother James Gordon, Jr. and The Joker! These heroes must take down their culprit, but first they'll need to make it out of a beat down from one of their own.
The former Police Commissioner on the other hand, is "doing his best DIE HARD bit" as members of Penguin and Carmine Falcone's gangs have taken hold of Blackgate, each with an aim to collect the other boss's head in exchange for hostage prison guards. Gordon might not think much of his own character at the moment, but that never stops a true hero from doing the right thing when the time comes. Using his sharpest tactical skills, the disgraced officer brings down the thugs in control, saving the lives of those imprisoning him…with some unexpected help: turns out Gordon's cellmate "Leo" is actually Rex "The Lion" Calabrese, a gang lord who ruled the Gotham underworld for 11 years before being betrayed by Carmine Falcone and retreating into obscurity. How this revelation will ultimately affect current circumstances remains to be seen, but it appears Rex has at least a bit of healthy respect for his cellmate, so this should make for some intriguing storytelling moving forward.
Seeley's arc reads well and provides plenty of interesting scenes, the only real problem being the writer's dialogue. It's not always a problem, and can often go unnoticed, but the moment he starts writing the three younger heroes, we are faced with some of the most painfully awkward lines you're likely to find in a comic book this year. Batgirl in particular delivers lines that simply make me shutter, particularly her response when Batwoman inexplicably asks her, "Are we cool?" While Seeley feels compelled to explain each of these heroes thoughts and actions through unnecessary expositional dialogue, he couldn't bother to explain why these two lady Bats have been on the outs? That would have benefitted the story far more than several lines about how Red Hood is "playing nice" would rather shoot to kill.
Andy Clarke returns to pencil issue #18, and while I was critical of his previous work on this book, the artist seems to have found his niche here with a solid blend of stylistic and realistic. His characters look good, and his action scenes are exciting. Emanuel Simeoni takes over on #19-20, and definitely brings a more abstract style, but it works. Particularly enjoyable are the scenes with Batman, Bard, and Croc underground, as the artist's slightly exaggerated, scratchy style compliments the horror elements of this plot line well.
It's worth noting that issue #20 is said to be the last chapter of this BATMAN ETERNAL's first trade paperback volume, and its final pages do a fine job wrapping up what is immediate events, while dropping some hints (or Spoilers) as to what's coming up next.
Revelations! And more questions!
There's a new Police Commissioner in Gotham City, and his name is Jason Bard. He's gained the support of the police force and the media (especially Vicki Vale). Batman, on the other hand, hasn't been quite ready to welcome Bard with open arms, despite all signs pointing to Bard's integrity being genuine. If there's one thing we know about Bruce Wayne, it's that he's right 99% of the time - even when he'd rather not be. That nearly pathological distrust of people he maintains - though sometimes costing him some potentially valuable relationships - has saved lives (including his own) more times than I can count. Let's just say that Batman is right to be pursuing Jim Gordon's acquittal, because Bard's promotion looks to be just the next step of some master plan that's just barely taking shape.
Whose plan, you ask? No one seems to know. Certainly not Carmine Falcone, who is being extradited back to Hong Kong. The Dark Knight attempts a shake down for information from the former kingpin, and gets snide laughter as a response. Falcone was just a pawn, it turns out…in a much bigger game.
The truth hits closer to home than Bruce realizes, however…it's actually ENTERED his home, assaulting and drugging poor Alfred! The grand reveal to the Wayne Family's faithful butler is shared with the readers, as we get our first glimpse of a notorious Bat-rogue making his New 52 debut. Some fans have guessed at his character's involvement, but DC has kept fairly "hush, hush" about the whole situation. All that appears to be changing though, as this fight just got a LOT more personal.
ETERNAL creative leads James Tynion IV and Jason Fabok take the reins on script and art, respectively - as they often seem to do when a serious game-changer occurs. Both execute their craft with a fine confidence that makes for an enjoyable read. My favorite was the interrogation scene with Bats and Falcone, which did its own thing but clearly took a page out of "The Dark Knight Trilogy".
I don't know that I'd call this life-changing stuff here, but it's certainly entertaining, and the cast of characters alone is enough to keep BATMAN ETERNAL interesting. I look forward to seeing the ultimate impact this series winds up having on the New 52 Batman mythos. For now, though, I'm happy just enjoying the ride.- Bobby Barrett
Bobby Barrett is a lifelong Batman enthusiast living in Fresno, California, with his wife and several cats.
He enjoys reading, writing, acting, and playing very loud rock music.