April 9, 2014
SYNOPSIS: Don’t dare miss the start of the Bat-story so big it’s going to take every week of the month to tell! A massive cast of Gotham City’s best (and worst) examines the relationship between Batman, his allies and his city. In this debut issue, Commissioner James Gordon is caught on the wrong side of the law!
The time has finally come!
The Batman event DC has been teasing us with since late last year has kicked off with the premiere issue of the weekly BATMAN ETERNAL. An unprecedented group of creative talent will be working as a team for the next year to deliver one of the biggest singular Dark Knight tales of all time, under leadership of Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV – both names of which regular Bat-readers should be well aware at this point. So, does issue #1 deliver on the hype?
From page one, we get sucked in to a glimpse of this story's finale, and to say things are not looking well for Bruce Wayne or his city would be an understatement. De-masked, bound and branded with a bat symbol carved on his chest with his beloved Gotham engulfed in a blaze behind him, and taunted by an unseen nemesis that clearly has it in for Bruce in a big way and is taking great pride in having carefully orchestrated these circumstances. The inferno reflects in Bruce's eyes, themselves burning with fury, awaiting that moment when he can turn the tables and unleash this fury on his captor.
And guess what? That's just page one!
We quickly then flash to the present day as Jason Bard makes his way into Gotham from Detroit, recruited by Commissioner Gordon for his Major Crimes Unit. Escorted by Harvey Bullock, Bard makes introductions with a handful of Gotham's Finest, who appear likely to play key roles in ETERNAL as it progresses, and we get a taste for the different personalities at work on the force.
Elsewhere, the action takes center stage as Gordon has found himself in a shootout with Professor Pyg at the Gotham Aviation Museum, with several captive children in tow. Things are looking dire until The Dark Knight makes his entrance (and a big one it is!) and the fight becomes a pursuit. Bats and Gordon split up, and it seems like a case just about closed when a manipulated misstep on the Commissioner's part gives way to an accident of drastic proportions! With GCPD backup arriving just in time to witness the chaos, Gordon has no choice but to own up to his apparent role in the destruction at hand, as Batman observes from afar…
BATMAN ETERNAL #1 was one of the quickest reads I've come across in quite a while. It's not often you read a comic that you become so invested in that the ending takes you by surprise because it really didn't feel like you just blasted through 20 pages of story. Teasing us with the bit scene from the series finale at the opening is a clever move from writers Snyder and Tynion, assuring readers that there is a definite direction this series is headed in, and the creative team are carefully crafting the pieces leading up to that climax.
Jason Fabok simply slays the pencil/ink work here. Fresh off his run on DETECTIVE COMICS, he appears to be pulling out all the stops to deliver some of his most epic visuals yet. The quality is consistent through the calm and the storm--dialogue scenes drawn with interesting angles, action with cinematic gusto, with Brad Anderson utilizing the perfect palette of colors to bring everything to life. Also appreciated from Fabok is that while he draws many different characters, care is taken so that they are all discernible from one another--something that tends to be problematic in superhero comics.
The use of characters is a terrifically exciting part of this book. Fans are already aware that ETERNAL will soon debut Stephanie Brown/The Spoiler for The New 52, but the use of Pyg here was a great way to kick it off--great care was taken to maintain the villain's uniquely twisted personality and voice as Grant Morrison originally wrote him. Jason Bard shows promise as well – It appears that he will represent the outsider's/normal person's point of view on the happenings in Gotham, definitely a worthy counter to the masked heroes' POV these stories are typically driven by.
Another realization worth noting is that since this is chapter 1 of 52, everything that happened in this issue was basically setup for what's coming. That being said, this week's contents could have easily been a "part one of six" in any regular Bat-book with all of the action and story pieces it delivered. Considering we're only 1.9% finished with the overall story (and the body count is already this high), this series is looking to be a gripping epic that is likely to fly by before we know it. DC has had some considerable success with weekly series in the past, and with talent like this on board, BATMAN ETERNAL looks to be no exception. - Bobby Barrett