BATMAN ETERNAL #22-25/September 2014
Author: Bobby Barrett (Follow @BATBOBBY)
October 7, 2014

Things heated up considerably over in BATMAN ETERNAL this month! Some heavy developments took place, putting us ever closer to the Gotham we saw teased in BATMAN #28 earlier this year. September marked the first full month of readers knowing that Hush appears to be the "big bad" behind everything that's been going wrong in The Dark Knight's city in this book (it's not a spoiler anymore, he made the cover of issue #25). I was initially expecting this to be a "reboot" of sorts for Tommy Elliot, seeing how he's never been mentioned in The New 52 until this point. Thankfully, this is not the case - though how much of his and Bruce Wayne's history remains intact has yet to be seen (fingers crossed that Paul Dini's brilliant work with the character is still at least somewhat considered canon).

This appears to be the first full month of ETERNAL with a different writer AND art team on each issue. How did it hold up? Surprisingly well, actually.

Issue #22
Kyle Higgins joins the writing team (replacing John Layman) and with him comes The Architect, antagonist of Higgins and Scott Snyder's 2011 GATES OF GOTHAM mini. "Architect" is kind of an ironic name for the villain, since he seems to really have a passion for tearing stuff down. And he has his sights set on Wayne's Beacon Tower. Can Batman stop him before catastrophe hits?

Meanwhile, Julia Pennyworth desperately tries getting ahold of Bruce Wayne after Hush's attack on her father last issue. Alfred's estranged daughter is out of her element and, seemingly, out of options. Except…what was it Alfred was trying to tell her before he blacked out? Something about the grandfather clock and 10:28…

Jorge Lucas returns on art duty, and while I tend to find his work a bit on the "old school" side, he definitely creates some standout moments. Particularly his splash page of the Batcave, complete with vehicles from the Burton movies! Great care was taken to give the cave a magnificent impression, and Lucas succeeds with flying colors here. Guy draws a neat Batman as well, there's some action panels that bring classic artists like Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez to mind. It's really his civilian characters that could use a little more attention, but he gets the job done.

Issue #23
A Catwoman adventure featuring Batman and Hush, drawn by Dustin Nguyen? For a minute I thought I was reading an issue of DETECTIVE COMICS, circa 2008! Trust me, that is in no way a bad thing.

As Batman and The Architect duke it out on Beacon Tower, Catwoman is attempting to rescue an endangered baby snow leopard who has been stolen by the Romanian Ibanescu crime family from pirate/sadistic animal collector Tiger Shark. Selina appears to be too late, however, as Mr. Ibanescu throws the cub into the middle of a dog fight, and Tiger Shark and his goons bust in and start shooting up the place.

Back at her apartment - after a heartbreakingly unsuccessful attempt to resuscitate the kitty - Selina gets paid an unexpected visit from a stranger. Someone she knows has apparently requested an audience with her inside Blackgate Prison - leading to a scene of extensive reveals regarding Selina Kyle's history and bloodline. Stuff that, to be honest, I wanted to kick myself for not realizing sooner. There is obviously more where this came from, and I look forward to it.

Tim Seeley provides the script here, he seems to have dibs on the Catwoman-heavy material - which is fine, because he seems to have a working understanding of Selina's character and a passion for writing her. His Hush writing takes me right back to the Dini days as well. Aristotle-quoting, strategizing lunacy is this man's game, and he appears to be back in full effect. It really does nothing but give credence to Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's original story with the villain, which depicted him as a master manipulator, utilizing Batman's most notorious rogues as pawns in his grand scheme. In BATMAN ETERNAL, old Tommy seems to have stepped up his game tenfold, overwhelming both Batman and his allies with their city coming apart in so many places.

Speaking of the city coming apart, remember in BATMAN: CATACLYSM where a villain calling himself the "Quakemaster" tried to take credit for a massive earthquake that leveled half of Gotham? Remember how ridiculous that sounded? Well, that concept is revisited here, but thanks to The Architect (and our talented writing team), it seems a lot more believable this time.

Issue #24
SPOILER ALERT! The Spoiler debuts in her very own issue! Well, technically we saw Stephanie Brown in costume for the first time at the end of issue #20, but this marks the first adventure as her fan favorite alter-ego.

Steph's dad, The Cluemaster, is heading a vital part of Hush's plan. What's he up to? We don't quite know, but Stephanie does, and she's been trying to "spoil" it on her web site. Unfortunately, in an age of internet gossip running rampant, nobody seems to be taking her warnings seriously. That's really too bad, since Hush has demanded Stephanie's head and her father seems all too willing to deliver. What chance does an amateur hero have against seasoned criminals out for blood?

Andy Clarke illustrates from a script by Ray Fawkes, and the result is a highly effective comic book. Clarke utilizes shadows well as The Spoiler surveys her father's operation, careful to only let the reader see what she sees. The panels pick up and take on more dynamic shapes as the action kicks in, giving plenty of eye candy to heighten the experience. All in all a solid read that could be enjoyed all on its own. For a weekly series with 23 previous installments leading directly into this one, that is a serious compliment.

Issue #25
Ah, the pieces coming together! We're officially just inches away from the totalitarian Gotham we were teased with in BATMAN #28 as Jason Bard and Hush have used the attack on Beacon Tower along with the power of the media (an unwitting Vicki Vale) to drive the public into sheer panic. Riots have ensued all over the city as the threat of additional terrorist attacks looms overhead. Batman struggles to get to the heart of the situation, but as he's been since the beginning, is consistently steps behind the master plan.

Here's where things get interesting. Julia Pennyworth is doing her best to step into her dad's shoes and help Bruce Wayne find information and clues from the Batcave. Red Robin and Harper Row have returned to Gotham from their investigation overseas, the latter having made considerable progress in her butt-kicking abilities. After a briefing with Jason Todd, it becomes clear that Batman's "Family" haven't been able to work as a unit since the Joker attack in DEATH OF THE FAMILY, and perhaps this is something Hush is exploiting. This leads to one of the most satisfying endings in this series to date, as a Bat Family united can be far more effective than one divided.

It's easy to see influence of the now-classic NO MAN'S LAND saga here in BATMAN ETERNAL. NML is really the only Batman story with both the scope and page count that can be legitimately compared to this one, and while both stories have taken their own direction, they have seen many parallels. One obvious example being what James Tynion IV has given us in issue #25: the turning point for the Family. As most fans are quite aware of, Batman can be a bit of a grump sometimes. For someone who's acquired as many allies as he has during his time as Gotham's symbol for justice, he likes to take care of business himself with minimal interference whenever possible. This can, from time to time, leave him in over his pointed ears, when the situation proves to be far more than he initially realized.

This is what happened during the first half of NO MAN'S LAND and it appears ETERNAL is following that pattern as well. Once The Dark Knight regroups and utilizes ALL of the help at his disposal is when the tide really changes, and let's face it: as long as there are people who care enough to stand up against crime and injustice, Batman will never be alone in his fight. Definitely looking forward to seeing how this progresses.

Only thing I really couldn't get behind in this issue was R.M. Guera's art. He's not a bad illustrator, but it just doesn't jive with the world of Batman the way it should. Alfred in particular looked far more soft and round than we're accustomed to seeing him, and he was in a hospital bed the whole time! Otherwise, a very decent read and a nice wrap to the month. - 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.

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