“Gotham Eternal” is a clever approach at the notorious “filler issue.” Quite simply, Batman artist Greg Capullo needed more time to complete the next installment of Zero Year but rather than delay the comic or submit something that wasn’t up to the team’s usual stellar quality the folks behind Batman hired James Tynion IV as co-writer and Dustin Nguyen as fill-in artist for a one-shot teaser of the upcoming Batman Eternal weekly series that supposedly takes place sometime between week #39 and #40. It’s a comic that tosses readers right out into the deep end of the year-long weekly limited title and it’s guaranteed to give fans a lot to talk about.

The problem that flash-forward storytelling like this makes for me as a reviewer is that it’s tough to judge many of the plot points because I don’t know what events led to them happening in the first place and what bits I can critique should probably be locked away behind spoiler tags. This is a comic intended to raise questions and make you so hungry for answers that you’re guaranteed to lay down $3 bucks a week come April.

So the obvious question is: Does it succeed in making readers (at least me) excited for more? And the answer is yes. Issue #28 addresses a variety of shocking plot threads that I now want to follow through until the end (and see where they started to begin with). But as a comic itself, just judging it on its own merits– it’s okay. It’s clearly  an issue with an agenda to get you to purchase another series and in that way it’s more advertisement than done-in-one story. There are some cool action sequences, fun use of gadgets, and quite a bit of expected and unexpected fan-service. However, I do wonder if this chapter will actually fit in the finished product of Batman Eternal. After all, Batman #0 was a similar approach to the teaser comic and it didn’t exactly blend seamlessly into Zero Year.

The artwork by Dustin Nguyen is as energetic and expressive as we’ve come to expect and the action sequences are sure to delight, but it’s evident in the lack of backgrounds that this was a comic drawn in a hurry. Harper also seems to look different from panel to panel in the opening pages and Batman’s head appears slightly too large in some scenes as if Nguyen were still channeling L’il Gotham. However, it’s definitely more good than bad and he definitely gives some of the comic’s surprise characters the impressive intros they deserve.

I’ll list some more points in the hidden spoilers section below. Don’t read ’em until you’ve read the comic yourself:

Spoiler

  • Apparently Gotham is overwhelmed by a plague during this storyline, which seems kind of soon for yet another Gotham disaster plot (but again, we have no clue when the plague began so who am I to judge?). When Gotham Eternal is finally published we will have just gotten out of Forever Evil, which if you’ve been reading Arkham War (I don’t recommend you do) it’s basically turned Gotham into No Man’s Land without any heroes. Also, we recently had The Night of Owls about 2 years ago, Leviathan’s invasion, and if you read Zero Year, that too is about to become another distopian Gotham wasteland story
  • One of the most intriguing twists is one that might get overlooked in all the discussion about Harper, Selina, and Stephanie. There’s someone in the cave working at the Bat-Computer and it’s not Alfred. Is it Barbara taking the Oracle position for the first time in the New 52? Is it Cassandra Cane? Carrie Kelly? It definitely looks like a girl. It’s also interesting to note that most of issue #28’s most drastic shake-ups are in regards to the series’ female characters
  • I really hope they have a good reason for Batman accepting Harper Row as a partner. Yes, she is the costumed figure that writer Scott Snyder teased a couple months ago, but no she is not the new Nightwing or the new Robin. She’s instead called “Bluebird.” But my point is that as of right now this is the WORST time for Batman to approve another child sidekick. For cryin’ out loud his son just died in the line of duty and Dick Grayson was just beaten to a pulp and had his identity exposed to the world (but, again, we don’t know how the Grayson thing turns out in the end or how long after those events Harper was inducted into the Bat-family so… who am I to judge?)
  • Batman’s okay with Harper using guns. I hate this. They shoot electric pellets of some kind so they are none-lethal but still it’s a weird visual. There’s even a brief exchange in which a goon says “I thought Batman hated guns!” to which Batman replies, “I do. She doesn’t.” If he’d be fine with this then why doesn’t he just have all the sidekicks use them and make the Batfamily a more effective team? It’s like how Batwing has the most advanced technology of the entire squad– why isn’t everyone taking advantage of rocket boot tech? And does this mean that Batman might be more accepting of Jason’s use of guns now? Again, I simply don’t care for the image of Batman standing alongside someone with two rifles. It just feels wrong
  • Catwoman as a prime-time player? Look, I like the idea a lot. It has tons of potential and it’s cool to see her in more of a villain capacity after barely qualifying as an anti-hero lately (she’s pretty much entirely good anymore), but I sincerely hope that Ann Nocenti is no longer writing her solo series if this is the direction they’re taking the character. Making Catwoman a more integral part of the goings-on of this universe with Nocenti at the helm could be the worst idea ever
  • When Scott Snyder said this was a “Spoiler Issue” he meant it literally. The final page reveal should make a lot of people happy even if it makes zero sense right now without any context as to what everyone is talking about or how she got trapped in a vault

Recommended If…

  • Dustin Nguyen is one of your favorite artists
  • You’re a big fan of Harper Row
  • You’re part of a solid community of Batman fans and love to exchange theories about what’s to come
  • Batman Eternal is already on your pull list or you’re on the fence–  if you’re not the least bit curious about Batman Eternal you could skip it since this comic is only showcasing what that series has to offer

Overall

It’s a teaser comic so it’s stocked with loads of surprises accompanied by precious little context. You’ll be confused, but it’s a good kind of confusion that piques the curiosity and sparks fun discussion. However, you’ll have to wait until April to get any answers and see the journey continue so be ready to discuss what comics may come for a good long while. Issue #28 is more of an advertisement than a stand-alone story, but it definitely entertains.

SCORE: 7/10