Batman Eternal is a year-long event with a new chapter every week, so why is it in such a hurry? Issue #2 is kind of a mess. To me it felt like all five writers (Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV with Ray Fawkes, John Layman, and Tim Seeley) just threw all of their ideas onto these pages without any regard for how well it would translate into a cohesive chapter. There’s plenty of interesting stuff going on (that’s an understatement), but it just doesn’t connect! There’s no natural transition between scenes. Things. Just. Happen. It’s evident that the collaborators have a grand story to tell, but it doesn’t look like they know how to tell it.
It’s not anywhere near as clean as issue #1 and tries too hard to introduce every character and every potential plot line for the foreseeable future when it would be a far more enjoyable read if it didn’t jump around so much and gave each scene the attention it deserves. We begin with Mayor Hady, who wasn’t featured in last week’s episode. We see how his office reacts to Gordon’s subway disaster and then we’re teased with a mystery villain. On the next page we cut to Vicki Vale, who also wasn’t a part of issue #1, and her contemporaries at the Gotham Gazette, Warren and Mario. I was honestly crossing my fingers for Alexander Knox (BATMAN, 1989) to finally be inserted into the comics, but that was a no-go. While it was interesting to see more normal citizens react to the goings-on of Gotham’s heroes and villains, this scene was also short lived. Immediately following Vicki Vale’s 2-page introduction we are greeted by a 2-page collage that introduces even more characters to Batman Eternal‘s epic:
- Batgirl joins the cast and, like the other members of the Batfamily in this 2-page spread, appears to have forgotten about their post-Death of the Family dispute with Batman (Will the Bat-family’s reconciliation be addressed in this series?)
- Even though he’s in Hong Kong, Jason Todd learns of Gotham’s woes and we establish him as the bad ass anti-hero who will get a drink at the bar after beating up some ninjas– it’s a cool panel
- Tim Drake is poised to finally participate in a Batman story in a meaningful way and we learn that he builds robots now
- We’re suddenly acting like Batwoman has been a vital member of the family. I hope the writers plan on acknowledging how she tried to bring down The Dark Knight during issues #18-24 of her own comic, because her inclusion should make for some good drama if we don’t pretend as if Williams III & Blackman’s final arc never happened
- Batgirl and Tim Drake are contacted by Alfred personally, but Luke Fox and his father have to get the news through television just like Jason and Harper Row, who is also featured in this scene
- And for a 2nd issue in a row Alfred is referred to as “Penny-One” and I die a little inside
After all of this newness we’re brought to Gotham Central for a scene between Batman and Gordon, who are still reeling from the train massacre of chapter one. Things appear to be settling down and it looks as though the remainder of the book will deal primarily with the aftermath and whoever the mystery bad guy is at City Hall, but that’s just not the case. The comic instead gives yet another villain his New 52 debut, we take a trip to Arkham Asylum to retcon what writer Ann Nocenti did with Doctor Phosphorus, and then Catwoman shows up during the course of Batman’s investigation for no other reason than to give our silent hero someone to talk to. With what few pages remain, we are told who the mystery man from page #1 is, but if you saw the “Batsgiving” teaser back in November you will have figured it all out a long time ago.
On the plus side, while issue #2 does cram too much into its 20 pages it does offer readers more than enough surprising twists to give readers plenty to talk about and Jason Fabok’s artwork is beautiful and incredibly diverse. With so many new characters and some added paranormal aspects being added into the mix, Fabok and colorist Brad Anderson are consistently delivering visuals that never grow stale. It’s also impressive that while the narrative may be a mess, it never looks like a mess. Not once did I look at a page and wish that a certain panel had been bigger or that a particular action sequence had been more fully rendered. Nothing is crowded or hurried in appearance, everything is fully detailed and richly colored. My one complaint about the visuals is that there is a moment in which Batman takes a blood sample from Gordon, but we never get an establishing shot of whatever blood-sample gizmo Batman uses, we only see Batman touch his finger to Gordon’s finger and that’s it. I don’t think the gauntlet’s fingertip blood-analyzer is so popular in Batman lore that we can just gloss over that quite yet.
More notes can be found in the spoiler tags below:
- Carmine Falcone makes his first appearance in The New 52 and the writers definitely have their work cut out for them. You have to keep in mind that they’ll have to totally rebuild Carmine Falcone because every classic story Batman fans remember him from no longer exists in the New 52 continuity. Batman: Year One? Didn’t happen. So how did he get the scars on his face? The Long Halloween? Didn’t happen. So he was never affiliated with the fall of Harvey Dent.
- Also, I didn’t mention this in my art critique to avoid spoilers, but I am not a fan of Falcone’s t-shirt under the blazer look
- While Carmine Falcone’s reveal could be seen from a mile away, what really took me by surprise was the entrance of Deacon Blackfire! And I have to wonder if what we’re seeing is really some paranormal activity or if he’s just a conman. Then again, what was the hypnotism of Officer Strode from the previous scene if not an act of mysticism? For those who don’t know about Deacon Blackfire, he’s a villain from 1988’s Batman: The Cult
- You love Fabok’s art. It’s a good-looking comic and Fabok definitely gets to play around with a lot of different characters and environments
- You don’t mind some mysticism in your Batman comics
- You’re all for seeing the New 52 debut of not one, but two classic villains
With a new issue out every week, there’s no reason to have such a cluttered and unfocused issue. Batman Eternal #1 was like a fully laid out buffet, but issue #2 is like one of those KFC bowls with all the junk slopped together.