All of the clues have made Batman just as angry as the crime itself and you know what that means, it’s time to go beat the living hell out of Oswald Cobblepot! Why? Because The Penguin might know something…or not! Even if he doesn’t, pummeling Penguin usually clears Batman’s head and inspires a brand-new hunch in no time. Sherlock has his “Mind Palace,” but Bruce Wayne has the Iceberg Casino and a right cross (among many other punch variations of which Cobblepot has experience every single one).

While issue #2 featured storylines all across the board, the latest chapter has about three and I found them all equally satisfying.

  • Batman needs to know everything he can about Carmine Falcone and that leads him to Cobblepot just as all of Gotham’s underworld erupts in a gang war
  • The GCPD is in complete disarray without its commissioner and there’s a power struggle for who takes the job while Gordon wallows in shame and misery in the holding cells below
  • A teenage girl named Stephanie Brown arrives unannounced at her father’s house only to find him dressed like a supervillain and surrounded by a band of other ostentatious fiends

I’m always a sucker for Batman taking on the mob and it’s an itch that the New 52 hasn’t been able to scratch until now. Issue #2 gave us a Falcone who certainly talked the talk, but here we witness him walk the walk and he takes very big strides. Penguin is portrayed as the nasty, vindictive figure from Gregg Hurwitz’s Penguin: Pain & Prejudice and it’s fascinating to hear all of the references to Cobblepot’s prior history with Falcone and see his panic at the gangster’s potential return to Gotham. And as for Batman, the character is running on all cylinders here and almost all of his most notable attributes are on display (brawn, brains, and batmobile, but there’s not much in the gadgets department). My favorite part was a two-page spread that had Batman going over every piece of evidence he had put together so far. Not only is he shown doing some real detective work, but Alfred’s pulling his weight too by taking the initiative to analyze blood samples before Batman even makes it back to the cave.

Like the mob, the GCPD has been really underutilized in New 52 Bat-comics. In fact, both are usually seen as victims more often than not. However, this issue doesn’t show them as cannon fodder or try and make their lives seem too exciting by throwing them into big action. Instead, we just get a lot of dialogue at police HQ and it’s great. We get a better feel for what everyone’s rank is, what the relationship is like between the most recognizable characters, and it’s just enjoyable to see something akin to an everyman’s perspective on these incredible events that are unfolding in Gotham 24/7. One subtle bit that I really got a kick out of was a dry-erase board seen in the background of the GCPD conference room. I lost a few minutes looking at all the info scrawled on its surface and I’m sure you will too. That board did more to make the numerous New 52 bat-titles feel interconnected than any crossover event.

As for Stephanie Brown, you can pretty much predict how her story goes down if you’re a longtime fan of the character. I know there’s been a great deal of anticipation for her return to comics and I don’t think anyone will be let down by what they see here because it’s pretty much in-line with her original origin story pre-relaunch. Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion (with the help of Ray Fawkes, John Layman, and Tim Seeley) did a fine job of giving her a good foundation and an intriguing storyline to start her off. I’m looking forward to seeing how her father factors in to everything and the final page left me equally anxious to see what Stephanie’s next course of action could possibly be, because she’s obviously about to go on one heck of a journey and she’s definitely shown to be resourceful.

Spoiler
However, I will say that the resourcefulness on display rides a fine line between making Stephanie look exceedingly capable and the bad guys looking like complete idiots. Sure, the villains in the room are C-list at best, but was Stephanie’s escape still too easy?

The artwork by Jason Fabok and colors by Brad Anderson continue to impress me. Batman Eternal has so far done a fantastic job of capturing that gritty Gotham atmosphere. A large part of that is the darker color palette and the level of detail Fabok puts into every city street, office interior, and other settings that would otherwise be mundane in any other comic. Fabok should also be commended for being able to cram so many panels into these pages without the book feeling cluttered or the sequential storytelling becoming difficult to follow. As for any negative comments I have on the art, I’ll say that I think that I’m noticing more and more a lack of variety in the facial structure of these characters. Penguin is basically the only person without a perfectly square jaw. Even Harvey Bullock looks kind of handsome. And while it’s not something that stood out to me yet, I did see a humorous infographic on reddit’s comic book subreddit a week or so ago that showed how Fabok & Anderson have yet to add any characters who aren’t white. I think Capullo and Manapul have done the most to make Gotham feel like a diverse city. I have another criticism about the art that will go in a spoiler tag, but despite these nitpicks Batman Eternal #3, like the two issues before it is a great looking book.

Spoiler

The bat symbol that Forbes draws free-hand on the dry erase board is WAY too perfect. I don’t think a single cop in that room will even hear a word he says because they would just be in awe that a guy could draw such a perfectly symmetrical bat symbol so quickly.

Recommended If…

  • Hearing the name “Stephanie Brown” makes your heart flutter
  • The mob and the GCPD getting some attention makes you as happy as it does me
  • You love seeing Batman actually being a detective
  • Jason Fabok is one of your favorite artists
  • You enjoyed the last 2 issues– there’s really no stopping you now, is there?

Overall

Besides it being Stephanie Brown’s big debut, issue #3 of Batman Eternal is a great chapter for The Dark Knight himself. Our hero spent the first two issues reeling from the horrific events and being just as confused as everyone else, but now he’s on the trail and we get to watch as he and a few others begin to realize not just that something terrifying is on the rise, but that they won’t be able to stop it from coming– that makes for a fun Batman comic.

SCORE: 9/10