Jim Gordon is on trial, Stephanie Brown is on the run, and as Carmine Falcone plots to rebuild Gotham in his image another unseen enemy of The Dark Knight moves to burn everything down, it’s Batman Eternal time!

There are two things that might be a little misleading about the otherwise awesome cover of Batman Eternal #4: 1) You’re really not going to see a Batgirl vs. Batman fight, it’s actually kind of a lame 2-3 panels and hardly even worth discussing 2) Jason Fabok is sitting this chapter out, but the incredibly talented Dustin Nguyen is filling in– still, you should adjust expectations because their styles are totally different. Now, you might not be getting any substantial Bat vs. Bat action, but the fourth chapter of Eternal still has more than enough to offer.

The lates chapter titled “Injustice for All” is written by John Layman from a story by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV with Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley consulting. You can definitely tell it’s Layman who wrote it because we get a lot of namedropping of all the villains from his run on Detective Comics run, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The comic begins with Batgirl, frustrated by the criminal justice system’s treatment of her framed father and taking out all her anger on the faces of Professor Pyg’s henchmen. Batman finally intervenes just as Batgirl is about to lose her composure and it plays out much like what we saw from Batman during Damian’s requiem only Barbara is not only severely injuring the goons, she’s confusing them too. What do I mean by this? Inset within the pages of Batgirl’s fisticuffs are single-panel flashbacks to Gordon being denied bail and it’s these fresh memories flooding to the surface that are infuriating Batgirl more and more. With every flash she says a line, aloud, like “No.” FLASH “No.” FLASH “Not true.” FLASH. Now, imagine you’re a criminal on a rooftop getting beaten up by a girl in a bat costume who repeatedly says “Not true. Not right.” Rarely has Batgirl looked crazier.

As I was saying, Batman intervenes and we get the big “Batman vs. Batgirl” moment which is Barbara sucker punching Batman and then getting a follow-up swing in before Batman puts a stop to it. I like to imagine Bats just let the first couple of attacks happen because I just don’t think Barbara should be a skilled enough fighter to land a hit on The Dark Knight. That goes for most of the Bat allies, by the way. I mean come on, he trained for several years, they trained for a few months, a year, maybe two years. It’s absurd. Also, I’m kind of tired of seeing these characters immediately going to violence toward one another just because they’re upset. Why not talk about it? I know it usually makes for cool comic book pages of heroes boxing one another, but it hardly ever goes anywhere from a story standpoint and often times makes them seem juvenile. It definitely seems below Barbara’s intellect to lash out like that immediately.

While Babs may be quick to anger, the narrative doesn’t have the same haste. Unlike previous issues, chapter 4 moves along at a more leisurely pace. We’re not trying to squeeze in Penguin, Spectre, Batwoman, Blackfire, the mayor, the Gazette, and whoever else into a single issue. The comic deals primarily with Batgirl’s turmoil, Stephanie Brown’s frantic quest for safe harbor after finding out her dad is a supervillian, Gordon’s entrance into Blackgate, and Falcone getting a “welcome home” from Batman (There’s also a brief 2-page scene at the GCPD, but it offers nothing new to the story except reiterating what we heard at the end of #3 so it’s an unnecessary scene that could’ve been cut. If we’re going to have a GCPD scene we need one that gives Forbes some complexity because he has no depth whatsoever right now). It’s a much calmer comic, well maybe the better term is brooding, it broods. All of the horrible stuff happened over the past couple of issues and now our characters are sort of wallowing in all that misery. However, I am kind of curious about the passage of time in Batman Eternal. When Steph discovered her father, Gordon was still in a holding cell, but now we see that he has had a day in court and Stephanie is still on the street and it’s not totally clear if it’s day or night in those panels. Has she been running around the streets of Gotham for a full day? Perhaps I simply need to re-read Eternal from issue #1, not a terrible habit to get into at the end of each month.

Not much is accomplished in the Batman/Falcone scene in an immediate sense. There’s an allusion to Catwoman that should play a big part later on, but mostly the scene just makes a promise for something major to come. The “Gordon goes to prison” scenes that close out this chapter are quite reminiscent of Bruce Wayne–Murderer? but hopefully Gordon’s incarceration is better than that storyline, which never fully realized its potential. It’s certainly a promising idea! One thing about Eternal‘s Blackgate scene that bugged me was the use of Warden Zorbatos, who seems adversarial toward Gordon. It bugs me because she was rescued by Gordon during Forever Evil: Arkham War and I don’t recall there being any hint of the two being enemies in that story– I guess even the writers of Batman Eternal decided to sit that mini-series out and I don’t blame them for it. Also, it’s at the prison that we get nods to Detective Comics and Amygdala, who as far as I can tell doesn’t seem to have the giant red monster look he had in Nightwing #25 and that’s a good thing.

Speaking of the look of the book, Dustin Nguyen has a much more animated style  that, while attractive, clashes with the grittier nature of Fabok’s previous chapters so I can see his work being a bit divisive to those who got used to the atmosphere of chapters 1-3. However, Nguyen brings some things to the table that I’m sure many will appreciate: Babs with glasses for instance or a less Ed Hardy-esque Carmine Falcone! The t-shirt wearing Falcone we saw in issue #2 was actually a re-design by writer Tim Seeley. You can see Fabok’s take on a more traditional Carmine Falcone at his blog. Time will tell if we go back to the t-shirt and blazer look of the crime boss again.

Recommended If…

  •  You want to see the odds stacked even higher against Stephanie Brown
  • The idea of Gordon in a Bruce Wayne–Murderer? type situation is intriguing
  • You love Dustin Nguyen’s artwork
  • You just can’t get enough Batgirl! It was a big week for her. She was featured in ’66, an annual, and now this

Overall

A solid issue with an unexpected twist. It’s a must-read for anyone who loves Jim Gordon, Steph, and Barbara. While we don’t hear much from our favorite mustachioed Commish, his storyline is quickly becoming the most interesting to follow as his world continues to crash down around him. Dustin Nguyen’s artwork looks nice, especially since it’s complemented by the inks of frequent collaborator Derek Fridolfs and John Kalisz’ diverse color palette. Eternal #4 is not going to knock you out of your seat like some of the previous installments, but it remains a very satisfying chapter in what’s becoming my #1 most anticipated Bat-book.

SCORE: 7/10