You know how every once in a while in Batman Eternal we’ll cut away from the gang war or Jim Gordon to see the ghost of Deacon Blackfire or witness Jim Corrigan AKA The Spectre do something mysterious? Well, this is the issue that addresses all of the strangely supernatural aspects and it’s surprisingly boring. Chapter 6 “The Denied” by Ray Fawkes & Trevor McCarthy starts off with a heck of a bang and those first three pages should definitely get you pumped for what’s to come, but the problem is that nothing as exciting follows.

Issues #1-4 of Batman Eternal all had numerous storylines weaving through them and they were all moving at a feverish pace. Then came issue #5 with Tim Drake and while that focused on a single storyline involving nano-bots, it did see its short story all the way through to a satisfying conclusion that added to the excitement of Batman Eternal‘s epic. But “The Denied”? It focuses primarily on the spooky subplot, but goes nowhere with it. It never even got started and next week Batman Eternal will apparently be turning attention back to the gang war and Oswald Cobblepot, making these recent chapters feel disconnected.

This issue was originally solicited several months ago as Something hellish is brewing in the tunnels under Arkham Asylum…and Batman’s going to need the help of The Demon to stop it!” but that was eventually changed to “…Batman’s going to need the help of The Spectre to stop it!” and I think the last-minute change from Etrigan to Spectre shows. They may both deal with magic, but they are by no means interchangeable, right? Sure, I’m by no means an expert on The Spectre and I’m sure someone will correct me in the comments section if I’m wrong, but the character I saw in this issue still looked and acted more like Jason Blood. The issue also didn’t do a very good job of giving me a reason to care about him. It’s one of the first major stories that The Spectre has been in in The New 52 and certainly the first that most Batman readers will have seen him in and yet we don’t get much of an introduction. He just walks into the story and warns Batman that there are magical shenanigans in Gotham, but Batman already knows that. We saw that in the first scene. What little advancement we do get from Bruce and Corrigan’s chat involves Batwing, who Batman hands the task of sidekicking for Spectre off to. That could lead to something interesting, but, again, we never get started. 

There is one more thing though, a revelation that can be found in this issue (not one that’ll make many people happy) and I’ll put it in spoiler tags along with any other things I wanted to point out:

Spoiler

“When’s Joker’s Daughter going to show up in Batman Eternal already, I love her!” — No one ever.

As it turns out, Joker’s Daughter is thriving in the tunnels under Arkham Asylum and it looks like Professor Milo is with her, however he’s not called by name. I love Milo, so I hope it’s not him. The idea of such a classic and criminally underused villain acting as goon for Joker’s Daughter makes my stomach churn. More importantly though, the big mystical thing that has attracted The Spectre to Gotham is that Joker’s Daughter has somehow amassed a large following and is attempting to summon the recently departed Clown Prince of Crime. So it’s a conflicting feeling knowing that we might be witnessing the return of the Joker (hopefully with face intact) sometime soon but at the same time it sucks that we have to see more of the awful character that is Joker’s daughter.

  • It’s not explained how Joker’s Daughter came to power and it certainly doesn’t add up after what we saw from her last in Joker’s Daughter #1. She was a pretty pathetic character in that. Also, it seemed like that issue was hinting at the Joker still being alive so it’s kind of odd for her to be out to raise the dead now
  • When did Joker’s Daughter start dabbling in mysticism? Resources were hard enough for her to find, now a dark lord necromancer of some kind?
  • It seemed like Maxie Zeus was making a cameo, but it could have just been a random inmate named Maxie. He was amputated so there’s a strong chance it’s not him
  • I think they might actually be going the route of having Joker be dead at the end of “Death of the Family.” Magic might be one of the best ways to actually give him his face back
  • Batwing not believing that Jim has a divine spirit inside him even after seeing the green magic enchant the Batwing armor seemed absurd. Or is the green sparkly stuff something only Corrigan can see? It also doesn’t jive that Batwing would be such a disbeliever in mysticism when he’s encountered such bizarre things in his own comic
  • Again, we get “Penny-One.” And while I’m choking down my hate for this code name for Alfred Pennyworth, it’s how it was used in this issue that really infuriated me. Batman is alone in the Batmobile and he’s still referring to Alfred as “Penny-One.” There’s NO excuse for that. NONE. If he’s out in the field and needs to radio in and there’s no clear sign of who he could be speaking to then fine, address Alfred as “Penny-One.” But if it’s just the two of you having a radio conversation while the Batmobile is speeding at 80mph, let’s call Alfred by name. Yeah? And for god’s sake, don’t EVER. EVER. EVER have Alfred call Batman “Bat-One” again. It happened in a comic before and it makes no ****ing sense. He’s Batman, that’s already a code name.

Trevor McCarthy is a great choice for the artwork after his time on the Batwoman title, which was all about blending the world of Gotham with the supernatural. However, my expectations might have been too high because while I felt that McCarthy and colorist Guy Major captured the right tone, there weren’t any pages that really stood out or came close to matching the kind of dynamic layouts we saw in Batwoman. I also found some pages with Doctor Phosphorus to be too dark and hard to make out what was happening and the New 52 design of The Gentleman Ghost just doesn’t seem right to me. He’s wearing a top hat and a monocle, but there’s nothing dapper about his fashion from the collar down and his arms are visible. Shouldn’t he be a ghost? Like a transparent ghost? Doctor Phosphorus himself looks great and the little bit of action we see is fun, but overall McCarthy and Major weren’t given a lot to work with in this issue.

The series as a whole is starting to feel really disjointed and I hope next week’s return to Penguin and the gang war finally reigns the narrative in a bit because we’re all over the place right now.

Recommended If…

  • You like it when the supernatural comes to Gotham. However, don’t mistake this for Batman vs. The Supernatural. After the short-lived Gentlemen ghost fight, Batman doesn’t do a whole lot else in this comic
  • Trevor McCarthy is one of your favorite artists. Fans of Batwoman will be very familiar with his style

Overall

It starts out fun with a Batwing vs. Gentleman Ghost battle, but then it slows to a crawl and in the end I found it to be the weakest issue yet. Brief and uneventful.

SCORE: 4.5/10