Batman Eternal #17 review

Batman Eternal 17

“The enemy of Gotham”, “a power Batman could barely overcome”.  These two phrases were used by DC in the comic and solicitations to describe Deacon Blackfire.  While these statements are absolutely how I picture the 1988 incarnation of the character, it does not apply to this version of the character.  An enemy of Gotham?  There is no evidence to support this kind of statement, furthermore, the only controversial thing he has done is giving some homeless/poor people drugged food.  Does this really constitute us calling him an enemy of Gotham?  In the original comic, the Deacon used the homeless population of Gotham to take over the entire city.  Drugging people and taking over the city don’t really have the same level of gravitas!  A power Batman could barely overcome?  The only obstacle Batman has to overcome here, is the tensile strength of a pipe.  In the 1988 comic, the Deacon breaks Batman’s will who, as a consequence, has to struggle with both internal conflict and an army of homeless to triumph. This time around, Batman isn’t broken and even states that the drugs aren’t working on him.  It’s relatively easy to win when there isn’t anything to overcome.

I feel like the writers wanted to hit major bullet points from the original story; the problem is that, without the original plot which connected them together they don’t meld well.  For instance, why doesn’t Batman try to save Blackfire?  Blackfire hasn’t done anything so deserving of death that Batman would stand idly by and watch him die, while in the original he did.  I understand that updating origins is sometimes necessary but if your not bringing something new (and better) to the table, then why even bother?  I would have much rather seen those seven pages which were devoted to Deacon Blackfire used to display a synopsis of the original story instead.  Recently, Peter J. Tomasi released Robin Rises Omega, in which the first seven pages span 43 real world years of comic history.  If Tomasi can do that in seven pages then surely Fawkes could have fit a synopsis of a four issue mini-series into the same number.

Now that I am done ranting, … on to the actual reviewing!  Despite what you might think after reading those two paragraphs, the rest of the issue itself wasn’t half bad.  After being reunited at the end of the last issue Batwing and Corrigan get to play off of one another again in a manner reminiscent of their relationship from #15.  The banter that they sling back and forth is quite enjoyable and reminds me of the “old beat cop and rookie” routine that has become a classic model.  Corrigan’s nonchalant way of discussing all the crazy stuff going on around them gets some amusing responses from Batwing, but later even Corrigan can’t keep his composure when the creepy factor gets turned up.  Even though things are looking bleak, an element of humor is thrown in as Corrigan proceeds to argue with himself in one scene.

The section with Red Robin and Harper is either playing up the idea of Sergei being an absent minded professor or it’s just full of mistakes.  I prefer to go with the idea that Sergei is lost in so many esoteric thoughts that he can’t be bothered with paying attention to the conversation.  SHOW SPOILER ▼

On the downside, Robin is still being uncharacteristically snippy and I might have had something negative to say about Harper taking a selfie but considering that in the last two weeks I’ve seen ten different super heroes taking selfies I’ve grown a tolerance for it.  Does art really need to imitate life in this regard?

Speaking of art, Dustin Nguyen delivers another hauntingly illustrated edition to Eternal.  His strongest work is in the dark and foreboding passages underneath Arkham; also of note is the run down meeting house of Park Row and the adjoining sewer.  Basically, anywhere in which he can play up decay and darkness is a chance for him to highlight himself.  Several of the underground locations featured water and with that came a lot of reflections of both light and images.  There was one in particular of Batman that I quite liked, along with another whole page devoted to him.  The tone of the color adopted during the flashbacks lent itself well to those sections.  While not in true sepia, it still gave the impression of being in the past.

SHOW SPOILER ▼

Random Thoughts:

  • The whole Deacon Blackfire thing got me thinking about Stephanie Brown and the New52’s treatment of characters in general.  Steph has a huge fan following and people have been demanding her since the New52 started.  When it was announced that Steph was going to be making her New52 appearance in Eternal those same fans rejoiced.  It makes me wonder if there is anything to really rejoice about.  If the character you loved is, in part, formed by stories that no longer exist, then isn’t she someone different.  While her name is Steph, the original trials and tribulations that you partook of with her, and by so doing formed your attachment to her, no longer make her the character that you loved.

Interesting Facts:

  • Another perfect example of a synopsis from a Batman story was Detective Comics #474(1977), in which the character Deadshot is “introduced” and writer Steve Englehart uses four panels to retell his origin story from 1950!  And yes, I specifically choose this as an example so I could recommend that you read Englhart’s Detective run #469-476.  This run includes The Laughing Fish and The Sign of the Joker.  Both of these are classics stories which were later used as inspiration for the Batman : The Animated Series  episode, The Laughing Fish.  This episode also included elements of The Joker’s five way Revenge from Batman #251.

Recommended if…

  • You’re into Dustin Nguyen’s doom and gloom.
  • You enjoyed the Corrigan/Batwing back and forths from #15.
  • You’re all for limiting JD’s panel allowance as much as possible.  Only 5 panels!

Overall:

I enjoyed it much better than last issue since it brought back the Corrigan/Batwing relationship but the jumps in logic in the Deacon Blackfire origin kept it from scoring higher for me.

SCORE: 6/10

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