Kyle Higgins puts forth a super tight narrative, with no sidetracks or interruptions, featuring revealed secrets, classic Batman action, and two awesome villains! Surely, this issue should rank right up there with the best of them, and this is what I wish I could tell you, but sadly that is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a solid issue comparatively speaking, there are just a few missteps that I feel keep it from being great.
As opposed to previous Eternal stories, this one focuses entirely on three different characters, providing none of the typical “check-in” scenes that I am not personally very fond of. The story becomes even more streamlined as all three merge naturally into one cohesive tale. This is the story’s greatest asset! Starting off slow but hastening more and more quickly as the stories meld together, we are sent on a whirlwind of a ride to an explosive finale. While the structure of the story is great, the surprises it presented for the characters weren’t ones I could live along with them. It was still fun to see the characters’ reactions to the events but I couldn’t share their moments of surprise as I already knew what was going to happen, either because of what was revealed last issue or because at this point it was just downright obvious. Something else that struck me as odd was the partnership between Hush and the Architect. The last time these two characters met, the Architect was trying to kill Hush. We haven’t been clued into what may have mended their relationship as of yet, but I’m hoping that we will get there, as this is but the first issue of Higgins’ arc.
The other element that scores this issue some points was the palpable atmosphere that the comic establishes. Jorge Lucas handles art in this issue and, while it is a bit of a jump to go from Fabok to Lucas, he still puts his best foot forward and delivers some very atmospheric shots. I quite like how the shadowing is rendered here, looking somewhat like soot. I felt it added a disquieting nature to the manor that helped mirror and heighten the feelings that Julia was most certainly having after her ordeal. That very first shot of the manor up lit from the floods with all the bare/twisted trees in the foreground in silhouette was the perfect way to set the ominous mood for things to come. I felt it was such a strong visual element, that in the few panels it wasn’t used it made them stand out to me, as almost unfinished or perhaps intrusions from another source. I think I would have used it even more liberally, as some things could have benefited from a little more detail and extra shading could have masked this. The only thing I thought seemed truly off was on page 7 panel 2. Something about the stride in Julia’s walk and her center of gravity just seemed off to me. So much so, that I got up and duplicated the visuals in the mirror and indeed found that it was an awkward position to get my body in. It was also odd that the camera lens said “scanning..” under it instead of mimicking the sound effect of a lens focusing. At first I thought it was the Batcomputer saying scanning, but that couldn’t be the case because the rest of the computer’s dialogue was already established in a specific look with a light blue background.
Editorial: The mostly white ad next to a page colored mostly in black totally pulled me out of the story! My eye was drawn to the ad instead of the cool shot of the Batcave I was supposed to be looking at!
- I’m not sure if it was in a previous review or perhaps in the comments somewhere, but I had expressed the idea that it was almost a certainty that we would see Batman call Julia Penny-Two, and there it is folks! I get that Batman is keeping up with the code names here because he is Batman but Alfred is his “dad”. Surely his emotions would come through in a moment like this and he would call him Alfred, if for nothing else than to at least spur Julia into helping him. Even, she, calls him dad! I think instead of saying, your father, he should have said our father. It would have let her know right away that Bruce wasn’t using Alfred and actually cared for him.
- Four pages later Batman calls her Penny-One. This is either a mistake by the team or Batman is just so used to saying Penny-One that in a moment of haste he just instinctively reverted back to that.
- Julia handled that secret rather well. She got a little excitable, but I would have expected a lot more after finding a secret of that magnitude. She is definitely a cool customer!
- Why was the tower still making noises after Batman blew up the control box? Is it just residual vibrations slowing down or are we going to have more of this next issue?
- It seems to me like the Architect is already beaten and done. I hope this wasn’t his entire contribution to Eternal, because that was a pretty short homecoming if it was.
- The whole thing with the tower going “shhhhhh” was a tad bit silly. At first I thought it was clever but then by the time I got to writing this I had changed my mind. Ask me again tomorrow and I might have a change of heart but I’m going with silly for now.
- Did you know that Alfred used to be fat?!? Back in the 40’s Alfred was an amateur sleuth and looked up to Batman and Robin as the pinnacle he wished to achieve. Seeing as how, in his current state, he could never hope to come close to their level of crime fighting prowess, he embarked on a journey to shed the pounds. In Detective Comics #83 (1944) Alfred took a vacation and upon returning he looked like the Alfred we all know and love, and has stayed as such ever since.
- Back in 1943, Batman had a live action black and white serial and in it, Alfred was played by William Austin. He captured the character of Alfred so perfectly that the writers of the comic actually wanted to make the comic book version more like the serial one. This is what led them to making Alfred lose weight, as Austin was thin, and they wanted to match the comic version as close to him as possible.
- Heart of Hush was a story which appeared in Detective Comics #846-850 (2008). In the story, we see Hush (Thomas Elliot) using medical syringes; you’ll notice that the syringe he uses in Tec #846 is the same as the one depicted on the cover of Eternal #21, right down to the green chemical compound within (Had I been paying more attention last week I would have realized this and not been so surprised by the appearance of Hush).
- Dr. Crane has always been linked with Hush: in the 2003 storyline, Crane is partially credited with giving Hush his name, in 2008 it was revealed that he was Elliot’s childhood psychologist, he later worked with Hush to kidnap a child to distract Batman, and in the last Eternal we see Hush using the Scarecrow’s fear toxin.
- Alfred and Hush had a little confrontation in Tec#850. In that fight, Alfred actually held his own, as he had the element of surprise on his side. One could say the fight from last issue was a rematch that Hush may have been looking forward to since their last encounter ended less than completely in his favor.
- You’ve been waiting for the return of Zachary Gate.
- You like Julia Pennyworth and have been patiently waiting for her to get to do something.
- You want to see some more of Hush being extra creepy.
- You like your stories fast paced and a little unsettling.
While filled with lots of action and atmosphere that are both completely satisfying the story didn’t allow me the ability to connect with the characters on a deeper level. Much of what is going on here is spectacle, but good spectacle nonetheless.