For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of Eternal has been all the crazy team-ups. Eternal seems to have a knack for placing characters together that we have never seen teamed-up before and then creating engaging scenarios through the juxtaposition of those characters. The Alfred/Bane pairing is one I have been looking forward to since September, after seeing it in a solicitation, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The book is split up pretty evenly, devoting an equal amount of time to the exploits of both Alfred and Batman with a dash of Spoiler thrown in for setup. While the Bane and Alfred back and forths are great and the resolution to their time spent together is very satisfying, the book suffers from a heavy dose of convoluted conveniences and confusion, but more about that later. Batman also had some great moments in which he effortlessly takes out 4 Arkham inmates. When it comes to physical confrontations, this story illustrates that psychosis is all that most of Batman’s enemies have going for themselves. Looking at Batman handle the situation, it is obvious that the true threat most of his villains pose is in their schemes, and that Batman has to spend a lot more time and effort locating them and figuring out what they are up to than in actually beating them.
Even though the Batman and Alfred scenes are indeed amazing, they could not offset the drawbacks of this story. There are downsides to this issue, and they all revolve around conveniences or things happening without appropriate explanation. Alfred overcomes the fear toxin. Was it overcome by force of will? or perhaps because the reality of the situation he was thrust into was scarier than any hallucination he might generate? Take your pick because it’s never really explained and I came to those on my own. (And I liked them better than thinking it was because the writers just needed him to get over it in order to continue the story.) Next, Batman had a feeling that something was up with Alfred, requiring Julia to check up on him which in turn added emotional weight to her scenes. Along with being stressed out over doing all this computer stuff under pressure she is now forced to deal with the uncertainty of Alfred’s fate. While it does add poignancy to her scenes, the way it is introduced is once again unexplained and fit in just right for the sack of the story. This is the third or fourth time I have brought this up, and I get that Batman is smarter than us, but could we PLEASE have some insight into his train of thought. I want to marvel at his intellect, not be left in the dark. At this point, it is starting to feel more like a crutch that the writers are using to get away with doing stuff that makes no sense. It just seems to me that the writers aren’t bothering to come up with/work out logical deductions for Batman to use to come to these conclusions. That is why they aren’t sharing them with us, because they don’t exist. Part of the fun of Batman is seeing him put the pieces together, and us realizing that they were always there and that we just missed them. This hasn’t been happening in Eternal.
Then they use a satellite imaging program to scan for body patterns which match Hush in order to locate him. Wait…what? You have had this amazing tool available to you this whole time and are only using it now?!?!?! That is just plain ridiculous! This has a double element of convenience in the fact that it would only work if Hush was outside and conveniently enough he happens to be outside right when they scan for him. This is starting to be a lot to swallow. If Batman has this kind of thing at his disposal, why bother to do any detective work ever again. This just seems like really lazy writing to me. Let us just solve all our problems with technology. I personally find it very annoying. What alternative methods could the writers have used for Batman to figure this out? Back in issue 22 Hush was on the rooftop opposite to the beacon tower. What if Hush had left some chemical residue from his boots that Batman had taken a sample of. What if it was complicated in nature and Batman had the Batcomputer running an analysis on it that took till now to show that it was from a certain production company that had gone out of business, and that business was the warehouse where Hush and Cluemaster were having their meetings. Granted I just made that up on the fly, and I am not saying this is the specific scenario that I would have liked to have had happen, but I would prefer actual detective work as opposed to pushing a button and having a satellite scan an entire city.
Another example of convenience/no explanation is when we see Spoiler fleeing the area of a giant explosion. My first thought was: all the bounty hunters are still after her, but then it turn out to be the police. Since when were the police chasing her? Are they chasing her from when she broke into that prison that was holding her father? Or are these the cops that work for Hush, helping him coral her into his trap? Much like the Alfred toxin thing, you can generate your own story with the information given to you, but I’d really rather read the story that the writers intended and not the one I had to make up on my own because the story presented is not concise enough to provide me with some kind of cohesion. I mean, how did Hush find her?….and look, in a city of 8 million inhabitants, Vicki happens to be right where both of them are having their little scuffle. For real?!?!?! I know some will think I am nitpicking and I would agree with you if I were going on about one little thing with the rest of the book being great, but the book doesn’t have just one little convenience. It has half a dozen, one right after the other. It is an endless parade of nonsense and I can’t ignore it when it is this blatant. Like I said, most of these were done to move the story along or to wrap something up quickly because they were finished with it and just needed it to go away for the sake of the story, but come on! Did everything have to be so opportune and incomprehensible?
Fernando Pasarin handles art again, but I think he spent the majority of his work detailing the first issue because this one doesn’t present itself quite as well as last weeks’. One of the things that stood out was the abundance of blank backdrops; while last issue, every background environment was highly detailed. Even the details of this issue were not as finely tuned as last time and just felt generally less impressive. Seeing that we know he has it in him to do more impressive work, I’m going to go with time constraints being the most logical reason as to why this seems less impactful. Favorite image from the issue was a splash page featuring Batman vs Mister Freeze. Least favorite…take a look for yourself.
- Well, that answered the bomb jacket question I had from last time. It didn’t make sense to me that the switch would activate a countdown as opposed to just going off, but that turned out to be the point. Whoever gave her the vest wanted her to fail and get beat up, and boy did she get beat, that took all of like 2 seconds to take her out. JD is such a joke.
- More demons? I figured Spectre sucked them all up when he did his little thing last issue. I guess he only got the ones that were in the room with him, I just figured that since they were all spirits or something that they would have been sucked through the walls regardless of where they were in relation to Spectre. Were those supposed to be the converted inmates? Cause that makes more sense.
- Basilo Karlo (Clayface) made his first appearance in Detective Comics #40 (1940). He was called Clayface because he wore a mask made of clay, not because he had crazy powers. He was kind of like The Phantom of the Opera, haunting the set of a movie that was a remake of a film he had already stared in (yep, they were doing reboots even way back then). The powers of Clayface didn’t come into play until much later, 1961 to be precise when Matt Hagen became the second Clayface. Basil himself didn’t acquire those powers till the Mud Pact storyline from 1989 in which he stole samples of blood from all the other Clayfaces and mixed them together to create a serum to give him those same powers. Other CLayfaces? Yep, there are seven or eight all together. Trust me, the history of the Clayfaces is an article unto itself!
- Victor Zsasz first appeared in Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1-4 (1992). If you have not read this I strongly suggest picking it up. It has been collected in trade and is called Batman: The last Arkham. Parts of this story inspired certain elements of the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum.
- Hey look, another Victor. Dr. Victor Fries (Mr.Freeze/Mr.Zero) first appeared in Batman #121 (1959). The comic version was rather forgettable and would have disappeared forever if not for the 1966 show revitalizing him and actually making him popular. The show actually named him Mister Freeze as his original name was Mister Zero. Roughly 30 years later Victor received another shot in the arm from Batman: The Animated Series, which revitalized the character yet again, including a much more sympathetic background. This remained his origin for the better part of 20 years till the new52 rolled around and thought they could come up with something better….
***Less of a fact and more just something fun I wanted to share with you, last week was Halloween and I am guessing that some of you might be wondering what I dressed as. I already posted this in the upcoming comics section but figured not all of you might see it there so decided to post it here as well. If you like what you see here you can check out more pictures of the costumes on my twitter. https://twitter.com/BrandonMul77 Both costumes were hand made by me, and yes that is me and my wife. For those of you who are unaware, I have an undergraduate degree in Theatre, so I know a thing or two about costume construction. Enjoy!***
- Seeing Alfred own everybody in his path makes you happy.
- Seeing Batman own everybody in his path makes you happy.
- You’re willing to overlook some logical inconsistencies.
Alfred is great as always and the action set pieces staring him and Batman are a ton of fun, but the leaps in logic and the plentiful amount of conveniences was just too much for this fan to overlook. If you’re just looking to sit back and be entertained I’m sure you’ll get a lot more fun out of this book than I did, but for those of you who want a little more cohesion in your stories, you’ll probably feel similarly to me. The good still overweights the bad, making that book better than average.