Kyle Higgins and Jason Fabok have outdone themselves! This issue is officially in my top three best issues of Batman Eternal thus far, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it. We end up getting a massive number of resolutions to plot lines that were hanging out there and a fantastically explosive setup for the issues to come. While some may have felt that Eternal has been meandering about for a little bit, this story puts it firmly back on course and full steam ahead!

I’m not really sure how Mr. Higgins managed to pull this issue off. Usually when we have so many events occurring, things tend to get overcrowded and rushed. With this story, however, despite the large number of events that occur, I felt like the issue really spent it’s time establishing the scenes and atmosphere. There wasn’t anything superfluous about the included scenes, nor did I find myself wishing for anything more than I was given. Everything flowed well from one scene to another and every piece was necessary to the picture this story was painting. There were times that this felt extremely cinematic in nature. So much, that I could actually hear the kind of score in my head that would usually accompany scenes of these types.

The story begins with the confrontation between Hush and Spoiler followed shortly with the inclusion of Batman to the fray! For those of you concerned with characters showing an overt use of untrained abilities, you will be very pleased with Spoilers performance here. Much like the fight she had with Cluemaster, she is still shown as quite unequipped to handle a true challenge, while still being mentally quick enough to improvise when the situation calls for it.

The fight between Batman and Hush is such a treat! While we do get some dialogue, the six pages that the fight encompasses could easily have been told without any and still been just as powerful.  I’m a real fan of seeing a fight that appears to actually be choreographed. Instead of just seeing a single panel where Batman hits someone and the fight is over, this fight is a story in and of itself. We don’t just get pretty still shots of the best moments of the fight, but some actual sequential instances of the action. There is an ebb and flow to the combat where we actually see the characters altering their tactics as the fight goes on in order to get back their tactical advantages. We get to see the intricacies of their fighting styles, and through them, we learn about the characters by the actions they choose to use in order to get the upper hand. We get to see blows, counters, parries, disarmament, and more.

Batwing’s rescue and the reunion of Alfred and Julia each receive their due attention. These are the two scenes I referred to earlier in which I could almost hear the swelling of the music in the background. Both were genuinely moving and once again, I was immensely impressed not only by how much these sections were helped by the visuals, but also by the fact that they took the time to have these moments at all. There was no rush to get to the next moment or to forward the narrative. As readers, we were simple asked to live these moments with the characters. Enjoy their journey and forget about the destination for just a moment.

The next three scenes all play very well together to heighten the tension and inquisitiveness for the reader. We are shown a scene in which Hush suggests a new plan, Bruce discovers someone gained access to a sensitive file, and Bard shares something with Vicki that factors into Hush new plan. In all three scenes we are initially left in the dark as to what is going on, but unlike other issues where we are occasionally given a question with answers forthcoming in future installments, this time we are given some instant gratification, and that is a fresh spin on Eternal’s habit of piling up secret after secret. I could see easily where they could have stretched this out, but instead they gave us a tight story, with a moment of curiosity with the unknown and then the satisfaction of finding the answer all within one issue.

We end the issue with another slow build, seeing Hush meticulously break into one of Batman’s caches. It is, yet again, another great example of Fabok telling a story with visuals only, and really does an excellent job of setting up the calm before the storm. What storm do I speak of? Well, I guess you’re going to have to read the issue to find out for yourself.

Jason Fabok handles art for this story, and from the composition of his action scenes to the facial expressions and body language of his characters; from being able to highlight the quiet moments as well as the bombastic ones; for generally being all around competent in his ability to tell a story with visuals alone, Fabok shows a real mastery of his craft. His stuff has a similar beauty to it as the work of Jim Lee, but while Lee has a more stylistic comic look, Fabok takes it to a more realistic comic style. I love this shot of Batman standing in front of that fire. I wish that dialogue balloon wasn’t there. In my opinion it is not telling us anything relevant and is intruding in a beautiful panel.

fire

This next panel threw me off for a second because of the design element. Fabok includes a splattering effect here and in other spots in the comic, however, in this particular spot it was preceded by a panel of Hush shooting through Batman’s cape. Seeing this panel made me wonder how Hush had put that many holes in the cape. Then I realized what I was seeing after noticing the same splatters on the boot.

Cape

Imagine the force Batman is putting behind those Batarangs! Those things have bullet lines trailing behind them. It really adds a lot of force and explosive energy to this panel!

batarang

I almost wish the entirety of Batman Eternal was drawn exclusively by Jason Fabok, along with Andy Clarke. Those two artists have clearly stood out for me in this series so far.

Spoiler

  • Loved Hush’s comment on how Batman used to have standards for his sidekicks. I like when the writers include things like this. Seeing thoughts, that may very well be in the minds of some of the readers, displayed on the page, is always fun to see.
  • What part of the Cave were Bruce and Julia in? All those monitors seemed held together with a very piecemeal like structure. I get that it was some kind of work area, so it had a less than organized look to it, I just figured Batman’s workshop would be a little more orderly and uniform, and less of a mess.
  • In the scene when Alfred and Julia were embracing, Batman is just standing there in the background. I’m just kidding with this statement, but it was like, “hi, I’m just the third wheel back here, watching an intimate family moment. I wish I had family, mine is all dead.” I know that wasn’t the intended message, but it is what jumped into my head, even if only for a second. Made me sad for Batman. And chuckle a little at the same time.
  • Bruce is looking super haggard in the cave scenes, and I love Julia’s comment about hygiene!

Interesting Facts:

  • I typically have my articles to you by Wednesday, and I am sure that some of you may have noticed that my Batman one posted on Thursday and this one not till Friday. The reason being, that I was in France on new comic book day. And let me tell you, trying to read a comic on Comixology while sharing a Wifi signal with an entire hotel is a daunting task. It took me almost 2 hours Just to read Batman #36. The pages took that long to load. In any case, I just wanted to share with you the level of commitment I have to your entertainment. Don’t worry, I didn’t bypass any site seeing at the expense of these articles. I just read the comics instead of sleeping and wrote the articles while traveling about by train.
  • Since I was in France: Paris and Lyon to be specific, I figured I might share with you some stuff from there. One of the dinner parties I attended served individually wrapped cheeses. Kind of like how in America we have candies that have jokes on the wrappers, but instead of jokes they had trivia. One of the wrappers had a Batman Question! It asked, “Who were Batman’s creators?” The answers, “Bob Kane and Bill Finger.” That’s right! France actually gives Finger creator credit. Granted it was only on a cheese wrapper, but the fact that the French know it to be a fact, indicates to me that it might be time to start having Fingers name show up in the comics next to Kane’s.
  • I inspected several French comic book stores while traveling. There were two really cool ones: one had original artwork all over the walls and shelves. And by on the walls, I don’t mean hanging, I mean drawn on the actual wall. I am not sure if this is common practice everywhere in France, but at this shop whenever they have an artist visit for a signing they have them leave an original sketch on the wall along with signature.   The other shop looked like it was part of a castle. Here in France, they don’t tear down many structures in order to build contemporary buildings. Therefore, you might find yourself looking at a McDonalds or a Starbucks placed inside a building with insanely awesome architecture that is 400 years old.

ComicShop

  • I was also impressed by the size of French comics (hardcover). They are roughly 1.5 times larger than the regular editions you see released in the United States. If you know how comics are made you may be aware of the fact that artist draw their original sketches and layouts on giant pieces of paper, which are then reduced down to your average comic size. While the French comic is not that huge, the larger size does allow the reader a better look at the intricacies of the artist’s work. I found several Batman trades here that were a real treat to view in this enhanced size. “Hush” by Jim Lee was incredibly impressive. By the way, the Hush storyline in France is called “Silence”.

Recommended if…

  • You want to see an awesome physical confrontation between Batman and Hush.
  • You find enjoyment in paced character moments that allow you to breathe in the scene.
  • Having stories show loose ends getting wrapped up is important for you.
  • You appreciate when scenes are aligned in an order that enhances them.

Overall:

This issue is officially in my top three best issues of Batman Eternal thus far. If you aren’t treating yourself to this issue, I can only assume that it is because you hate yourself, because there is nothing in the issue itself that would warrant you not buying it. This is the kind of comic I wish I could read every week. Action packed, emotional, and expertly paced. I tip my hat to you Higgins and Fabok. You have shown a real mastery of your crafts in this issue.

SCORE: 9.5/10