This issue was fairly confusing.  While some of this confusion was entirely intentional, other elements were made confusing by the art/panel layouts or peculiar plot choices.  Undesirable elements aside, this issue does present us with some rather enjoyable moments, such as Riddler’s staggering suggestions regarding the identity of the “Party Planner”, Warren giving Vicki a surprisingly enjoyable pep talk, and the Riddler just doing his thing.  Let’s delve in, shall we?

The portrayal of the Riddler is dead on: taunting Batman from afar and talking so much that it is hard to realize what part of what he is saying is actually relevant.  Riddler throws out several riddles in this issue, and I was ok with all of them but the first.  I usually like to try and figure out what the Riddler is going on about, but in the case of the first riddle, even after the answer was explained, I just didn’t buy it. Nothing in it was specific enough to lead Batman to the exact location he ends up investigating; it seems more like a happy accident led him there: Julia just happens to mention a place that Bruce still owns, off the records, and it fits Nygma’s riddle but it seems to me that there were a number of locales that might have fit the bill. The implication that the hotel had some sort of history that may have factored into it being the answer to the riddle, lead me on a hunt for information regarding the Bullseye Casino and Resort in Batman mythology.  I couldn’t find any…

The rest of the Riddler analysis is going to be dropped in spoiler tags, since it gives too much away:

Spoiler
  I didn’t see the hidden meaning to the first riddle until Batman announced it.  “Dads old news I place my bet on daughters”  It was meant to reference JD and Talia.  Could this be the return of Talia?  The solicitations for the last 5 issues of Eternal comment on a knife being slide under Batman’s ribs.  Kinda reminds me of the finale of The Dark Knight Rises, and would mirror Talia’s involvement.

If you are like me and are thinking that Lincoln March is the “Party Planner”, this issue and previous ones also bear indication that this is a strong possibility.  Evidence: the original preview poster for Eternal had an owl on a tree branch in the background, this would indicate that Court of Owls would somehow play a role; the Owl also makes a very prominent appearance on this issues cover; the last issue took place at Willowwood orphanage, which was the orphanage that March was assigned to;  Riddler answers Batman’s question about who is responsible by saying, “You are Echo”.  Which could be read, You’re Echo.  Which sounds like,  Your Echo.  Seems like the kind of riddle that Riddler would make.  What does “Your Echo” mean?  Your Echo could mean March, as in, March is Bruce’s reflection, all be it a dark reflection but a reflection nonetheless.

A small part of me feels like there are far too many things pointing to March.  When he eventually shows up we won’t be surprised at all at this point.  This is the one thing that makes me still curious to see if it will end up being someone else.  All the March stuff might be misdirection so we can actually be surprised when someone else steps out of the shadows.     

Warren

The other character moment that I wasn’t expecting but fully enjoyed was Warren bucking up Vicki.  I could totally hear him talking in a fast paced, no nonsense, reporter voice dripping with sarcasm.  (Where are you? Who cares, Not interested!)  While I did enjoy the pep talk, it seemed odd and out of character for Vicki to even need one.  As a matter of fact, the last time we saw her, she seemed perfectly fine, telling Bard off, and hoping for him to get punched in the face by Batman.  Vicki has always been a little firecracker with a disposition to match, and seeing her all teary eyed and down trodden just seemed weird to me.

crosshatching

Felix Ruiz handles art this time around, and I have to admit, I’m not a fan of his style.  It looks “scratchy”, with a fairly heavy use of cross hatching and random line work throughout the panels.  His work also has an ill-defined quality to it that lends itself more towards representational than realistic.  I would, in no way, say that his work is bad, it is a very deliberate stylistic choice however I don’t think it lends itself well to this kind of comic.  Perhaps in an independent piece it might feel right at home, but here I found it somewhat off putting and distracting.

It might just be me, but I had to look at page four for longer than I felt was necessary in order to determine what was transpiring.  On the previous page, the officers were seen in rust colored uniforms, making me think the guys in black on page 4 were different individuals who were ambushing the cops.  I also didn’t feel that the spacial relationship of the area was established well enough in order to guide us through the actions of the scene.  Like I said, I initially thought the guys in black were hiding in the parking garage and burst forth from the shadows to surround the vehicles.  It wasn’t till further examination and reflection that I realized that the internal lighting of the armored cars were causing the color change in the uniforms and that on panel 3 it appears that one of the guys in black is exiting through the open door of one of the cars.

Swat

This is an image of one of the Swat guys after having been shot in the face by the turncoat Swat members.  Even though Ruiz’s work didn’t have the detailing I would have liked, this one panel made me feel some instinctive revolt.  I felt that the nondescript style with which Ruiz implements his work actually helped this particular image, adding to the savagery of the action.

While I don’t have anything detailed to say in regards to the cover, I just wanted to take a moment to recognize Tommy Lee Edwards for giving it to us.  I think it is very pretty.  When I first saw it, I was so busy staring at the owl and considering the ramifications and potential implications that I didn’t even see the Riddler hiding in the trees.

Spoiler

  • How in the hell is Clayface handcuffed?!?!?!  Seriously, what the hell?!?!?!?
  • Where the hell did Firefly come from?  I don’t remember him being in any other issue of Eternal thus far.  Since he is in the car with Lock-up, Signalman, Ratcatcher, and Cluemaster, it would imply that he was part of their group but they never showed that before.  Actually Prankster was part of their group, where did he go?  The other thing that is weird is that Signalman, Ratcatcher, and Lock-up never got captured.  What are they doing in police custody now?  Cluemaster got arrested, but the rest never did.  Sigh….
  • Can someone help me out with my memory involving this Patrick intern guy who shot Warren.  Somewhere in one of these volumes of Eternal, I seem to recall an indication that somebody put a mole in at the Gotham Gazette.  Is this something that actually happened, or am I recalling something that my mind just made up in order to justify this surprise coming out of nowhere?
  • Other than the writers wanting this to end on a cliffhanger, I’m not sure why Nygma would potentially cause his own death by igniting those explosions.  What is the logic in his train of thought that lead him to that outcome?
  • I love how Tim murmurs, “Yeah, your welcome”, under his breath, as Batman hangs up on him.
  • Nygma got invited as well but declined to join.  He says he declined because it was sloppy and childish, but I think it was more because, if it was going to work, he wanted to be responsible for it and not just another stooge.
  • Tunneling caused the Arkham collapse?  I’m guessing we are meant to think that even if that spectral explosion had not occurred, the collapse of Arkham was imminent anyway.   I wasn’t sure how the Arkham thing was going to connect to the rest of Eternal, and honestly I’m still not sure how the Deacon Blackfire element connected exactly, but I’m happy to see that the “Party Planner” was somehow involved in that story arc, because up till now I thought it was just filler.
  • Does Nygma know that Batman is Bruce?  In pre52 continuity he did, but does he now?  Last issue, Bane made a comment that legitimized the fact that the events of Knightfall occurred.  If my guess about “Your Echo” is true, it would imply that Riddler knows Bruce’s secret.  While Riddler didn’t know in Zero Year, it is possible that the events of Hush (2003) still occurred between that and now and we just don’t know it yet.  One of the things that is frustrating about the New52 is that you can never be sure what has and hasn’t happened until it gets referenced or over written.  At this point we can’t ignore that Nygma might know.

Interesting Facts:

  • Firefly was first introduced in Detective Comics #184 (1952).  This was the Garfield Lynns version of the character.  7 years later, in Batman #126 (1959), the Ted Carson version of Firefly was introduced.
  • Nightwing Annual #1 (2013) introduced Firefly to the New52.  In the Annual, both Garfield and Ted are characters.  Garfield Lynns was the most predominantly known version of Firefly up to this point, so when he ends up getting killed by Ted Carson in the issue, many individuals found it odd, figuring that it was an unnecessary twist to surprise the audience.  While I will admit that I was surprised and upset by it initially (Lynns being the firefly I grew up with), I eventually remembered that Ted was also Firefly at one point, and accepted the change.
  • In Batman #400 (1986), Ra’s Al Ghul orchestrates a massive breakout from both Arkham Asylum and Gotham State Penitentiary.  The primary purpose was to distract Batman from Ra’s true goal.
  • In Batman #491 (1993), Bane frees the inmates of Arkham Asylum in order to wear Batman down in preparation for his ultimate goal.
  • Now, in Batman Eternal, we are witnessing yet another massive breakout to both distract and wear down Batman.

Recommended if…

  • You love yourself some Riddler
  • You like pondering the possibilities of who the “Party Planner” might be.

Overall:

For the third week in a row, Eternal provides us with a rather bumpy ride.  Fun at times, but also wrought with its fair share of problems.  While this issue is very important to understanding the narrative of the ongoing story, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was structured as well as it could have been.  Often, technical issues, such as flow and function, were outweighed by necessities and style, providing a less than ideal reading experience.  I think people will get a lot more out of thinking and talking about the issue than in reading it.

SCORE: 6.5 / 10