Flashbacks, beat downs, a cast of dozens, inside references, 38 pages worth of story, and 8 epilogues! This book is so full of greatness that those two little staples can hardly contain it. Was there some melodrama? Yes. Did every loose end get tied up? No. Is it perfect? No. But it was damn entertaining!
A lot of times when a critique analyzes a comic, they point out how something wasn’t quite as believable as they would have liked, or a scene lacked the level of realism they needed in order to buy into it. I’ll admit that I’m usually one of those people, but as I read this issue, all of that melted away. I found myself being swept away by the shear joy of enjoying a story for being nothing more than an audacious superhero blockbuster extravaganza of an experience. While the last 2 months of Eternal may have been less than stellar, I’m not going to let that sour taste in my mouth ruin a finale that was actually satisfying.
I typically try to be a little vague on details when doing my reviews. I don’t want to spoil the experience for those who have not read yet, but let’s be honest…at this point you’re either here to talk about it because you’ve already read it or you’re not getting it and you are just here to find out how it ends. I apologize to those who don’t fit one of those two parameters, but I am going to discuss this issue openly. I’m not going to spoil everything, but I’m also not going to edit myself as heavily as usual. So without further ado…
This book is so huge, and I didn’t want to leave anything out, so I decided the best way to tackle it was to break it down and review a piece at a time. I’m breaking it down by the artist/s responsible for each section. And let me tell you, this book had an entire horde of artist lending their skills in order to deliver the finale. Here are the artists from this issue and the sections they handled.
- Eduardo Pansica + Julio Ferreira – the main story.
- Tim Seeley – the Catwoman epilogue.
- Ray Fawkes – the Batwing/Corrigan epilogue.
- David LaFuente – the Red Robin/Harper/Stephanie epilogue.
- Robson Rocha + Guillermo Ortego – the flashback scene with Cluemaster and Lincoln March and the epilogues with Vicki/Bard, Barbara/Gordon, Jason, and the last three pages.
The Main Story
The meat of this story consists of the conflict between Batman and Lincoln, intercut with various other characters dealing with the ensuing chaos that Gotham is experiencing. Admittedly, Lincoln ends up monologuing his butt off during the entire fight, but given it turns out to be his only opportunity to brag about his triumph, I’m going to give him a pass. It’s actually rather interesting how Lincoln has decided to embrace the fact that he is nobody. Instead of being a boastfully villain who would parade his victory for all to see, he has decided that it is enough for him to know that he has won. When all is said and done, he will return to the shadows, and no one will come looking for him since no one will ever know he was involved. (He really did intend for Cluemaster to be his fall guy.) Along with a lot of visceral action, we also get several nods to previous Scott Snyder stories during their fight. It’s nothing that you need to know in order to fully enjoy the story, but it definitely makes those moments stand out, as you reminisce about the past.
In the darkest hour, Gordon does this…
While some might consider Gordon’s dialogue leading up to this moment somewhat corny, and on some level I agree, it was still very inspiring. I’m not sure if it was the sight of all those Bat-signals, or when Gordon says, “Tonight, we all need to do what he does for us every night” (maybe it was a little of both), but I found that my heart grew 3 sizes. In the reality of the situation, it is unlikely that every citizen ended up lending a hand, but even if only 10% of the city was moved to action, that is still a heck of a lot of people.
Along with the GCPD, BatFamily, and random Gotham citizens, we also get several surprise guests who show up to lend a hand: Katana, Black Canary, Batwoman, and even……!?!?!Calvin Rose!?!?!? Where the heck did he come from!?! Now, that was a surprise! (I guess he was tired of having drinks at the bar with Jean Paul Valley.) While there were a ton of people who chipped in to save Gotham, we didn’t spend too much time focusing on them. We just have to assume that they were all doing a ton of stuff off page in order to get the city back under control. During all this chaos there was a single panel that really stood out to me with one of the characters. It’s a moment that you could easily fly right by as you rush to get to the end: Jason Todd thinks he is going to die and asks the cave to record a message that he wants to leave for Bruce. Maybe I am a total sap, but to me it was actually the single most moving moment in this entire book. I know it is a complete throw away moment that isn’t even relevant to the overall story, but it really stuck in my mind. While giant explosions and bare knuckled brawls are great eye candy, it’s these quieter character driven moments that I really live for.
The main story wraps up when all the characters converge on Batman’s location in order to give him a hand with Lincoln. Who is the first on the scene….
Spoiler pulls a total Catwoman from “The Dark Knight Rises“. I saw this, and I could already hear all the belly achers collectively moaning with their sighs of exasperation. But you know what, I’m totally giving this moment a pass too. Bruce had just delivered a face mask shattering head butt to Lincoln, and before Spoiler moved in for the punch she threw a bucket of paint right in his face. Lincoln was most likely disoriented and half blind. It is completely plausible. I was reminded of how the last time she hit someone she hurt her hand, but for all we know she learned her lesson from that experience and had been hitting that punching bag in Harper’s apartment. Yes, maybe a little unbelievable, but how good does it feel to see her give that smug @!%*?@# a nice knuckle sandwich? There’s nothing quite like getting your butt handed to you by a little kid to take the wind out of your sails. If the fight had gone on, then it would have been a real stretch, but it really was just that one punch. A second later and everybody and their brother shows up on the scene. It’s Lincoln vs 12. How does he deal with the situation? He turns tail and runs off just like Count Rugen from the Princess Bride. If I had been in a theatre, I would have simultaneously cheered and laughed.
Eduardo Pansica + Julio Ferreira handled the art for these sections and I thought they delivered some good old fashioned comic book action! Is it all realistic? No, but it is the heightened reality that comprises classic comic book fanfare. The facial expressions become more exaggerated, punches send foes reeling across half the page, and almost everyone bares their best battle grimace. We get explosions, debris, shattering glass, and fire on almost every page. The colorist, Allan Passalaqua, hardly lets a panel slip by that isn’t bathed in the warm orange glow of a thousand fires. Tell me that full page spread of Gotham City in flames with the night sky lit up with Batsignals isn’t worthy of a poster!
Tim Seeley’s Catwoman scene + Ray Fawkes’ Batwing/Corrigan scene
If those names seem familiar to you, it’s because Tim Seeley and Ray Fawkes are two of the writers for Batman Eternal. Seems they wanted to get in on the action and contribute some art of their own to the story. To be honest, I’m not sure why they didn’t contribute more art. Perhaps they were too busy to take on the challenge of writer and artist at the same time, or maybe they felt their art wasn’t entirely enough to carry a whole issue. If it is the later, I would like to inform them that their art is actually better than a few of the artist who have graced the pages of Batman Eternal. (I’m looking at you G.M. Guera!) Admittedly, I’m a lot more fond of Seeley’s pencils than I am of Fawkes, but I think both could have found a good place to display their skills. Fawkes was the writer who handled a large portion of the Arkham sections of Batman Eternal, and I have to say I think his art would have lent itself well to those very sections. It has a certain intangible/otherworldly feel to it that those very section also conveyed.
The story elements that ran through their sections were both very enjoyable, but in a completely disparate manner. Catwoman’s section was filled with a touch of humor along with a continuance of the power struggle that exists between Batman and Selina. I particularly enjoyed the nonchalant way in which she belittled him to his face. Meanwhile, the Corrigan/Batwing scene was anything but adversarial. Instead, showing a more seasoned veteran of the world condoning the growth of someone who had become a friend. I’m not sure why exactly, but I really liked the two of them as a team.
David LaFuente’s Red Robin/Harper/Stephanie scene
David LaFuente handled a Harper/Stephanie centric issue earlier on in eternal (#43) and returns for the finale to illustrate their epilogue. Much in the way that I gravitated toward the single panel of Jason Todd in the main story, there was a moment in this one that also fully captured my attention. You can see it above. Not a single word was spoken, but in that one panel, I read volumes. It doesn’t matter what timeline, universe, or dimension they are in…..Steph and Tim always have eyes for each other. For a single moment I saw them again, as themselves, and it was beautiful. What? So I’m a shipper when it comes to Steph and Tim. So sue me. (Why can’t those crazy kids just make it work.)
Robson Rocha + Guillermo Ortego’s sections
Before I even talk about the story elements, can I just say that these two delivered the best art in the entire book. Just look at this stuff!
Where have these guys been hiding? Have I seen their stuff before and somehow completely forgotten they existed? Whatever the case may be, I completely loved their work and hope to see them again in the near future.
The book opens with a flashback involving Cluemaster and Lincoln. It is a really nice moment, not only because we get to revisit The Court of Owls, but because it cements just how smart Cluemaster really was. He was able to piece together a puzzle that even Batman was having some trouble with. After the last issue, I was curious to see just how much of the plan was really Cluemaster’s and how much was from Lincoln. Turns out Cluemaster really was the mastermind behind all of Eternal, while Lincoln was just his benefactor fronting him the money to carry it out. Cluemaster may have died, but he pulled off one heck of a caper on his way out!
As I already stated, Eternal has 8 epilogues and Rocha and Ortego handle 5 of them. The first of which is a scene between Bard and Vicki. It is wrought with all kinds of tension, primarily of distrust, but oddly enough of a sexual nature too. Not only was Bard a sort of accomplice to the entire fiasco that was Eternal, but he also started a relationship with Vicki and took advantage of her position as a journalist while involved with her. Maybe using her journalistic ties was always part of the plan, but I think somewhere along the way Bard actually developed feelings for Vicki. Bard ends up breaking down Vicki’s walls through an onslaught of humor, genuine remorse, and self punishment. Regardless of his tactics, I don’t think Vicki would have forgiven him if there weren’t already some part of her that wanted to. She doesn’t mind you, but you can see she is considering it. Do I see a future for the two of them? In the comic book world, it is definitely a feasible outcome, but not so much if this were real. The door is also left wide open for Bard to take on the role of private investigator, which would fall right in line with his pre52 version.
They also handle a wonderful father daughter scene that somehow felt very reminiscent of the one Gordon and Barbara had from The Killing Joke for some reason. It just captured their relationship so perfectly that it made me sad that we don’t get to see more of this kind of interaction between the two of them. Poking fun at one another but still being each other’s rock. The scene transitions into Jason Todd’s dilemma. Do I ask Barbara out or not? Look Jason, you already got to smooch on Dick Grayson’s ex: Princess Koriand’r of Tamaran. Do you really feel the need to follow in every single one of his footsteps? (Don’t worry he dismisses the idea.) I’ve brought this up before, but I really wish they would stop trying to turn Jason into some kind of Grayson stand in.
They close the entire book out with a tried and true rooftop meeting between Batman and Gordon. It’s a pep talk of sorts between the two of them that ends in the only way possible in the never ending story of the comic book world. Continuing the good fight.
Wait a minute Brandon! You said that there were 8 epilogues. That was only 7. And whatever happened to Lincoln March? I’m going to leave that one for you to discover on your own…..
This is by no means comprehensive, just the ones I thought of while writing the article. If you can think of others that you would like to share, then by all means, leave them in the comment section.
- Did we ever get a resolution on the Wayne fortune or Wayne Enterprises? I don’t think so. Plus, Arkham Manor established that Wayne donated the manor, but in Detective Comics we see him and Alfred taking down Christmas lights on the roof? So confusing….
- Did Vicki’s boss die? I’m pretty sure that the Batman Annual #3 took place after Eternal and he was alive there but I’m not entirely certain. Plus, anyone who is only reading Eternal would have no clue.
- Penguin is working for Selina? Isn’t something completely different happening in the pages of Catwoman right now?
- I’m not reading Gotham by Midnight, is Batwing in it?
- Whatever happened to James Gordon Jr?
- Did Vicki ever do anything with that thumb drive Spoiler gave her?
- Why hasn’t Jim been reinstated as Commissioner?
- Why is their a Taylor Swift reference in a Batman comic? Is there an overlap somewhere between being a hardcore Batman fan and a Swifty that I am unaware of? Are we even meant to catch it? (By the way, I did NOT know it was a reference to her until after I looked it up…..but I will say that Wicked is totally awesome.)
In regards to the page count and price point, you are definitely getting your money’s worth out of this book. The price point on this particular issue was 3.99, but it ended up being 38 pages long. Depending on how you do your comparison, that’s a minimum of 6 free pages and as many as 16. Whichever way you choose to slice it, you are getting something for free here. To be honest, I thought it was a very pleasant surprise and nice gesture on DC’s part. As small as it may have been, it seemed to me that it was a thank you to the fans for partaking in this epic sized adventure.
- You want to see how Batman Eternal ends.
- You want to feast on the smorgasbord of artists who get served up in the finale.
- You love when a comic sneaks in irrelevant but awesome character moments.
- You want to see Lincoln March get humiliated…..twice.
- You want to see the writers’ art skills.
- You just want to have a good time
This book has so much going on for it that it’s impossible to do it any justice in a blurb. You really need to read it for yourself. It’s a tour de force of everything that is synonymous with Batman Eternal. I’m genuinely surprised that they were able to devote meaningful time to everyone in the finale and not make it feel rushed or out of place. For the last 2 months I had been begging this series to get to the point, and now that it is here, I am actually sad to see it go.
SCORE: 9 / 10