James Tynion has a tendency to overwrite, filling his pages with an abundance of exposition and fluff… This isn’t one of those instances.
First off, I have to give Tynion credit for winning my attention immediately on the first page. I opened the book and felt like I had been sucked into a time-warp that transported me back to the early 90’s because we have Tim… in school… studying with Ives! Yo… James… J-Man… You get made points for this! If you’ve never explored Tim’s early years in publication, then you should. His transition from a normal citizen to Robin is essentially the coming-of-age story you never knew you needed. In fact, the early Robin series is so good, that I promise it will validate why us “old guys” love and push for Tim so much.
Before jumping into the meat of this issue though, I want to continue my focus on the history of comics for a second more. Tynion’s respect for what’s come before him plays a large role in creating some of his best moments. So, if you have a solid history with comics, you’ll probably appreciate this issue more than a new or casual reader. There are so many nods to older runs and issues, and Tynion finds ways to give these moments relevance in today’s stories without having them simply serve as easter eggs. In a way, it’s as if his writing is super meta, but not in an obnoxious way that feels forced, contrived, of full of itself. It’s more like a double-finger point with a wink, as if he’s secretly saying, “I got you, dude.”
Anyway, I know I’m growing overly excited about the past, and while this might feel like a flashback for a number of us, the opening scene is actually a flashforward. As revealed in the last issue, Ulysses has “future Tim’s” memories after downloading files from tech he’d left behind. If you’ll remember, “future Tim” originally came into this timeline to hunt down Kate Kane, but we never knew why. Well, rest your weary head, because we find out in this chapter.
So, what exactly does Kate do in the future that turns Tim all homicidal? You’ll have to read the issue to find that out, but I promise, the payoff is worth the wait. However, how you may have felt about Kate’s actions concerning Clayface are beside the point here, because the scenario that plays out in this issue is completely different… and if I’m being honest, it would probably turn me into a homicidal anti-hero as well!
With each page I read, I found myself becoming more and more invested in the story. I was eager to learn what would happen next. I was also happy to find that the story structure and characterization of this issue reminded me of Tynion’s first arc on Detective Comics. The story is well-written with a slick presentation. The fact that so many stories and consequences have built to this moment don’t hurt either. And if I’m being honest, the progression this story makes feels so natural, that I wonder why stories like “The Victim Syndicate” had to pull the quality of this title down.
From the introduction of the Colony, to Kate’s role with the team, to Tim’s abduction, and the appearance of Tim from the “Titans of Tomorrow” universe… everything falls into place perfectly. A number of complexities concerning character relationships and nuances with plot are in the spotlight here, and it’s incredible.
If there’s one thing this chapter struggles with, it’s a feeling of “been there done that.” Repetition – especially the threat of Brother Eye – is hard for me to take seriously or get behind because we experienced this during the New 52’s Worlds’ End. In fact, even the final page of this issue is a bit reminiscent of how the first arc of Detective Comics Vol. 1 concluded. And at the heart of all of these problems, is Ulysses. There’s nothing fun or interesting in regurgitating stories, so as much as I enjoyed this issue, I do have to wonder if this will be as good as it gets for “Batman Eternal.” I hope that’s not the case, but I suspect it will be.
The Art: Both the standard and variant cover look really good, but I can’t help but wonder if narratively, these covers should’ve been used for issue #978. When all is said and done, I feel as though the depiction is more suitable for where the narrative is taking us, not where we are in this chapter.
As for the internal art, pencils are shared between Javier Fernandez, Eddy Barrows, and Eber Ferrlira. Surprisingly, the styles don’t differ that much from one another, and it wasn’t until I caught Tim’s eyes during one panel that I realized I was looking at Fernandez’ work instead of Barrows. I’d prefer having a single artist, but these guys are all more than capable and proved that here.
- You want to learn what Kate does to turn future Tim into a homicidal anti-hero.
- You’re a fan of Tim’s original solo runs.
- Brother Eye is coming.
Overall: Detective Comics #977 hits a lot of great, fun notes for me, and serves up a dish of drama as well. Tim shines in the issue, but it’s “future Kate’s” actions that will have you talking, and create a debate on whether future Tim really is out of his mind, or if you feel his actions were justified now that you have context. The downfall of the chapter is Brother Eye, and after Worlds’ End and Batman Beyond, I’m ok if Brother Eye goes away for a good while.