By: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Tim Seely (story), Jason Fabok (art), Brad Anderson (colors)

The Story: As if the Gotham underground doesn’t experience enough delays.

The Review: In a comic book world that already seems overpopulated with people following the bat standard, did we really need another ongoing Bat-series, and a weekly one at that? I’ve made this complaint before (and again before that), but surely there’s got to be a limit to how many titles one franchise can creatively support at one time before they all start blurring together. Batman Eternal can’t get by on just being a decent title; it has to set itself apart from a family of eerily similar siblings.

This issue alone doesn’t do it, even if Snyder-Tynion* start things off by coming at the story from an appreciably different angle. It’s not exactly common for people to talk about Gotham and emphasize its light and brightness, after all. As a metaphor, this talk about light suggests that hope springs eternal in the darkest corner of the DCU, but that idea runs counter to the apocalyptic Gotham that greets us on the issue’s opening page. Gotham’s light may be a more sinister thing in this world, an electric lamp that lures good people like GCPD cop Jason Bard to perish in the city’s dispassionate maw.

That’s the cruelty of Gotham, right there. We’ve seen how the Bat-family, arguably the noblest figures in the city, have suffered for their good intentions, and Gordon has suffered no less from this reversed karma. Few writers ever give Gordon much beyond a supporting role, but there’s been amazing consistency to his characterization as the finest of Gotham’s finest, a contemporary of Batman in civilian clothing. It’s thus unsurprising that someone would want to tear down Gordon’s life and reputation just as so many others have tried to do with Batman himself.

Clearly, a person who can orchestrate circumstances such that Gordon ends up causing the collision of two subway cars has to be someone big, far bigger than GCPD Major Forbes, even if he is outrageously treacherous (“Gordon can fight against it all he wants. He’ll lose eventually.”). While the attack is on Gordon, the person behind it is clearly aiming at Batman, probably the same voice we hear taunting him in future, “Watch, Bruce…watch as you lose everything.” But we’ve seen similar plans before, executed with even greater horror (Joker in Death of the Family) or ostentatiousness (Talia in Batman Inc.).

Making Gordon a target does take the story in some interesting directions, though. The Batman-Gordon relationship can stand some redefinition, after years of unquestioning, almost complacent partnership. It’s actually quite touching to see Batman’s commitment to Gordon in a crisis. After the trains go down, Gordon asks if Batman’s going to disappear on him. Batman tells him, “Not this time. I can stay.” That’s not just a line from a longtime collaborator; that’s friendship.

Getting the GCPD involved is also a good way to go, if only to leaven the costumed mix with some ordinary folk. Besides newcomer Bard, both Harvey Bullock and Maggie Sawyer are available to fill the vacuum Gordon leaves behind. If Snyder-Tynion are smart, they’ll spend more time focusing on the civvies than the flock of Bats; when else are we ever going to get an opportunity for a dedicated GCPD storyline?

It’s been a while since I’ve last seen Fabok’s work, but gosh, this is really beautiful stuff he’s putting out. Not the most inspired, innovative work, but lush and richly rendered and just very immersive. By this point, he definitely belongs in the upper echelons of the mainstream artists, given his ability to draw pretty much anything well and his mastery over both explosive action sequences and soap-operatic moments of drama. Every now and then, you get a small, inspired moment, like the way Gordon’s tie and trenchcoat flare up around him, the same way Batman’s cape does for him as they run towards danger side-by-side. This is a nice visual treat to look forward to every week.

Conclusion: It’s not original, but there’s thought, rather than pure exploitation, driving the series.

Grade: B

-Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * I’m well aware that there are a whole slew of “Consulting Writers” on this series, and I’m sure they all have their part, but since the actual “Story & Script” were done by Snyder-Tynion, I’ll just refer to them in the reviews from now on.