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

The Story: Who knew it would only take a scarred mafia man to freak out Batman?

The Review: I’ve never reviewed a weekly series before, but I must say, I’m really liking the pace of it. My biggest gripe about monthlies is how insubstantial they seem when spread against a month (or more) of waiting until the next installment. In the cost-benefit calculation, monthly comics are kind of a raw deal, falling short of the satisfaction you get from a TV show or movie. With a weekly comic, even if a single issue doesn’t have much to it, you know you have more coming in just six days.

This allows Snyder-Tynion time to play out an event in much greater depth than they normally would be able to. Had Batman Eternal been a typical monthly, the first five pages of this issue would probably have been reduced to a single page of reactions from all the relevant Gothamites. You might not have lost the point of the sequence, but the impact of what happened to Gordon would’ve been diminished. Seeing in detail how each character takes in the event—Vicki Vale’s reluctance to publish the story and “destroy a good man’s life”; the Bat-family’s varying degrees of shock (it even elicits a “Damn…” from Jason Todd); Mayor Hady’s bewilderment of the situation, despite his corruption—gives you a better sense of Gordon’s position as one of Gotham’s most important pillars.

The sequence also tells you that Batman Eternal really is going to be a sprawling storyline, drawing in characters from every far corner of the Bat-universe and plumbing the depths of its mythos. Nowhere is that more true than in the mastermind of choice—spoiler alert—Carmine “the Roman” Falcone, the chief of Batman’s early foes, according to the gospel of Frank Miller. Interestingly, Falcone still inspires something like dread in Batman (“No…not him.“), even though he has the likes of Joker, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and so on and so forth to deal with now.

No matter how far-reaching Falcone’s influence, he’s still just your garden-variety mobster—isn’t he? Manipulating the transit system is one thing, but making Gordon see something that wasn’t there seems to be a task beyond him. This, and the sight of Jim Corrigan (a.k.a. the Spectre) at the scene of the subway crash, suggests that greater forces are afoot, and that Falcone may just be the hands and feet of “[f]ar greater evils.” You might think this a reference to Deacon Blackfire, who incinerates Dr. Phosphorus in Arkham, but that’d be quite a leap for someone whose last entry on Wikipedia pegged him as a mere conman and cult leader.

Whether the ultimate evil in this series is Falcone, Blackfire, or someone else entirely, this is, as Falcone declares, a “war for the soul of Gotham City,” which plays into an idea that has become a runaway obsession for Snyder. As I understand it, Snyder sees Gotham as a kind of creature itself, adapting to become every (Bat-)person’s nightmare, resistant to any attempt to tame it. Indeed, Falcone seems to see this as part of Gotham’s inherently corrupt nature, making the city irredeemable and the Bat-family’s heroism futile. It’s this kind of thinking that has turned Gotham into a modern-day mythological landscape, which perhaps makes it appropriate that otherworldly powers may be in play.

I wonder how long Fabok can keep up with this series. It’s hard to imagine any artist being able to deliver this degree of top-notch mainstream artistry on a weekly basis. Most artists tend to skimp on the detail in small panels, but Fabok keeps his lines fine and tight, so you can see every cog and widget piled in a smoking heap before Red Robin even in a panel barely two inches high.

His storytelling is solid, too, if not ambitious. That long panel of the subway crash at the top of the title page is an excellent sample of how to show the advance of time in a stationary image: as you pan from right to left, you can see the progression of events: Jason Bard leading Gordon away in cuffs; Forbes, Bullock, and Maggie watching him depart; a cop and firefighter running into the scene; and then the last sight of a crowd of firefighters crawling over the wreck of crumpled subway cars. Emotionally, Fabok is bringing Gary Frank levels of expression here, and at times, with Anderson’s shimmering colors in the mix, you can almost believe Frank himself is drawing certain panels.

Conclusion: Snyder-Tynion are still introducing you to all the players, but given their number and variety, it’s looking like Batman Eternal will be quite an enormous story.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Gordon: “Sometimes I think you forget I’m just a person.” When I read that, my heart fell in the same way it would if your dad had come in and announced he just lost his job at the factory after twenty years.