By: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, Tim Seely (story), Trevor McCarthy (art), Guy Major (colors)
The Story: Even bats can be scared of ghosts—or, more specifically, spirits of vengeance.
The Review: Having stuck by this series for some weeks now, it’s become painfully clear that a weekly series really takes a bite out of your budget. You are talking about a quadruple (at times quintuple) investment than your typical monthly comic, so even if you want to, you have to think twice about a long-term commitment to spending that kind of money. Next to the bigger-impact Futures End (and upcoming World’s End), my bucks just don’t stretch as far with Batman Eternal.
I want to make it clear, however, that my decision has little to do with the actual quality of this series, which has been fine, if not spectacular thus far. It’s true that issues can vary wildly from week to week, depending on who’s charged with scripting duties, but everyone on this writing team pretty much stands on even ground. In fact, considering the number of cooks in the kitchen, it’s remarkable how the finished dish comes out tasting kind of the same each week, which is part of Eternal‘s problem.
Six weeks in, and there’s already a clear running pattern for the issue we get each week: one or two members of the Bat-family are introduced; they have a quick catch-up with Batman, who updates them on the latest happenings on the Gotham gang war; and then we might just get a few vague hints about what’s going on before the issue closes. It’s your average slow start made slower by stretching it out over six (and probably more) issues. It can’t be helped; there are so many characters involved that you have to put in at least a few weeks at a time for everyone to take the same incremental step forward. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that we’re still not done with getting to know all the cast members. This issue brings in Luke Fox (a.k.a. Batwing), Joker’s Daughter, and a more fleshed-out appearance by Jim Corrigan (a.k.a. the Spectre), but we still haven’t gotten to mainstays like Batwoman, Red Hood, or Dick Grayson.
The writers do make things easier on themselves by grouping up the Gothamites, as they do here with Luke and Jim, one of the more interesting combinations. There’s a lot of potential in the contrast between Luke’s young, urban, tech-savvy professionalism and Jim’s middle-aged, dapper, mystical dryness, although given how out of Luke’s wheelhouse all this occult stuff is, pairing him off with Jim isn’t the most logical move. Bruce basically orders Luke to accompany Jim, and Luke unquestioningly obeys, a sign that Luke lacks the independence that the other Bat-people, even Harper Row, have.
Unfortunately, there’s not much opportunity for Luke to assert himself in the issue. We first see him in the middle of a duel-gone-south with the Gentlemen Ghost, whom Bruce defeats himself, and most of the remainder of the issue is Jim informing Bruce of what we already know: there’s some supernatural element at play, though he doesn’t elaborate on what that is. Later, he describes it as a “summoning,” but we kind of already know that from the grisly scene of Joker’s Daughter performing some arm-wrenching ritual at the bottom of Arkham Asylum: “It’s all part of the summoning. We have to bring the man back.” Obviously: what man? Joker? Or is that too obvious?
To be frank, that whole sequence of an Arkham inmate being led through the building into its lower cavities would be a touch too long and unproductive in almost any scenario, but McCarthy’s pacing is so seductive that you can almost look past it—almost. Anyway, McCarthy’s art is also admirably capable of both humor and grimness as needed, and as tense as a coiled spring whether it’s the flickering shadows and silhouettes beneath Gotham or Batwing plunging through the city as he tussles with the Gentlemen Ghost. Major’s glossy, vibrant colors are just the thing to cut through McCarthy’s strong inks, and together, they make this issue a visual treat.
Conclusion: Economic considerations have a way of making all commitment decisions easier. Batman Eternal is not bad, but it’s too niche compared to its other weekly competitors. Amicably Dropped.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Obviously, Batman knows all the typical methods for exorcising ghosts: “I hit him with Nth Metal. Don’t ask me why it drives him away, but it does. He should stay gone until the next new moon.” There’s really not much you can say to that.
– Jim: “Bruce! You didn’t have to change for me. The Spectre told me you’re really Batman a long time ago!” Oh, that Spectre! Him and his goofy pranks!