BATMAN ETERNAL’S strength is centered on when the book gets into the nitty-gritty of the goings-on in Gotham. The occasional “big” story is fine to break things up, but this should definitely be a book that focuses on the extended Batman, and Gotham, universe and that’s exactly what this issue does. With last week’s double-dose of villainous returns, this week had a lot to live up to and does an amazing job of meeting that hype. The litany of incredibly talented creators from storytellers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV to the dialog and details realized by scriptwriter Kyle Higgins with some finer touches put on by Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley could smother a book with a concept this grounded, but these guys, most of the luminaries of Batman or Batfamily books avoid stepping on each others’ toes and give us a focused, intense product. One of Gotham’s new crowning achievements is targeted for a rather unique, and impromtu, demolition by a villain we haven’t seen since before the big RESET button was pressed but it’s someone Scott Snyder’s got plenty of experience with and it’s great to see him make a return. But while the story’s head is focused on the villains, its heart remains with the Pennyworths when Alfred’s daughter discovers an incredible revelation that changes her entire family dynamic. There are only two major plot threads in this issue, and that allows it to have an incredible focus and concentration, giving this issue not only a sense of high-stakes but a savage intensity that leaves the reader craving more immediately when it’s over.
Jorge Lucas steps in on linework and his style is perfect for this title. He has a style that’s very simple and grounded, but has a lot of fine details that reveal themselves, especially in his wider shots. The panels that have a larger scope are the ones that are the standouts in this issue and, while it’s a smaller story, his style helps give it a sense of a much larger world. Brett Smith’s colors are, in all sense of the word, pitch-perfect. This is a pitch-black book tonally and Smith’s color palette isn’t the largest, but it is extremely appropriate and has a lot of depth to it. The darkness of this book is communicated beautifully and one may feel the need of a good toothbrushing after biting into all this glorious grit.
While the larger panels and shadows look great, a lot of the detail gets smudged and becomes less distinct in closeup, especially if that closeup involves a character’s face. The facial expressions tend to fall flat and don’t have great emotional depth to them. Julia Pennyworth, especially, winds up looking petulant when she should look furious and confused when she should look shocked. Her reaction to the revelation that she learns this issue is actually rather muted across the board, considering what it means for her and her family. It weakens the emotional core of the book. We get a sort of secondary “reveal” at the end of this book, but it’s of something that was actually revealed last issue, we just get a name this time. But if the reader didn’t already know their name from last issue, then the secondary reveal still falls flat, but if they did, then they don’t NEED the reveal again. It feels like going back to the well too soon.
This is another solid entry in this series, and it feels like the beginning of a truly amazing storyline. The fact that it’s also a continuation of a previously started storyline is actually to its credit and a testament to how consistent the book’s been overall. I honestly can’t wait to see what next week’s issue brings as these are two characters who couldn’t be in better hands than they are now.