Drew: What do we expect of this series? Grand world-building? Serviceable (if maybe uninspired) Batman stories? When we discussed the first issue, I argued that the way this series addresses our expectations — the way it fulfills some but defies others — may be its most distinctive characteristic. Indeed, issue 2 is so drastically different in form and focus, it’s easy to see defiance of expectations as this series’ unifying trait.
The utter shift in focus — Gordon is the only Gotham cop who speaks the entire issue — manages to effectively double the scope of the story by exerting all of its exposition elsewhere. We meet Vicki Vale and some of her team at the Gotham Gazette, we see Batman’s allies reacting to the news of the accident (and Gordon’s arrest), we see that there may be supernatural elements afoot, and we see that Mayor Hady is in the pocket of the very same man who is behind the accident: Carmine “The Roman” Falcone.
That final reveal is played for all its worth, keeping Falcone in the shadows until his final reveal, even as Batman draws closer to discovering who is responsible. Jason Fabok drops a few hints — this man likes roses, this man has a distinctive cat-scratch scar on his cheek — cluing longtime fans in, but neither spoiling nor going over the head of newcomers. Exactly what this means for Batman’s New 52 continuity isn’t entirely clear — Falcone was famously scarred in Year One, which is obviously no longer canon — and I suspect we’ll have a lot of fun parsing that in the weeks and months to come. Either way, the mystery of who this man is forms a compelling structure for this issue, and the reveal is given enough weight to land even if you’ve never heard of The Roman before.
For me, though, is the real fist-pumping moment of this issue is how effortlessly Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV can blow up the scope of their story by simply showing us all of our favorite Batman allies.
It’s basically the same trick Snyder and Tynion pulled in the backup for Batman 8, but is all the more effective here because we know the responses will play out in this series — this isn’t an explanation of spinoffs, but a promise to utilize each and every one of these characters as this series progresses. The number of issues and volume of creative muscle committed to this series gives me every bit of confidence that Batman Eternal will make good on that promise.
But what about this business about Blackfire? Or John Constantine’s presence in Gotham? Snyder and Tynion are clearly seeding a longer game here, reminding me for all the world of the hints about “52” hidden throughout 52 (a series which I loved). We’re clearly going to be spinning a lot of plates here — 52 issues offers a lot of room to sprawl — but I’m interested in basically everything going at this point.
So what did everyone else think? Were you as excited to see the Bat allies appear here as I was (and to see Harper counted among them)? Are you pleased with the reveal that Falcone will be the (or at least a) big bad of the series? And how do we feel about the supernatural creeping into this series?
Spencer: Personally, I’m not a big fan of the supernatural stuff creeping into the series; it’s pretty much my least favorite mode for Batman to operate in, but that’s just my personal preference. There were two things that really got me excited in this issue, though: the first, Drew, is that spread you posted of all of Batman’s allies answering the call. I just love the Bat-family so much that it’s always a joy to see them gather together, but I also love how the brief look at each character manages to tell a story. This is especially evident in Red Hood’s panel: Jason’s sitting at a bar in Hong Kong, watching the news, while the background is full of KO’d (possibly dead) ninjas like it ain’t a thing — that’s just the perfect look at Jason Todd and where he is at this point of time. I’m also fond of Harper getting her news from the computer instead of TV, because of course she does.
Perhaps the most exciting of these introductions for me, though, is Red Robin. Tim Drake was the Robin for decades, but he’s felt displaced ever since Damian’s arrival, and especially since the New 52, which attempted to give him a strong presence among the Teen Titans (the less said about that, the better) but in the process caused him to feel less and less like a part of the Bat-Family. The Tim Drake in the above spread isn’t the exact same Tim I’m used to, but honestly, I’m just excited to see him return to Gotham. I want to see Red Robin reclaim his rightful place in the Batman mythos.
The other thing that’s got my blood pumping is Falcone’s plan:
Batman: Year One and especially The Long Halloween were about the fall of organized crime and the rise of costumed criminals in Gotham City, and Falcone played pivotal roles in both stories. Now he’s back to plot his return, to plot the fall of the “freaks” that cost him his city so long ago, and I’m intrigued to see what that entails — how can Falcone hope to drive Arkham’s bunch out of Gotham without resorting to becoming a freak himself? There’s also a lot of interesting talk about the kind of city Gotham wants to be, which goes hand-in-hand with the idea of Gotham as a living entity that Snyder’s been building since “The Black Mirror.” Everybody has a different idea of what kind of city Gotham is, but Falcone’s the first to ask what kind of city Gotham wants to be. Sure, it’s awfully convenient that what Gotham wants is so advantageous to Falcone, but this idea still throws an interesting amount of fatalism into the Roman’s worldview. People fighting to keep the world they way they think it’s supposed to be can awfully dangerous.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?