Batman Eternal 4

Batman eternal 4Today, Shelby leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 4, originally released April 30th, 2014.

Shelby: Last week, Spencer referenced the breakneck speed at which the Batman Eternal crew was giving us our story. While I do think this story is progressing along at a pretty good clip, I think it has more to do with us adjusting to a weekly story instead of a monthly one. Each issues gives us as much story as we’re used to, but now we’re getting 4 times the dosage every month. The weekly release schedule makes the story so much more effective — like Bruce, we are astounded and somewhat alarmed at how quickly events unfold.

Jim Gordon receives some bad news; his request for bail has been denied, meaning he’ll be killing time in Blackgate until his manslaughter trial. Babs doesn’t take too kindly to this news, and goes on a Pyg henchmen punch-em-up spree. Batman has to step in and tell her to cool off. He finds her in the Batcave, pouring over a hologram recreation of the train wreck. She wildly declares she’s found the man responsible, and storms out to deal with him. Meanwhile, Forbes’ grip on the GCPD only grows stronger, and Stephanie calls her mom, only to discover she’s more alone now than she realized.

mrs brownDustin Nguyen is on pencils this week, and man does he ever knock it out of the park. There’s this sort of fantasy-feel to his work; everything has this dreamy lightness to it. Batman and Batgirl’s capes, Babs’ hair, they all float and drift like they’re underwater. Not only is it just straight-up beautiful line work, it adds to the surreal, dream-like confusion of what is happening in Gotham.

batman and babsSo much of this story so far has revolved around the idea of “who can you trust?” It’s always been a heavy question to ask in Gotham, a city which is nearly as famous for its corruption as it is for its be-cowled crusader. Having Jim Gordon at the heart of it makes it all that much more difficult to deal with; Gordon has always been a pillar of trustworthiness. No matter how bad things have gotten in Gotham City, we always knew we could count on Jim to do the right thing, to stand by his principles, to be the one man we knew we could trust. But now, Jim can’t even trust himself anymore, and we’re left adrift in a sea of corruption. That mistrust is contagious; Bruce can’t really trust Babs right now in her current state. She beat the holy hell out of those henchmen, and is currently running off to probably do the same to a bystander who may or may not have anything to do with her father’s predicament. Stephanie thought she could trust her dad, and currently thinks she can trust her mom, but that’s clearly not the case. I love the little nod to Terminator 2 with Stephanie’s mom asking her where she is.

stephanie on the runI wonder, do you think she knows something’s up? The saddest character is, of course, Jim. He, like Stephanie, has no one to trust. He can’t trust himself, which is heartbreaking enough, but he also absolutely cannot trust the judicial system or anyone in authority. I mean, they threw him in Blackgate, for chrissake! I agree with the judge that, purely from the law standpoint, Gordon is a flight risk and should be kept in jail until his trial. But to throw a cop, let alone the former commissioner, into the general population of Blackgate Prison  is nothing short of a death sentence. The mysterious cellmate Leo is right; the guards might as well have just walked Jim straight to the execution chamber.

I had my concerns about this title when I first read about it. Do we really need another Batman book? How are so many writers going to tell a cohesive story? A book a week? That’s like adding four new titles to my pull, is it going to be worth it? So far all my doubts have proven to be unfounded, though we’ll see how the story-telling changes next week when Scott Snyder and James Tynion pass the baton to Tim Seeley. I look forward to seeing this complicated and compelling story unfold every week; it’s the first time the phrase “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel” has actually had me excited since I was a little girl.

Drew: I’ve actually long loved the idea of a weekly series written by a writers room. We see it all the time in television, but it’s only rarely happened in comics before DC’s newfound fascination with the concept. I personally loved 52 (though admittedly, that was one hell of a writers room), and have every bit of confidence in this team’s ability to come up with a strong, cohesive story.

Scripting duties were handled by Layman this week, but honestly, the only notable change in tone comes from the Nguyen. His cartoonier affects offer a sharp contrast to Fabok’s grim’n’gritty style — effectively stretching the limits of how we hope to recognize these characters. Obviously, we have no trouble recognizing our costumed heroes, or even the characteristic orange hair of the Gordon family, but less visually distinct characters like Forbes and Bard are only recognizable in context. This isn’t a problem with Nguyen, specifically — as Shelby noted, he knocks this issue out of the park — but may be a stumbling block as new artists rotate in. With a cast as large as this series has already set up (and which is only getting bigger), being able to easily identify them — no matter who is drawing them — is going to be paramount.

As for this issue, Shelby, I think your comment on Spencer’s observation last week may speak more to the difference in these two issues than any deeper truth about the series. Indeed, while the previous issue seemed to cram two issues worth of events into one, this one feels a bit thin. You can almost feel the bullet points as they’re ticked off — Steph’s mom is in on it, Forbes is made Interim Commissioner, Babs is perhaps too driven, Gordon is moved to Blackgate — but none seem like enough to hang an issue on. Any one of those points could be explained away in a single line of dialogue without losing much, and will all be followed up in greater detail next week, giving this issue the distinct smack of wheel-spinning.

This one missed the mark a bit for me, but the good news with a weekly series is that the next issue is never far off. This title still has an enviable batting average and a fantastic creative roster, so I’m not worried about this being a sign of things to come, just a minor hiccup on the way.

Patrick: I’ll actually disagree with you Drew — I think there are more than a few clunky phrases that wouldn’t have tumbled out of Snyder and Tynion’s macbook pros. Take this exchange for example:

forbes takes the long way

There has got to be a snappier way to express what Forbes is saying here. That’s a first-draft burn at best. It’s not like the previous issues have been works of prose-art, but Batman Eternal had enjoyed a spell of narrative elegance that was echoed in its efficient dialogue. I missed that in this issue.

Guys, do we / did we know just how corrupt Gotham’s management is? I can buy that Forbes and Mayor Hady are in Falcone’s pocket, but Blackgate Warden Agatha Zorbatos is a surprise to me. I thought they had a relationship, and I was momentarily relieved when she met him on New Prisoner Day (or… whatever they call it – I’m sure there are lots of ice breakers and getting-to-know-you games). Nope! Turns out that she’s just as eager to throw Gordon to the dogs as everybody else. Oh, that’s another question I had: I recognize some of the Blackgate Prisoners, but I don’t know if I’m supposed to know Leo. I vaguely know who Wrath and Helzinger are, and I’m got kind of excited to see Ogilvy, a.k.a. Emperor Penguin, behind bars, but there’s not a lot of heaver hitters in Blackgate. They’re all just fourth-string villains… otherwise they’d be in Arkham where are the good kids go crazy.

One last thing: I love that Batman goes to see Carmine Falcone, like it’s some kind of business meeting. He doesn’t show up in his bedroom in the middle of the night or anything like that. He just shows up — blasts a hole in the ceiling and punches some henchmen in the face — and has a calm conversation with Falcone. Like, he’s this close to having scheduled an appointment.

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?

 

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