Drew: Why does society seem to place a premium on auteurism? The vast majority of artforms are highly collaborative, yet we still talk about directors, show-runners, composers, and other creators as if theirs is the only intent that matters. Aside from a few notable exceptions, comics have always been a collaborative medium, but there’s something palpably different about a written-by-committee series like Batman Eternal. Indeed, it seems to have more in common with the conveyer-belt system of network tv than the short-season, tightly controlled cable model, but is that a bad thing?
I’ll admit that I’m mostly asking these questions because this issue happened to coincide with a piece Mike Hale wrote about Person of Interest for the New York Times. Hale points to some specific reasons why Person has succeeded where so many other shows have faltered, but the main thrust of his argument boils down to this: good middle-brow is better than bad high-brow. Or: our notions of high and low art may not hold up to scrutiny, and are ultimately less important than the work of art in question. So, my abstract philosophizing aside, does this issue of Batman Eternal work? I’m going to give it a qualified “yes,” though those qualifications may speak to some larger troubles this series faces going forward.
The issue opens with Batwing fighting a mysterious cloaked figure. Batman steps in, makes short work of the goon, and reveals that it was a ghost, explaining that there are supernatural things afoot in Gotham. It turns out, The Spectre has noticed, so Jim Corrigan pays a visit to Bruce to say, essentially, that if a Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the Gotham, current conditions represent a Twinkie thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds. That is to say, a big Twinkie. Of course, Bruce has his hands full with the brewing gang war, so hands Corrigan off to the newly-familiar-with-the-supernatural Batwing. Oh, and both Blackfire and the Joker’s Daughter are up to no good.
This series is doing a very admirable job of introducing its key players one at a time, but after so effectively putting the pressure on Batman, it’s frustrating to see him dealing with these problems in the background. That kind of periodic back-burnering is inherent to a series with this many moving parts, but that may betray a flaw with the conception of a Gotham-wide series. Intrigued by what’s going on with Jim Gordon? Want to see more about that nanobot cloud? Wonder what’s happening with Steph? You’ll have to wait another week, at least. The scope of this series is so large, it can’t possibly fit in a single issue, but that makes for a frustrating experience if a given issue is focusing on elements you’re less interested in, say ghosts and Sprits of God’s Vengeance.
Which brings me back to my initial questions about the merits of a weekly series — would this experiment be better as four separate-but-interlocking series? Is it worth picking up a weekly series that bats .750 when you could be picking up four monthlies with better averages for the same price?
Don’t get me wrong — this issue is far from a dud — but I spent the entire issue wondering why we weren’t paying attention to the interesting problems this series has already introduced. Piling on more problems certainly blows up the scope, but I’m not convinced that’s inherently a good thing. In my mind, this series hasn’t yet recreated the magic of that first issue, which was much more focused than any of the issues that have followed.
What do we think? Am I being a grump, or are there some flaws with this issue (and I appreciate that these are not necessarily mutually exclusive)? Are you looking forward to piling on more story lines, or would you prefer that some of these dangling threads resolve before catching up with any new characters? Oh, and I haven’t been watching Person of Interest — is that worth checking out?
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?