Today, Shelby leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 10, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Shelby: I have some friends who are legitimate circus performers, one a pole dancer and the other a trapeze artist, and so I naturally have attended a cabaret-style circus performance held in an old warehouse. It was exactly as awesome as it sounds, with acrobats of every flavor, a hoop dancer, clowns, and a juggler. This guy was incredible, he used a rainbow array of balls that lit up, and they shut off all the lights in the place so all we could see were the glowing orbs and the trails they left behind. Comic books aren’t totally dissimilar; we don’t see the creators specifically, just the art they leave for us. Also, sometimes it feels like a team is juggling waaaaaaay too many ideas, and it’s only a matter of time before things fall apart.
Catwoman is in the hands of Falcone, who has all sorts of nasty things planned. Unfortunately for him, Professor Pyg has even nastier things in store for the man who blew up his lab, and soon we have a hostage situation. Batman rushes in, and is able to save Catwoman and defeat Pyg just before the cops rush in (thanks to a slight delay from Jason Bard). Catwoman reveals the one bit of info Falcone let slip; he’s not the guy in charge, there’s someone in the shadows pulling his strings.
It’s rather astounding to me the number of objects Scott Snyder, James Tynion, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, and Tim Seeley are keeping in the air in this book. There’s Falcone, the train incident, Jim Gordon’s incarceration, Professor Pyg and his barnyard gang, Catwoman and the Underground, Harper Row and her brother, the nanotech-thing Red Robin discovered, Batman’s trip to Hong Kong, Alfred’s super-spy daugher, the scary stuff going on below Arkham, Batgirl’s trip to South America (?), and Red Hood’s task of following her there. Am I missing anything? Oh yeah, Stephanie Brown, on the lam and sleeping in libraries so her parents don’t kill her. Heads up, Steph: if your dad’s alter-ego is, “Cluemaster,” he’s probably going to have a pretty easy time tracking down your IP address when you post about him in your blog. You may want to consider switching library branches.
Riccardo Burchielli takes over art duty from Guillem March this issue, with mixed results. It’s really only mixed because I like March a lot, not because Burchielli isn’t a strong artist himself. He tends towards these sort of watercolor-wash backgrounds, which both focus the scene on the characters instead of the setting and give everything a moody, ethereal tone. I especially love his take on Pyg and his animal-headed henchmen.
If Rob Zombie made a horror-western flick, this is what it would look like when the band of outlaws came to town. One big problem I have with the art this issue, though, is the cover by March. It features the most ridiculous, broke-back, disproportionate Catwoman I’ve seen in a long time. It’s bad enough that, were I a normal reader, I might have just bailed on this series all together.
Snyder and Tynion have thrown another wrench in the system with this new, bigger baddie. We all thought we knew the stakes of the game, but they turn out to be much higher. I like the idea that Falcone thinks that what he’s doing is better for the city, that without a “regular Joe” like him in charge, Gotham goes mad. He’s utterly clueless to the fact that the most recent madness to sweep through the city was caused by his machinations. I’m also curious to see if he actually believes that rhetoric, or if he’s just following party lines and we are actually seeing his boss’s motivation. Since I’m sure Falcone is connected to whatever nasty business is going on in Arkham, it would make sense for the real enemy to be concerned with the city’s mental state. In any case, while I am generally enjoying this story, the sheer number of plot elements is becoming a little overwhelming. I would like to see some of this stuff starting to come together, instead of getting more, new pieces of the story which drag things out even further.
Patrick: It’s also strange how quickly the questions are piling up because Snyder and Tynion have said in interviews that the idea was to have writers work on discrete little arcs that build into one story. That is, very pointedly, not how this feels. In fact, for as much as we’ve bitched about Futures End‘s winding, distracted narrative, Batman Eternal has covered just as varied a body of plot points and inciting incidents. Where BE has the leg up on FE is the vague (and sometimes not-so-vague) notion that everything is connected.
And “everything is connected” appeals to my LOST-loving lizard-brain like you wouldn’t believe. Even when it ends up being messy and not everything works, there’s a thrill in watching this Frankenstein monster of a story lumber its way through Gotham City (…and Hong Kong and South America). I think that’s why Professor Pyg is so heavily featured here – he’s the Batman’s Rogues Gallery version of Doctor Frankenstein, cobbling together henchmen from pieces of other living creatures. Not only that, but his Farm Hands are stitched together from bunch of different stories and bits of mythology. Take a look at that picture Shelby posted of them again. The first thought that came to my mind was Horsemen of the Apocalypse (the horse head plus the scythe brought me there pretty quickly). But the bull-headed man is clearly built and dressed like a Minotaur, evoking images from Greek mythology. Then there’s the fact that they’re sort of themed like farm hands, with different outfits, tools, and weapons based on what they might be doing on a farm. So we’re already mixing folksy American lore with Christian doomsday mythology and Greek parables. And then Pyg yells “To me, my Farm Hands!” a reference to Professor Xavier’s “To me, my X-Men!” That makes Pyg’s henchmen has much of a patchwork creation as the story of Batman Eternal.
We’re supposed to be horrified by Pyg’s creations though, right? It’s odd that they have so much in common with the overly complex and disparate threads of the very story we’re reading, unless the craziness of Batman Eternal’s plot is also supposed to make us uneasy. That uneasiness put me, the reader, in Batman’s shoes pretty firmly — we want the same thing: to see this shitshow simplified.
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?