Batman Eternal 11

batman eternal 11Today, Drew leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 11, originally released June 18th, 2014.

Drew: Happy belated Fathers’ Day, everyone! I know I’m close to a week late, but hey, it’s not like your my dad, right? Okay, I may have missed the moment there, but Batman Eternal 11 actually hits a bit closer to the mark, landing only four days after the actual holiday. Still seem a little late? Consider how non-topical other comics tend to be. It makes sense; a six-issue arc may span a matter of days of narrative time, but would cover six months in real time — how do you sync that up to fixed holidays? It’s still done from time to time, but it’s usually relegated to one-off anthologies, or even commemorating events a few months after the fact. There are a few notable exceptions, which manage the feat largely by synching their narrative rate to their release schedule, like The Long Halloween or 52, two series to which Batman Eternal obviously owes a great debt. The weekly format truly gives the writers an opportunity to line events up on the calendar, giving us just a bit more to relate to in the pages. Far from hackneyed or forced, this issue reveals one of the primary perks of such a large ensemble cast: it’s easy to find occasion-appropriate themes when so many plates are spinning at once.

As it turns out, there are a lot of fathers in Batman Eternal. There’s Jim Gordon, who isn’t seen, but his presence is felt as Babs continues her mad quest to find justice for him. There’s also Alfred, who is struggling to convince his heretofore estranged daughter that he cares. Oh, and then there’s Cluemaster, whose origin (of sorts) is presented here. Essentially, he’s got a chip on his shoulder about being smarter than rich people, so steals from them but leaves clues just to show how dumb they are. He’s effectively Riddler without the riddles, specifically leaving naked hints as to his identity. I’m happy to look past the similarities if the writers could commit to the differences. Instead, issue scriptor Tim Seely happily throws the entire characterization out the window for a cool-sounding line.

Batmaster“I was just another alibi” sure sounds meaningful, but 1) there’s no “alibi” here, and 2) the very notion of an alibi flies in the face of a criminal who willingly presents the truth to flaunt how much smarter he is than his pursuers. If he was going to present an alibi — that is, a lie to mislead law enforcement — wouldn’t that be working against his MO of telling them the truth with the confidence that they won’t figure it out, anyway? Not that it matters: Steph isn’t an alibi, but a way of garnering sympathy.

It’s kind of a weird misstep in an issue I otherwise liked, but it’s got nothing on the total mess that is Catwoman’s story line, which focuses on her own father. Or rather, it makes a big deal out of who her father is, but never comes out and says who that might be. I know, I know: in pre-reboot continuity it was Carmine Falcone, but all bets are off here. Sure, the issue hints fairly strongly that it might be Falcone, but the fact that it never comes out and says it — that the letter is signed “Your Father” — makes me suspect a feint of some kind. That could be a source of excitement, but I actually think my reading suffers from the uncertainty. Is she burning it because she knows it’s Falcone? Does she already know its Falcone? Is it Falcone?

Okay, enough ranting — there’s also a lot of fun to be had in this issue. I always love having my knowledge of Grant Morrison’s Batman Epic rewarded, and seeing Scorpiana and El Gaucho honored here was a fun little reason to cheer. Of course, the most fun aspect of this issue just might be Ian Bertram’s art, which features lumpy, squishy character designs that I find utterly charming. He’s not always the clearest storyteller, but he imbues each page with such character that I’m happy to overlook his shortcomings.

High-five!It’s not perfect — look at how weird Jason’s posture is — but it is adorable. I’ll gladly take that any day.

So what did we think? Is anyone else bothered by the weird continuity questions brought up by Selina’s parentage? Oh, and how about the prospect of this series becoming so tied to the seasons? Do we think the Father’s Day tie-in was just coincidence, or can we count on Gotham ringing in the Fourth in a few weeks?

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?

5 comments on “Batman Eternal 11

  1. I really liked Bertram’s artwork too – it felt like a really good fit for an issue featuring some of those Batman Incorporated characters you mentioned. Bertram’s in that tradition of Frank Quietly or Chris Burnham imbues Batman with a more free-wheeling kind of camp (not so committed to being goofy, but willing to let our eyes see the characters how our hearts do).

    And for as much as I loved that, it does bring up the question of how much of a particular vision we expect to get from a weekly series. With so many creative cooks in the kitchen, it’s not surprising that the stew tastes different every week, but like… that’s now how you’d run a restaurant, right? Tortured metaphors aside, I think I would have preferred that Batman Eternal have an aesthetic all it’s own — and that could be Quietly-esque or March-esque. Ping-ponging between the two seems weird.

    • 52 also had a rotating cast of artists, but all of the layouts were done by Giffen, which gave the series a great deal of consistency. Of course, the artists were also drawing in a bit more of a house style than anything like Bertram (or March, or Fabok for that matter), which seems like the easiest way to make things a bit more consistent. BUT, I personally prefer seeing issues by these artists than any kind of consistency of art styles. This question also came up in our recent She-Hulk 5 write-up, but it’s just as interesting here: how important is having the same artist on a series?

      • I think what makes this different from what happened in She-Hulk 4 is that that switch was a lateral move on the quirky-ladder. This might be narrow-minded of me, but art that’s closer to the house-styles feels less like like a statement or artistic intent, and more like a statement of editorial intent. You know, for Reis and Mahnke and Lee, the goal is usually making the characters look like the characters, and the action exciting (with sub goals or clear storytelling, acting and atmosphere). Both Pulido and Wimbly are expressing visual aesthetics that play by their own graphic values, so while they strike completely tones with their work, I’m more comfortable seeing their art in consecutive issues.

        But to more broadly address your actual question – I think we agree that changing artists has an effect on both how the story is being told AND our reaction to the new artist. I have seen people making the argument that Bertram’s art here is particularly appropriate because we get to see that panel of Steph remembering Batman as some kind of inky monster – that’s something that more literal artists might not have attempted.

        I guess the real question is how much unity, or singularity of artistic vision, helps a narrative. There’s already something appealing about the messiness of BE – both visually and narratively — that I suggested last week the writing team is keenly aware of. If, as the story moves towards Batman restoring order to Gotham, the visual style gets more consistent, then it’d be in-line with what’s going on thematically. And I can’t say no to that.

        • Honestly, I think we only prefer consistency in cases where we dislike that changes. Like, you and I both like Community, and stylistic inconsistency became part of that show’s DNA. Same thing with Zero. It’s easy to argue that the stylistic changes are inherent to those series, but I’m not sure I necessarily see a reason why consistency would be inherent to all others.

          This series presents an especially tricky case, in part because a single-artist weekly is impossible, and in part because the writing model is so collaborative. Scripting responsibilities also rotate, so I might argue that inconsistency is part of these issues before a single line is drawn. More importantly, unlike creator-owned series where a single artist’s tone is arguably inherent to the series, this title is the celebration of the 75-year history of a franchised character. In that way, it’s kind of important to me that it feature different artists, with as varied styles as the character has ever seen. In a perfect world, they’d feature as many Batman artists as possible.

  2. Also, on the note about “just another alibi” – this is one of my little sister’s pet peeves, but Army folk tend to use alibi to basically mean caveat, or one additional piece of information that might complicate things. Evidently, it’s part of regular briefing meetings: someone will ask “any alibis?” and the expected response would be something like “the commissary is closed from 12:30-1:00 today, so make other arrangements for lunch.” Seely’s got some kind of military background, so I don’t know if he’s more familiar with this usage of the word.

    I mean, the line doesn’t totally make sense in that context either… WHO KNOWS.

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