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.
“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.
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?