Spencer: Batman Eternal is a loaded title. In our world, Batman is already 75 years old, and it’s easy to see this character, with his endless reinterpretations, existing on in perpetuity. Yet, within the narrative, Batman is very much fallible, and has already died once, with Dick Grayson taking up the mantle in his absence. Bruce Wayne may not be eternal, but the legacy he leaves behind will be, be it the good he does for the city or the crimefighters he raises, trains, and/or inspires. Of course, Batman’s not the only one in this title with a legacy.
Jason Bard has a plan to end the gang war, but to pull it off, he’s going to need the help of the police, the media, and Batman himself; the problem’s that Bard’s plan involves Batman turning himself over to the police. After a brief tussle, Red Hood and Batgirl team up; meanwhile, back in Gotham, Harper Row manages to hack into Red Robin’s computer system (that’s what you get for using the cloud, Drake), leading to the boy nearly spilling the Batman secret to Alfred’s daughter, Julia Pennyworth (who is almost definitely the shadowy figure seen operating the Batcomputer in Batman 28). Jim Gordon’s first day in court goes poorly — although Gordon is ready and willing to let justice be served — and his day only gets worse when he finds himself at the mercy of his supposedly-dead son, James Jr.!
That’s a lot of characters to keep track of, isn’t it? Tynion and the rest of the writing team have taken their time establishing subplots, and while a few key players are missing this week (including Catwoman, Stephanie Brown and Batwing), most of this sprawling cast are finally being brought together in the most exciting of ways. While the clever plans being concocted (especially by Bard and co.) are intriguing, I think what I find most impressive about this issue is the way these new pairings quickly establish who these characters are and even begin revealing new facets of their personality.
Just this brief exchange, for example, tells us a lot about both Tim and Julia, establishing not only their powers of deduction but the speed with which their minds are able to put these clues together. I can see their relationship becoming one of mutual respect just as easily as I can see them becoming rivals, but either way, this one short scene goes a long way to establishing some serious conflict.
Meanwhile, this scene not only gives us insight into both characters, but totally flips their usual dynamic, with Batgirl becoming the aggressor and Jason of all people acting as a calming influence. For as much as Barbara may embrace the differences between her and the Robins, there’s also a part of her that resents not being hand-picked and trained by Bruce, a part of her that doesn’t feel worthy of the legacy. Still, much of her attitude here simply comes from misplaced, uncontrollable anger, and Red Hood is certainly an expert in that regard; if anybody knows about channeling anger into an effective, dangerous course of action, it’s Jason Todd.
Teaming up the trio of Bard, Sawyer and Bullock is inspired in its own right, and Tynion pulls out some especially sharp dialogue as they formulate their plan, bringing each figure to life as more than just an upright cop. Meanwhile, James Jr.’s appearance may be brief (albeit this title’s best cliffhanger yet), but it raises plenty of questions in its own right, notably: Is Jr. working freelance, or is he a flunky, or is he the mysterious big baddie himself?
Besides all that, James may also serve as an excellent foil to his father, pitting Jim’s belief in fairness and justice — and not to mention just his sheer goodness — against Jr.’s deranged sociopathy. Or, since Gordon’s sidelined, perhaps Jr. is meant to serve as Bard’s nemesis? The disgraced, deranged son certainly makes an apt opponent for Jim Gordon’s heir apparent; if so, he couldn’t have picked a worse time to make his grand reappearance.
This issue may shine the spotlight on those who will carry on the legacies of Batman, Alfred, and Jim Gordon into the future, but it also puts all three legacies at risk. Julia wants nothing to do with her father; for all his supporters, the tragedy and the return of Jr. threaten to tarnish Gordon’s name forever; if Falcone and Forbes had their way, not only would Batman and his partners be forgotten forever, but every success they’d ever achieved in Gotham would be undone. Tim, Jason, Barbara, Bard, Harper, Julia, and the rest have a heavy burden to carry, and as long as Tynion and the rest of the Eternal bullpen maintain the enlightening take on these characters that they displayed in this issue, then I’ll be here to see how they shoulder it.
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?