Today, Patrick leads a discussion on Batman Eternal 13, originally released July 2nd, 2014.
Patrick: One of the bigger driving forces within Batman Eternal is Carmine Falcone’s desire to rid Gotham of “freaks” like the Penguin and Professor Pyg. In effect, Falcone is trying to drive all the fantastical elements out of Gotham City — whether they’re heroes or villains doesn’t seem to matter much to him. He’s even gone so far as pit the police directly against the Bat Family, furthering the absoluteness of this idea of fantasy vs. reality. But there’s a point that Falcone is missing — or willfully ignoring: everyone engages in a little bit of fantasy to get what they want. What Jim Gordon experienced in the train station – was that fantasy or reality? Covering up a gang war: fantasy or reality? Issue 13 brings that dichotomy into stark relief, showing how embracing fantasy can be equal parts advantageous and horrifying.
First up: our regular Joes using fantasy to their advantage. Bard takes a lead to Commissioner Forbes, claiming that he’s got the inside scoop on a Batman Incorporated munitions storehouse. Forbes likes the sound of this, seemingly non-suspicious that the officer that has done nothing but defy him from day one has finally agreed to a moral 180. Bard enlists Sawyer, Bullock and Vicki Vale for the raid, which obviously isn’t a move against Batman, but against Falcone’s men. Once a bunch of Falcone’s dudes are in custody, there’s very little Forbes can say in front of Vale that would allow him to keep both his job and his word to Falcone.
Forbes is kind of a dummy, huh? Considering that the three cops involved in this raid have routinely undermined his corrupt authority, it’s a pretty big oversight on the Commissioner’s part to just let them hit this target. Like, he can’t even double check the address to make sure that’s not a place he should be protecting? But this just reveals one of Falcone’s big fantasies – Forbes isn’t a criminal mastermind, he’s not even a very good cop, and he’s definitely not the Police Commissioner. In fact, that whole fantasy is easily dispelled by Bard’s own fantasy. Mind you, it’s the cold hard truth that Vicki Vale swings that seems like it’s about to knock Forbes out cold. We’ve talked before about how outrageous the blind eye is that Forbes is turning, and how more realistic corruption might have been a little more compelling. I stand by that criticism, but it’s still super satisfying when we get to see Bard and Vale using some common sense to take him down for good.
Also, man oh man, do I love Mikel Janin’s work on this series. Since so much of this issue is cape-and-cowl-less, there are an awful lot of talking heads, and Janin’s camera is always active without being distracting, keeping careful track of all the characters’ positions in the room. He’s also good at using the the city’s iconography to convey ideas quickly, like in the panels above – Bard and Vale aren’t just on the roof, they’re in the shadow on the Bat Symbol. Or earlier in the issue when it just takes a single rose tattoo to betray who the police were really raiding.
The other big question of fantasy vs. reality is presented to Jim Gordon by his psychopathic son. James Junior sees it this way – Gordon hates Gotham, but in his fantasy, believes in the city. This is a tougher one to parse out, because Jim’s options both seem like fantasy, depending on who’s reality you believe. If James Jr. is to be believed, the fantasy would be staying in prison and having faith in the Gotham Court System to find him innocent. But when I apply my own filter to the decision, the fantasy is escaping from Blackgate. Doesn’t matter if the courts find him innocent of manslaughter if he also escaped from prison, right?
But it’s so damn fitting that James Jr. presents his father with such a weird set of options. James Jr. represents a weird-ass middle ground between the monsters and the regular criminals. He’s not a “freak” and he’s not a gentleman crime boss like Falcone. That weird balance/imbalance seems to be what the whole series is about – the world seems to need both the honest cops and Batman.
Spencer: The fantasy vs. reality theme seems pretty prevalent in Stephanie Brown’s plot as well this week. Cluemaster seems to have this fantasy that he’s a dangerous, respected villain, but in reality he’s a laughingstock, ignored and brushed off by everyone from Vicki Vale to the posters on the “Gotham Voices” message board.
Likewise, Cluemaster passes up at least one opportunity to just plan kill Steph outright because he has this grand plan playing out in his head, this idea that Steph is going to come right to him and he’ll get to gloat and finish her off and that will be that. Again, it’s a fantasy that’s not based in reality; Cluemaster overestimates himself and underestimates Steph, and that decision will almost definitely come back to haunt him.
Meanwhile, Patrick, I’ve got to echo your praise of Janin’s art. There’s so much he does well in this issue, but I was most impressed by how he portrayed the showdown between Jim and James Gordon. Notice we never see James Junior’s eyes:
This isn’t a new trick with James Junior, but it’s still effective, keeping the character creepy, menacing, and distant. I think my favorite touch, though, is that, instead of seeing Junior’s eyes, we always see Jim Gordon reflected back in his glasses. Notice too, in that first panel, how similar the two men look under Janin’s pen. In more ways than one, when Jim Gordon looks at his son, he sees himself staring back; this is probably a common experience for many fathers, but most fathers don’t have sociopathic, murderous sons. Seeing Junior has to be crushing for Jim, but in this case I think it might also be representative of the doubt Jim’s feeling about himself. Jim argues that he’s not evil, he’s not like his son, but in more private moments we’ve seen him doubt himself; is this a sign that Gordon’s scared he might be just as bad as Junior? The Jim Gordon of yesterday would have never taken advantage of Junior’s offer, but after all that’s happened to him, in the state he’s in now, I’m scared that he’ll do exactly that…
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?