Review by Frank Plowright
Volume 1 opened with a scene from toward the end of Batman Eternal, set off a gang war in Gotham, and ended with the shock that everything we read and the chaos in generated appears to be only the opening gambit for a truly ambitious plan. Commissioner Gordon has been jailed, the new commissioner is known to readers as compromised, and Batman and allies have been circling the globe and solving minor mysteries without revealing the bigger picture.
An overall plot is generated by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with the writers of other Batman titles feeding in or scripting episodes. A few chapters in, at the halfway point of Batman Eternal, Batman realises who’s behind everything, how far they’ve managed to infiltrate Gotham’s infrastructure, and how easy it now is to generate civil discontent. The result is martial law in Gotham. As it appears the villain and their methods are revealed, and their aims clear, there’s considerable sagging around the middle section as Batman and allies skim through Gotham stamping out fires designed just to prolong the story, with the Spectre’s manifestation very much the convenience. It’s only toward the final episodes here that the writers pull things back on track. Coincidentally, it involves the appearance of some of Gotham’s major threats, but keeping to the spirit of Batman Eternal, these are cameos.
Many artists are able to try their hand at the chaos, with Andy Clarke and R.M. Guera providing the sample art. If there’s an artist from whom all others take their lead, it’s Jason Fabok, who began the story, and who supplies the closing chapters of this section. His layouts have the necessary dynamism, and his storytelling is textbook clarity. This volume’s anomaly is Javier Garrón, providing strange rubbery figures, slashed panels and confusion that doesn’t sit well alongside the other art.
This section ends with a clever use of Batman’s precautions to cause further chaos, and a reality check on just how well Batman’s really doing against a threat aimed squarely at him personally as Gotham crumbles around him. The final chapter stretches credulity way beyond breaking point as one character shrugs off a harpoon through the shoulder to inflict damage on another. This is superhero comics, but that’s plain idle writing. The ending does seem to confirm the success of the villain’s plan, but much of this section has been average, the art better than the writing. Thankfully Volume 3 improves matters.
In the UK Batman Eternal was spread across four specials in the Eaglemoss Legends of the Batman series, with this content spread across Part 2 and Part 3. Alternatively the Batman Eternal Omnibus gathers the entire saga.