Here we are again, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. It’s another Batman Eternal Bi-Weekly Check In.
For those of you just tuning in, Batman Eternal is the year-long, weekly comic book event being run to celebrate Batman’s 75th Anniversary. Gotham is falling to pieces, Gordon has been arrested, the new commissioner refuses to work with ‘costumes’, and gang warfare has broken out. It’s an event that draws on the entire Bat-family as well as some new characters—including the first ever New 52 appearance of Stephanie Brown.
This installment features issues #12 “The Good Man” and #13 “Infernal Relations.”
#12 – The Good Man
Because there are so many characters in this series and so many subplots, it stands to reason that only a few can be touched upon in the span of a single issue. With “The Good Man” we see the development of two main storylines: Lieutenant Bard and his continuing efforts to make a difference within the GCPD, and the return of everyone’s favourite purple haired street kid—Harper Row.
Lieutenant Bard embodies many of Gordon’s characteristics (he was recruited by Gordon after all) but still feels like an outsider in a series full of well-known, classic characters. He feels a little like Walter in the new Muppets movies. You like him enough, but you’re never going to warm up to him as much as they want you to. But he has managed to come up with a plan to end the gang war, even though the new commissioner has been cutting the department off at the knees until this point. He is able to enlist Bullock, Maggie Sawyer, Vicki Vale, and Bats himself to help with his plan. So he does get some brownie points for being a decent and clever cop.
It was nice to see the members of the GCPD rallying together to deal with the current crisis that has invaded their city. The emphasis in these stories is almost always on the Bat-family, but this was a nice shout out to the cops who work in what is arguably the most crime-riddled city in the world. They’re heroes without masks and they carry on despite Gordon’s arrest and despite the corruption spreading throughout their ranks. Without Gordon around and with Batman only making a brief appearance, it reminded me a little of Gotham Central.
However, my favourite moments were those between Harper Row and Red Robin—two characters who haven’t received much attention so far in Batman Eternal. The two have had limited interactions before this point but are curious to learn more about one another. As a result they engage in a kind of computer genius one-upmanship. The two of them have such similar personalities, I’m intrigued to see where it goes. And it raised the question of what role Harper will be playing in the future Bat-verse. We’ve seen her Bluebird costume reveal in Batman #28 but how does she get to that point? And does Red Robin have something to do with it?
In this issue:
Potential new ship: Harper Row and Tim Drake (Red Robin and Bluebird just goes together so nicely)
Superfamily Cameo: Lois Lane, sent to report on Gordon’s trail
Favourite come back: Julia Pennyworth to Tim Drake “What are you some kind of junior detective?”
#13 – Infernal Relations
The art for these last two issues is done by Mikel Janin and I think it’s some of the best in the series so far. In particular his faces. Expressions are so clearly articulated, which gives these issues a much more emotional tone than some that have come before. In particular I love how he drew the scene that unfolds between Gordon and his surprise visitor, his son James Jr. Janin has drawn James in such a way that he physically resembles Gordon, there’s no denying they’re related, but there’s also no mistaking that he’s much colder and creepier than his father. In recent issues of Batgirl, there’s tension because Gordon Sr. wrongly believes that Batgirl killed James Jr. So you can imagine his surprise when a very much alive James Jr. shows up in his cell.
While Bard and company are off carrying out their plan to stop the gangs, James offers his dad a chance to escape from prison. The dialogue between these two characters is easily the highlight of the issue. Their relationship is complex. James stands for everything Gordon is against. He has no empathy, no compassion. But nevertheless he is Gordon’s son and they share a complicated history. Initially Gordon refuses the offer, but as James continues to talk, you can see him get inside Gordon’s head and break down his resolve. The issue leaves the reader unsure what choice Gordon will ultimately make.
To break up the darker parts of this issue, though, there are more Harper Row and Red Robin shenanigans! Annoyed at being booted out of his computer system, Harper breaks into Red Robin’s nest. Getting a good look around she is impressed by the size of his…computer. But he returns sooner than she thought and she resorts to hiding and eavesdropping on his plans. I love these kids. Please tell me I’m not the only one that wants more of them? And is “Holy Supercomputer Batman” another hint at Harper’s future?
Last but not least the story revisits Stephanie Brown. Now that she knows the truth, she is trying to warn people about her dad, The Cluemaster, before he catches up to her. Unfortunately for Stephanie, she’s not quite fast enough. Her best friend is sent a bomb, which explodes while the two of them are on the phone. Though this is incredibly traumatic and probably good character motivation I’m not sure I understand her father’s plan in this moment. Instead of going to pick her up outside her friend’s, now burning, house, he watches her on a monitor and proclaims that now “it’s so much easier … my daughter is going to come right to us.” I don’t see how that’s easier than just grabbing her off the street, but what do I know? I’m not a former game-show host turned mediocre villain.