The Penguin’s Goose is Cooked: Batman Eternal Check In #14-15

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Previously in Batman Eternal . . .

Tim and Harper stole our hearts, Lieutenant Bard dropped the hammer on the gang war, Gordon had an identity crisis when his not-so-dead son came to visit, and Stephanie Brown’s father made us question his skills as a villain.

Got all that? Good, because things are just getting started.

#1 – Natural Order

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Story by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Script by James Tynion IV
Contributing writers: Ray Fawkes, John Layman, & Tim Seeley
Art by Jason Fabok

In all the hubbub, there has been a forgotten victimCobblepot. Falcone has ruffled his feathers and he’s been forced to lay low on the outskirts of town while his minions have been fighting it out on the street. But he’s tired of hiding and letting other people fight his battles. So, when an anonymous tip comes in about Falcone’s location, he waddles out to do what he needs to. Carmine Falcone, like many before him, underestimates the Penguin’s desire to hold on to power, and it’s almost the end of him. Thankfully (for Falcone), Lieutenant Bard and his crew arrive in the nick of time to save his life and arrest them both. With Falcone and the Penguin out of commission and the series far from over, it begs the question: Which baddy is really pulling the strings in Gotham?

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Meanwhile, Gordon is still in jailunwilling to follow through on his son’s escape plan. The question of whether that was always his intention or whether Batman’s arrival decided for him may never truly be answered. He does leave Batman (and us readers) with some interesting thoughts about the “natural order” of Gotham. He advises Batman to find a new partner in the war on crime before he shuts himself back up in his cell. It seems the greatest cop Gotham has ever known is giving up. It was a very heartfelt moment and the writers are doing a fantastic job with this particular plot line.

But don’t sign up for the Lieutenant Bard fan club just yet! Gordon may be willing to write his recommendation letter, but the Dark Knight isn’t so easily convinced. He’s done some digging and it turns out Bard isn’t quite on the straight and narrow. A fact he freely admits to Batmanhe’s not afraid to cross the line if he thinks it necessary. I was a little disappointed that Bard’s rise and fall happened so quickly; if they had held off a little longer it could have been quite the plot twist. Instead, he’s just another name in the long list of corrupt Gotham cops. We could have simply skipped Bard altogether and made Maggie Sawyer the new hero of the GCPD (free tip for your next event DC)!

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Jason Fabok’s art is what makes this issue a real standout. His attention to detail gives an eerie and disturbing edge to the darker moments of this issue. In my opinion, the Penguin has always been one of the more humorous Batman villains . . . but this issue made me reconsider that position. He’s angry, he’s vicious, and he’s not afraid to kill in order to get what he wants.

In this issue

Bat-Cameos: 6
Harper Row snack of choice: Cheese Puffs
Image that will haunt my dreams: Cobblepot in his murder suit

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#15 – The Common Limit

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Story by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Script by Ray Fawkes
Contributing writers: John Layman & Tim Seeley
Art by Dustin Nguyen

With Falcone and the Penguin out of commission, it’s time for some new villains to step out of the shadows!

But first we need to rewind a bitway back to issue #6, when Batman introduced his trusty associate Batwing to Jim Corrigan a.k.a the Spectre, and sent them off on a mysterious mission. As it turns out, that mission was to go investigate Arkham Asylum, which is what they do for the majority of this issue.

Arkham is in chaos. The Spectre explains that a “hellish influence” has taken over the asylum like a “mystic infection.” Which, when you really think about it, is no explanation at all. It’s easy to assume the Scarecrow is behind all this. He appears briefly at the end of the previous issue and Batwing and Jim Corrigan find a puddle of blood, defying gravity by bleeding up towards the ceiling. But that assumption would be wrong.

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Turns out the blood is his, and Batwing and Jim find him dangling from the ceiling, muttering nonsense. He’s not the cause of the hellish influence, he’s the bait. What they should have been watching out for was the creepy gollum-like creatures that melt out of the wall and floor. They take Batwing to the Joker’s Daughter and Jim Corrigan to a vertically-challenged Frankenstein clone who identifies himself as “Mister Bygone.” I’m intrigued at the reveal of a brand new villain, especially when so many others haven’t made an appearance yet. But I sincerely hope this isn’t the last we see of the Scarecrow; it would be a waste of his character, otherwise. And no matter how you feel about the Joker’s Daughter, her presence here raises some questions: Are references to her “father” for real? Should we expect him to return from the dead during the course of this series? And what about her new role in the Suicide Squad—will that tie in as well?

Outside of Arkham we’re only given a few quick updates on the rest of the family. Harper and Tim have made it to Tokyo. They argue about her waiting in the Robin-jet, but, unsurprisingly, Tim loses that fight. And there’s a quick pan to Batgirl and Red Hood who are still in Brazil looking for clues. They break into a plastic surgeon’s office only to find Batwoman is already there, lending a hand. I’m extremely happy that Batwoman has finally made an appearance in Batman Eternal, but I’m starting to get concerned that so many family members are away from Gotham. Doesn’t their city need them? Is Batwing actually the only one still around?

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I have really enjoyed Dustin Nguyen’s cover art (the triptych for issue #15 is hauntingly gorgeous), but, with this issue, he also takes over interiors and it is a significant change in direction from Jason Fabok’s work. Sometimes his work is quite creepy, especially in some of the darker Arkham scenes. But, other times it has a cartoonish quality. This combination of styles made the tone of issue #15 feel inconsistent and choppy. I generally consider myself a fan of Nguyen’s, but this doesn’t feel like the best representation of what he’s capable of.

This issue felt significantly more chaotic than previous installments. The story is now in a transition period. Falcone and the Penguin have been taken out and the writers need to set up the next big conflict. The chaos in Arkham seemed to come out of nowhere and while it was rather creepy, it was also overly confusing. It probably didn’t help that I have zero emotional investment in Batwing or Jim Corrigan. They’re not characters you read about as frequently and they have had very little page time during this event. The emotional impact of what was happening to them suffered as a result.

In this issue:

Bat-Cameos: 9
Batgirl sums up what we’re all thinking about these cameos:

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Art tip: Dustin Nguyen should draw all of his subsequent issues in the style of Lil’Gotham.

Bonus Harper Tim moment:

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Just kiss already you crazy kids.

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1 Comment

  1. Batman Eternal sounds sweet – this may just be the first bonafide superhero comic I add to my pull list.