Let Bygone be Bygone: Batman Eternal #16-17

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Did you enjoy issue #15’s voyage into the depths of Arkham? Good because it’s not over yet.

#16 – The Monster Machine

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

With the exception of an awkward flirtation between Vicki Vale and Lieutenant Bard, and Harper and Tim finding bmetrl_16_5a safari-ready man with a monkey in Tokyo, this issue is all about Arkham Asylum.

At the end of issue #15 a new villain was introduced — Mister Bygone. His introduction strongly suggested that he was a force to be reckoned with, the man behind the collapse of Arkham — a villain so strong he could bring the Spectre to his knees. I was intrigued and curious to see what role he would play in the story.

Turns out Mister Bygone isn’t quite the mastermind he appeared to be. He’s just a regular criminal, but his body has been taken over by these ghost-like figures who feed on regret and sorrow, making them particularly drawn to Jim Corrigan. As the Spectre he’s done some pretty horrible things, things he regrets, but despite being incapacitated at the end of issue #15, he managed to rally this time around. He may hate the things the Spectre has done but there’s nothing he can do about him, so he deals with it. And this gives him enough of an upper hand to punch-out Bygone and go searching for Batwing. So I guess that’s that? Pretty anticlimactic considering the build-up of the previous issues.

Batwing actually comes off more badass than Corrigan this issue. He’s still being held captive by the Joker’s Daughter, but he’s not putting up with her nonsense, even mocking her choice of moniker. Breaking free of his restraints, he fights his way through her and her man-puppet Maxie, and even remembers to start decrypting the code they found in The Riddler’s cell before meeting up with Corrigan. Batwing was originally a character I didn’t care that much about, but I am now rethinking my position.

The end of this issue feels a little like déja vu — Batwing and Corrigan have a big fight scene only to be surprised by yet another villain on the last page. This time, however, the villain is someone we’ve seen before – Deacon Blackfire, who first appeared in the DC Universe in 1988, and then again in 2009’s Blackest Night. As far as I know, however, this is his first new-52 appearance, so it remains to be seen whether any of that history is maintained on this side of the reboot. Let’s just hope he sticks around longer than Mister Bygone.

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This issue didn’t do much for the overall plot. In fact, I’m willing to bet you could skip this issue and still be able pick everything up again with #17. There were some fun moments between characters, however, and Dustin Nguyen’s depiction of Bygone and his spirits was spooky and creative. But overall nothing really happened. I have my fingers crossed that the next issue will tie in better to the overarching plot and that Batman will actually have more than a cameo in his anniversary event.

In this issue:

Bat-cameos: 6
Want more Deacon Blackfire?: Batman: The Cult

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#17 – The Savior

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

This issue is Dustin Nguyen’s best work on this series so far. While the entire tone of this series has been quite dark, there is an extra edge to this particular instalment, and his style lends itself to dark shadows and mysterious creatures. Despite some of my earlier criticisms, I was glad to have him on deck for our first real encounter with Deacon Blackfire.

Batman17Like #16 – Monster Machine, this issue largely takes place in Arkham Asylum, as Batwing and Corrigan take on Deacon Blackfire, the newest villain on the Batman Eternal roster. If you weren’t able to pick up Batman: The Cult between these issues, fear not; this issue gives a quick, New 52 version of events. Three years earlier, the Deacon was the leader of a fanatic cult that believed they needed to redeem Gotham and save  the city from its costumed villains and vigilantes. This cult was so devout, they managed to capture Batman and hold him captive in their basement. It was an interesting origin story and thankfully a little different than some of Batman’s other villains – no mad scientists here!

However, I do think they breezed through the origin story rather quickly, covering only one sermon, a confrontation with Bats, and his escape. It was enough to explain why Deacon Blackfire has returned, and why he’s angry with Batman, but not quite enough to make me feel anything about it. In fact, despite the dire situation Batwing and Corrigan (who still can’t turn into the Spectre) are in, I was more interested in the Pennyworth family spat that happens around the middle of this issue, and Harper and Tim’s conversation with Sergei Alexandrov. I find cults really fascinating, so I think there’s a lot more they can do with Deacon Blackfire’s character, but I’m not convinced that’s the direction they’re heading in.DC Comics Batman Eternal #17 Dustin Nguyen 2014

I found this issue was a tad better than the last for moving the plot along. A few more pieces of the puzzle have slid into place. However, there are a number of questions I wish they would hurry up and get around to. Why can’t Corrigan turn into the Spectre? What does the Joker’s Daughter have to do with any of this? Or is she just crazy? When will Julia start picking up on the not-so-subtle clues Alfred is dropping about his job? And perhaps most importantly, when will Batman start appearing in this book again?

In this issue:

Bat-cameos: 8
How to catch a Bat: with drugged communion wafers
Soundtrack: “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel

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