The DC3 decided to take on the Herculean task of covering DC’s weekly books! Our coverage will rotate between creator interviews, issue reviews and annotations, and long-form pieces on featured characters. This, friends, is the DC3kly!
We have a rare 5th issue released in a month, which means that we don’t have a regular feature to accompany the issue. So, instead, we thought we’d take a look at the series as a whole thus far, and discuss what we think is working, isn’t working, and what we’re looking forward to in the future for the book.
Brian Salvatore: Well, boys, we are about a quarter of the way through “Batman: Eternal,” and I think I can speak for all three of us when I say that it has been a pretty enjoyable ride thus far. What are your initial thoughts on the series as we prepare for August?
Vince Ostrowski: I think you’re right Brian. I have very few true complaints about “Batman Eternal”, thus far. My biggest impression thus far is that this is DC Comics’ one bat book that would be easy for anyone to pick up, understand, and find something to enjoy in. Snyder and Capullo’s “Batman” is great, but I can easily see someone who wants more straightforward, crime-fighting “Batman.” Snyder seems to be pitting Batman against villain after villain who tries to “break” a certain aspect of his character. It’s great stuff, but “Batman Eternal” is more for the “Detective Comics” fan who wants to see Batman swinging around Gotham solving mysteries and beating up gangsters. Likewise, “Batman and Robin” might be one of the most convoluted stories going on in the ‘New 52’ today. It’s good in its own way, but I could see it feeling impenetrable to readers who didn’t follow the threads all the way back from Morrison’s ‘Batman and Son.’
No, “Batman Eternal” has done an incredibly good job of being a straightforward story that manages to include almost every major element of Batman’s mythology thus far, certainly having left some for later issues.
If I have any complaints, they involve the way that it tends to drop plot points for several issues at a time (Stephanie Brown hasn’t been seen for a few issues), but I feel like that’s entirely out of necessity. I would be ready to excuse it outright, if it didn’t actively nag at me a little during my actual reading. I’m not sure how they would do it any other way, but I can’t deny that it is a noticeable element of my reading of it.
I think the most key element to the whole affair is that a particularly strong group of writers has crafted an intricate plot where every storyline is about as interesting as any other (something that “Futures End” can’t lay claim to, at this point). Maybe once or twice have I thought to myself, “Okay, move it along now.” That makes me sound awful. “I paid $2.99 – now entertain me, puppets!”
But that’s an incredible fact about the balance of all the plot points, when you think about it. There’s not a single story in this series that I’m bored with.
Zach Wilkerson: While I haven’t enjoyed “Eternal” quite as much as you Vince, I agree that it has been an accessible and solid addition to the Batman franchise. The biggest praise I can give to the book is its terrific artist direction. Batman mainstays like Dustin Nguyen, Andy Clarke, and Guillem March are delivering some of their best work to date, and left field choices like Ian Bertram are a very welcome treat.
I also love the little team ups that have sprung out of the series. I’ve especially enjoyed the Tim Drake/Harper Row plot. I think that duo has an incredible amount of potential, representing a bright and fresh future for the legacy of the Bat. Surprisingly, the other team up I’ve thoroughly enjoyed is the Spectre/Batwing pairing. I think the book is doing a spectacular job at highlighting the wider Bat-family, so much so that I start to get bored when the focus shifts back to Batman himself.Continued below
However, for all the things I enjoy about the series, there’s some intangible factor that leaves me feeling, for lack of a less derided assessment, meh. The series just doesn’t have the same kick for me as “Batman” proper. As Vince mentioned, the tendency for plot threads to disappear for weeks, while understandable, is frustrating. I honestly think this is a book that is much more suited towards reading as a collection or even as a “monthly,” where you can pour through large chunks at a time.
Brian: I think you both hit on good points, and I probably fall somewhere in between you guys – Vince seems to be the biggest fan of the batch, but I’m not far behind him. The series, so far, to me feels like the best of what superhero epics can be: a large, sprawling cast, with a ton of plot threads that are all intriguing, mixed in with some fun diversions and some top notch art.
I think the faults of the book can be summed up pretty succinctly: the aforementioned dropped plots and the New 52’s timeframe.
I’ve nothing to add to the plots piece, but the other is worth digging into a bit.
The story would work so, so much better if they just acknowledged that Batman has been a thing for far longer than the New 52 timeline. This is always a bit ridiculous in the Bat books, but condensing all of the story into one giant book, one immense story, just shows how insane this is. 4 Robins (3 if Tim was “never” Robin) in 6 years, plus a Batgirl, a Batwoman, 2 Batwings, and a Batman Incorporated. Toss in that Batman totally died in this timeline (as shown in “Robin Rises: Omega”), and it seems like Batman would have no time to do any crimefighting, just death-escaping and building up a gang to hang out with that all dress the same.
I’d like to talk for a minute about the art, which has been some of the finest DC has produced in a very long time. Let’s start by asking the hard questions: what has been your favorite and least favorite issue, visually, thus far?
Vince: I think you already know my answer, Brian. I have to go with the Ian Bertram-drawn issue that was heavy on Batgirl’s adventures in South America as my favorite. First of all, it was just so different from what we expect to see from DC Comics – especially in the Bat family, which has tended to remain mostly serious, dark, and realistic in its art choices. Though I think we’re seeing the slightest of sea changes at DC Comics and, strangely, they’re happening in their safest line of books: Gotham-related series.
Second of all, whether fair or not, I would have guessed that DC Comics would have tended toward taking less chances with art in a weekly series that is probably trying to be more regular and rigid in its release patterns. I would have guessed wrong, clearly, but I think the way they’re actually doing it instead is preferrable. Rather than a rotating cast, they’re allowing guys like Bertram and Mikel Janin to hop on for an odd issue or two, even while they have regulars like Jason Fabok and Dustin Nguyen as throughlines. Not knowing what to expect and when to expect it has kind of curbed any disappointment I might have had from having plot points disappear for issues at a time. Not knowing that I was going to get a cheeky adventure with Batgirl and a Brazilian soap opera star, the Bertram issue actually ended up blowing my mind.
It was the kind of art you’d expect from an oddball Image Comics book – not a DC Comics flagship title. And yet they did some incredible things with it, from creating a colorfully madcap setting for Batgirl and Scorpiana to chase this television star around in, but also back in Gotham City, where Bertram was given the freedom to show a particularly cool “urban horror legend” version of Batman in a thoughtbubble sequence.Continued below
I’m not sure I have a most disappointing issue, visually. I have my personal favorites and not-so-favorites, but the choices have been very strong. Fabok, Janin, Nguyen, Trevor McCarthy and Guillem March have all been doing a terrific job. When you look across the board, that’s just a murderer’s row of some of DC’s best talent, period.
It’s almost as if, by it being my favorite issue thus far, the Bertram issue is also the one that disappoints me most. None of it has anything to do with the issue or the art, but rather the fact that we now know that DC Comics is willing to do something like that on one of the most popular and “essential” titles in their ‘New 52’ line. These are daring, unconventional hires that I wish DC would do more often. Maybe they will, though I imagine the feedback on that issue was mixed. It always is, when you try to do something “different.” I thought it was awesome though. The best thing to happen to Batman all year.
Zach: Vince, I’m right there with you on the Bertram issue. That was such a refreshing and enjoyable surprise, one that took me back to the best issues of “Batman and Robin,” and “Batman Incorporated.” Like Vince, I just wish we could get more of this sort of thing.
While that issue is far and away my favorite thus far, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the series’ art. I think we all remember that page from Guillem’s “Catwoman.” Never did I expect for the artist who drew that to be one I consistently look forward to seeing. Maybe it’s my association with his work during the Dini era, but I believe Dustin Nguyen is one of the definitive Batman artists of the modern era. He mixes a Batman: The Animated Series sensibility with a Mignola-esque flair, making for something truly spectacular. I could go on and on about each of the artists on the series, they’ve all done a spectacular job thus far. It’s truly an embarrassment of riches.
Brian: I, too, dug the Bertram issue, but I wasn’t as in love with it as you guys were, but I still thought it was pretty dope. I’m with Zach on the Nguyen front – his issues have just been a joy to read.
I never thought I’d say this, but perhaps my least favorite artist of the batch has been…Jason Fabok?!
Aside from the one Emmanuel Simeoni issue, Fabok’s stuff has been my least favorite, and I am a pretty big Fabok fan. But his style is the most DC-house of any of the regular artists, and I am pretty sick of the DC house style (aka Diet Jim Lee).
What else do you guys have to say about the series thus far? Is there a particular thread you’d like to see them explore more? Is there a story you hope gets dropped?
Vince: I can’t think of an aspect of the story that I don’t care for yet, though I still don’t think anyone is going to be able to make The Joker’s Daughter a palatable character.
I’m excited to see the Deacon Blackfire aspects coming to the forefront. In some ways, I hope those supplant the gangland stuff for a while. Falcone’s return is worth the fanfare, but I almost hope he gets shoved to the background to be used in Gotham City stories to come, rather than have a true rise and fall in the pages of “Batman Eternal.”
I’m still looking for more from Stephanie Brown, though I appreciate that she’s back. I’m looking for more of what made her great. Right now, we’re just getting hints at it. Something to look forward to, to be sure.
I’m also looking for more artistic chances. I’d love if DC Comics was able to court some of the same kind of ballsy artistic choices that they’ve been able to make with their digital anthology books, or like Marvel made with their “100th Anniversary” event.
All in all, DC Comics is doing a really great job with this weekly. I’ll have more nits to pick with “Future’s End”, when we discuss the state of that book, but “Batman Eternal” remains a strong buy, as far as I’m concerned.Continued below
Zach: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m surprised by how much I’m adoring the Spectre/Batwing story. I’ve been craving some good supernatural DC stories, and this fits the bill nicely. Likewise, I love seeing Tim and Harper working together. This is the best written Tim Drake we’ve seen in the New 52, and I love the slow progression as we build toward the Bluebird we saw in “Batman” #28.
I would say the only story thread I’m not particularly fond of is the Falcone/Penguin gang war, but that thread seems to have already taken a back seat, if not completely resolved itself. I’m very interested to see if “Eternal” continues to work in blocks like this, with each handful of issues focusing on a particular threat. We’ve had the gang war and are now focusing on Deacon Blackfire, I can only assume Sergei and his nanobots are next in line for a big focus. Ultimately, with so many plates spinning at once, it’s hard to grow bored of any of them.
Brian: I am really enjoying seeing the Bat-family actually acting like a family. I like seeing Bruce being able to, essentially, call the gang to action. Because of that, we are getting some interesting pairings of people – like Zach said, the Spectre/Batwing combo has been a real treat, even if Batwing hasn’t had much personality shown yet.
I can honestly say that I’m enjoying every corner of the DCU they’ve delved into – but if pressed into an answer, I would say that Batgirl trying to clear Jim Gordon has been the weakest link thus far. I like the idea of the story, but so far we’ve just seen Babs getting angry, and Red Hood trying to rein her in. That can be an interesting thread, but so far it has been lacking a little.
But overall, this book has been exactly what I was looking for, even if I didn’t realize I was looking for it. There is a real joy to being able to see how vibrant and strong the bat books can be – and this is before we get the new titles that everyone is so excited about. If handled properly, this could be, more or less, a new golden age of Batman comics. And “Eternal” is the key to that.