Batman: Eternal #4 (Comics Review)

I’ve never read a weekly comic series before, so DC’s Batman: Eternal is my first ever such experiment with the format. Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Jason Fabok did some amazing work with the first three issues of this series, and they really created a very interesting piece of Gotham lore that sees some of its biggest characters butt heads against each other. The return of Carmine Falcone has returned Gotham to a chaotic state and in this situation, the city’s greatest heroes are on the back-foot again and again. With some great stories so far and some great art, Batman: Eternal easily found its place on my weekly pull-lists.

But Batman: Eternal #4 changes things around. This time the issue is scripted by John Layman (he was originally one of the writers of the series, but later left, though his scripts are still used), although the story is still planned out by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV. John is currently one of my favourite writers, largely due to his recent work on Detective Comics, but in this issue, there were too many red flags for me. The characterisation was just off. And while Dustin Nguyen’s work is usually something I like, here it didn’t work so well for me.

Batman Eternal 04First off, let’s talk the cover. I’ve liked Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson’s previous three covers for this series and Jason’s covers are usually pretty damn good, but this one has me confused. Just what exactly are Batgirl and Batman doing here? Not to mention, Batman appears disproportionately massive to Batgirl and the whole composition just feels totally off. I mean, just look at Batman’s thighs there. His body dimensions are like twice that of Batgirl’s. Quite disappointing to see I’m afraid.

The story itself is largely told from the narrator’s POV on Batgirl as she sits in court for her father’s trial and then later goes on a rampage in Gotham to find out who was really behind the train accident. This is the part where I started to not like this issue. In the first instance, she has a fit in court when the judge gives the order for Gordon to be sent to Blackgate prison (effing hell, but bloody Blackgate prison for Commissioner Gordon? Carmine Falcone must be leaning on the judge!). Then, she goes around beating up Professor Pyg’s henchmen and when Batman interrupts her, she dukes it out with him too.

John’s characterisation of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon is the most problematic element of this issue. It just doesn’t make sense for her to lose her cool like that. Even when we had the Death of the Family arc in the main books last year and the Joker returned, Barbara never really lost her cool like this, nor did she just go around beating people up. This rage-roid Batgirl isn’t someone I’ve seen in the New 52 yet and given that we haven’t seen anything of her before this aside from a panel in a previous issue, this all the more discordant.

The best part of the issue though is the subplot involving Stephanie Brown and her father, the Cluemaster. She walked in on her father and a bunch of his friends one night while they were all dressed up in their villain costumes and having a meeting, and now she is on the run from them. It is great to see Stephanie back in the Bat-verse, and I can’t wait to see where she goes next. Betrayal and conspiracy are following her wherever she goes and there is a hell of a twist in her subplot in this issue. Loved it!

Dustin Nguyen does the pencils for this issue with Derek Fridolfs doing the inks, John Kalisz doing the colours and Rob Leigh doing the letters. Given the complete change in the creative team (and the story POV), my understanding is that we are moving into the next phase of this weekly series. I loved what Jason Fabok and Co. did in the first three issues, so that might colour my perception here, but I just didn’t like this issue all that much visually. There is a lack of dynamism in Nguyen’s character work and a lot of the times it just appears to be unfinished and lacking in detail even. The colours are better, but they are a bit too bright for me, could have used a darker tone. There were some good moments here, but not all that much I’m afraid.

Decent issue at best, but a huge step back in the quality nonetheless. I can only hope that the future issues are better.

Rating: 7/10

More Batman: Eternal: #1, #2, #3.

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Posted on May 3, 2014, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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