Batman Eternal #21 – James Tynion IV and Jason Fabok

batman-eternalThis review contains spoilers for the issue

Batman Eternal has been a series that has been ticking along nicely in one corner of the DC universe. The weekly format lends itself more towards a television show, rather than the standard monthly fare, as the fast release schedule has allowed for a series that has been happily dropping major cliffhangers left  and right. The Bat universe suits this format easily, as the large ensemble cast ensures that not one character is going to hog the spotlight for too long – well aside from the titular Batman of course. The team of writers and artists, led by the always excellent Scott Snyder, have manged to find a suitably epic groove in which to explore the Bat family, and issue #21, while beginning a little slowly, manages to solidify this series place as some of the best Batman stories to come from the New 52 – and with the current lineup, that’s saying something.

James Tynion IV picks up the scripting reins of issue 21 and he maintains a steady hold of the events barreling out of issue 20. Batman believes he has got Jim Gordon out of prison after evidence comes to light regarding the train crash back in issue one, and the newly appointed Commissioner Bard isn’t quite who he seems. But the real star of the show is Alfred this week, finally being able to show off his skills that his daughter has consistently bemoaned him for apparently losing in previous issues. Bad-ass Alfred is always a treat when he pops up, and his speech when he lets the intruder know that while Bruce may have an aversion to guns, he certainly doesn’t, makes me hope that Alfred’s back story gets it’s own series.

But enough about the awesome Alfred sequence – lets talk about the reveals. Firstly, Hush makes his big entrance into the New 52, and it seems his original back-story is going to remain intact. Hush is an interesting choice, as he is inevitably going to draw parallels to Lincoln March who was brought up in Court of the Owls, both men vying for the position that Bruce Wayne holds. It will be interesting to see how differently this story will develop moving forward, as the especially muddy events surrounding anything pre-New 52 may alter how much Batman has come to blows with this villain.

The next large development this week is Bard being revealed as one of the big bads for the series. Now this I like – Bard in previous issues had read as a slightly more pessimistic Jim Gordon, willing to do some of the “tough choices” eschewed by the larger superhero community. This is fine, as this can create some pretty decent morality issues – especially due Batman’s work ethic – but this had been done to death. Having Bard taking on a more sinister role is a welcomed approach, and it seems to come out of nowhere.

Jason Fabok is as suited to a Batman story as he has ever been. His detailed and realistic pencils make for a fantastic full page spread with Hush and Alfred (even if it does look like Alfred is being stabbed more than he seems in later panels), and his character work is full of dark and foreboding frowns – always a plus for a Batman comic. Brad Anderson’s colours don’t do heaps to stand out, but it does lend a nice dark and bleak atmosphere to the proceedings.

Batman Eternal is a blast, and shouldn’t work as well as it does on a week-to-week basis. Faring much better than its DC counterpart Futures End, Snyder and Co. have crafted a beast of a story that continues to impress as it closes out its latest arc. But lets be honest – I’m just thankful to see a badass Alfred once again.

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