It’s my birthday this week. No, I am not saying what day. But my favorite fictional character is Batman, and I did finally get around to reading something I’ve been curious about for a while now: the Batman Eternal maxi-series. Split over three large trades, the series was a weekly comic designed to celebrate Batman’s 75th birthday. And, to show how far behind I am, it’s Batman’s 80th birthday this year.
But hey, what did DC do in honor of the Dark Knight’s 75th birthday?
After a brief glimpse to how the series ends, with an unmasked Bruce Wayne lashed to a busted-up Batsignal while an unseen foe gloats and Gotham City burns, we can start the story. What could have brought Batman to such a bad place?
We then flash back and get the start of what went down. Essentially, things start off with a couple of incidents all happening at the same time. First, Commissioner Gordon, while chasing down a suspect, thinks the man is armed, fires his gun, and causes a massive subway accident. Shortly thereafter, Gordon is convicted of multiple counts of manslaughter and goes to prison. At about the same time, Carmine Falcone returns to Gotham intent on taking the city back from more of the costumed crooks who took over the mob. That leads to a massive war between Falcone and the Penguin with the new police commissioner a blatantly crooked man working for Falcone and aiming police resources away from the mob war and at Batman.
If this volume had a weak point, it’s the interim commissioner. Jason Bard makes his New 52 debut here as a resourceful cop from Detroit whose introduction to Gordon’s immediate successor has the man complaining about how when Falcone was in charge of the city, everything made sense and cops got what they deserved, but then Batman showed up and ruined all that.
This guy was a crooked cop? Well, color me surprised.
Now, that said, despite the title, the book isn’t about Batman so much as it is Gotham City itself. There’s a subplot involving Vicki Vale at the Gotham Gazette, Barbara Gordon goes hunting for whoever framed her father, Jason Todd returns to help the traveling Batgirl, Red Robin and Harper “Bluebird” Row investigate some kind of nanobot illness hitting kids in the Narrows, and then there’s Arkham. Just about every recognizable character in Gotham from Batman’s 75 year history appears somewhere with a few big exceptions due to continuity circumstances (no signs of Dick Grayson, Damien Wayne, or the Joker for the entire three volume run). Professor Pyg is causing problems, Joker’s Daughter is up to something in Gotham with the ghost of Reverend Blackfire inside of Maxie Zeus. Batwing is looking into that with help from…the Spectre? Really? OK, I’ll play along.
And while Gordon goes to jail, Alfred gets an unexpected visitor in the form of his estranged daughter Julia, and we’re getting the reintroduction of the Spoiler for the New 52. Basically, we’re getting a lot, and it all seems to actually fit together, including Batman traveling abroad to work with one of the Batman Inc. Batmen from another country. This is truly a celebration of Batman and his entire history, and it’s nice to get in on the ground floor.
That does make sense. The entire series was plotted by Scott Snyder and James Tynion while the script was the work of all the various Bat writers at the time. Most of Batman’s bigger name foes sit out the first volume (they’re coming), and the artwork can be a bit inconsistent due to the weekly demands, but this was a good start that ends with a dangling plot thread of who is really behind it all just as another Batman foe steps forward to put a hurt on the Dark Knight and his allies.
The gang war was done well, even as multiple police commissioners rise and fall. Volume 2 covers a different phase in the story. No grade on this volume. I’ll wait until I get to the third volume later this week and cover all three at once.