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Batman Eternal #17

Review by Paul Bowler

Arkham Asylum is in the grip of a terrifying new horror. Batwing and Jim Corrigan were sent by Batman to investigate the Asylum, where they both encountered supernatural forces, before uncovering the horrifying truth. Meanwhile, Red Robin and Harper Row find a new lead in Tokyo that could solve the mystery of the nanovirus that is slowly killing her brother. Many years ago Gotham faced a power that even Batman struggled to defeat. Now this same dark force is gathering in Arkham’s shadowy depths, soon he will rise, and the city will tremble before him.

Batman Eternal #17 delves ever deeper into the hellish events unfolding beneath Arkham Asylum, enlightening us with a series of flashbacks that offer us greater insight to the cause of what’s happening in Arkham, while other plot threads involving Batman’s allies continue to play out and reach new turning points. With it’s tightly plotted story by writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with script by Ray Fawkes, and consulting writers John Layman, and Tim Seeley, Batman Eternal #17 casts a spectral eye over the horrors emerging within Arkham while other significant characters and events in this weekly series also get a share of the action.

Batman Eternal #17 )Cover)

The Savior is a terrific story that sees Batwing and Jim Corrigan faced with the full horror of what has been happening in Arkham, as they confront the spiritual manifestation of Deacon Blackfire himself in a cavern below the Asylum. Deacon Blackfire’s spirit has returned to unleash havoc on Gotham City. The story of this deranged cult leader, who first appeared in the four part mini-series Batman: The Cult (1988), is told here though a series of flashbacks. It’s revealed how he preyed on the homeless, using drugs to subvert them to his cause to create an army beneath Gotham and begin a war on crime. Blackfire even captured Batman and attempted to brainwash him, but the Dark Knight managed to turn the Deacon’s minions against him and they killed him.

As well as the ghostly happenings in Arkham Asylum, Batman Eternal #17 catches up with Red Robin and Harper Row in Tokyo where their investigation into the nanobots released in Gotham has brought them to the Akihabara District, and a meeting with Sergei Alexandrov. Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor, Alfred’s daughter, Julia, confronts him about his decision to dedicate his life to serving the Wayne family, leading to some particularly emotional scenes where Alfred’s dignified silence conveys everything the ideal he serves so loyally means to him.

Dustin Neguyn’s art for Batman Eternal #17 really gives a dark and chilling edge to the scenes in Arkham, with Derek Fridolfs inks also enhancing the foreboding atmosphere, to make Batwing’s and Jim Corrigan’s plight seem all the more desperate. The investigation by Red Robin and Harper Row in Tokyo provides a stark contrast to the main events of the issue, as they confront Sergei Alexandrov in his high-tech lab, while the scenes back in Gotham at Wayne Manor serve as a backdrop to Julia’s argument with her father. Each location is given its own distinct pallet and tone by colorist Jason Kalizi, with vivid hues used for the interludes in Tokyo and Wayne Manor, while the flashbacks featuring Deacon Blackfire have more a grainy, darker tone, and the pitch black shadows beneath Arkham are punctuated with a shimmering blend of unearthly energies from beyond the netherworld.

With the return of Deacon Blackfire, channelling his spirit via the lumbering form of Maxie Zeus, and with the Joker’s Daughter as a maniacal sidekick, this issue ends on a supernatural high, and sets in motion a series of startling events and ghostly transformations. I really like how Batman features in this storyline, as the past entwines with the present, it shows just how flexible and versatile the format of a weekly series can be. Personally, I really like Batman stories when they dip into the realm of the supernatural like this, especially when the art and the story works so well together. Batman Eternal #17 is an excellent issue with and exciting story, great character moments, and enough dark paranormal twists in the plot to keep you guessing right up until the final page.