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Batman Eternal #23

Review by Paul Bowler

Hush has returned to Gotham. He attacked Alfred in Wayne Manor, injecting a fear toxin directly into his brain. After discovering the Bat-Cave, Alfred’s daughter, Julia, must help Batman stop the Architect from destroying the Beacon Tower. With the newly appointed Commissioner Bard also corrupt, and secretly working with Hush, the evidence that could have proved Jim Gordon’s innocence has been destroyed. Now as the crime families vie for power, Catwoman’s secret past is finally revealed. The answers she seeks reside in Blackgate Penitentiary, where she must ultimately decide what her role in Gotham’s order of crime will be.

Batman Eternal #23 has a lot of ground to cover following the events of the last few issues, with the riot in Blackgate Penitentiary, Batman’s mission with Killer Croc and Bard in the sewers, Batwing and Jim Corrigan’s investigation at Arkham, and Batgirl’s quest to clear her fathers name, the action continues to unfold at a rapid pace as this weekly series shifts its focus towards Catwoman. With its intricately plotted storyline by writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with script by Tim Seeley, and consulting writers Ray Fawkes, and Kyle Higgins, Batman Eternal #23 makes the most of its extensive cast of characters and locations as it draws together a number of ongoing plot threads and sets the stage for even bigger things to come.

When Catwoman interrupts the latest skirmish between Mr Ibanescue and Tiger Shark for control of Gotham’s black market, her attempt to rescue a snow leopard cub from the carnage at the east end train yards doesn’t go well. Unable to save the wounded leopard cub back at her apartment, Selina receives a surprise visit from Jade, Killer Croc’s young friend who fences supplies into Blackgate Penitentiary, and who now brings a message for Selina from an old friend.

Batman Eternal #23 Cover

Batman’s fight with the Architect, another associate of Hush, continues high atop the Beacon Tower. With Alfred hospitalised, the Dark Knight is now reliant on Penny-Two, Alfred’s daughter Julia to relay information to him from the Bat-Cave. Julia’s role is becoming increasingly vital to the Dark Knight, especially with Alfred out of action, and I like the dynamic that’s developing between her and Batman. As the showdown with the Architect reaches its climax, an earth shattering surprise awaits us, and its one that is sure to have big implications for Gotham’s future.

The majority of Batman Eternal #23 is cantered around Catwoman’s secret visit to Blackgate Penitentiary. With Jade’s help, Catwoman manages to gain access to the prison through a drainage pipe, where Rex Calabrese “The Lion” is waiting to meet her. After a furious exchange, where Catwoman’s past is brought into sharp focus, Rex reveals that Jade’s father was also a gangster, just like Selina’s… Rex knows that Gotham is in chaos without a kingpin to maintain the order, and is certain there is only one person who can now unite the families before they tear the city apart… I really like how this issue of Batman Eternal flows into the narrative of the events we saw in Batman 28, the special “spoiler issue” released mid-way through Zero Year, that showed how Catwoman would become the new Kingpin of Gotham City – and these scenes between Selina and Rex Calabrese in Batman Eternal #23 proved a nice precursor to these future events.

Dustin Nguyems artwork perfectly captures the dark, foreboding skyline of Gotham, from the brutality of the dogfight, to the griminess of Blackgate Penitentiary, and there is also get a brief interlude in the sewers with Killer Croc. The short scenes in Sliena’s apartment and those in the Bat-Cave with Julie, with their pristine interiors and high-tech gadgetry, highlight’s the oppressive presence of the city even further. Nguyem’s pencils bring a real sense of kinetic energy to the action, which together with Derek Fridolfs inks, and colorist John Kalisz, makes Batman Eternal #23 a darkly atmospheric and visually impressive issue, one that is epic in scale and packed with exciting character development to accentuate the big action sequences.

The return of Hush has brought an added sense of tension to main story arc in Batman Eternal. We also have Commissioner Bard’s betrayal, having already become close to Vicky Vale, the new commissioner is also in league with Hush, and continues to consolidate his position of power this issue by pressuring the Governor to declare marshal law in Gotham. With the crime war still escalating, Jim Gordon serving a life sentence in Blackgate Penitentiary, the ongoing haunting inside Arkham Asylum, together with the Nanovirus that’s been sweeping through the Narrows, and now the devastating attack on the Beacon Tower, the corrupt forces conspiring to destroy the Dark Knight and his allies are beginning to close in.

Batman Eternal #23 is another great issue; The Lioness is a multi-layered story, which, together with the dynamic artwork, continues to develop the ongoing plot in completely new and unexpected directions.