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Batman Eternal #51

Review by Paul Bowler

Gotham City is burning. The crisis is spiralling out of control, villains are running wild, even the Dark Knights allies are struggling to cope. As the GCPD plan their next move, Catwoman reinforces her authority as Gotham’s Kingpin of crime. Batman raced to the Beacon Tower to confront the mastermind behind it all – the Cluemaster! Now, beaten and tied to the shattered Bat-Signal, it would seem that Batman has been completely outwitted and utterly defeated by Cluemaster. But is Cluemaster really the master criminal, or is there another waiting to be revealed..?

Cluemaster has emerged from the shadows as the major antagonist of Batman Eternal! Now the fallout from last issues cliff-hanger unfolds in Batman Eternal #51, in this story from writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, featuring a great script also by James Tynion IV, and consulting writers Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins and Tim Seeley, as the year long weekly Batman series’ penultimate issue delvers its most shocking twist of all!

Bound to the Bat-Signal, Batman must endure yet more hardship as his identity is callously stripped away, it echoes the opening moments from Batman Eternal #1, and Cluemaster is certainly not messing about either. While he basks in the glory of his apparent victory, we learn how Cluemaster set about brining his grand scheme together. Its ingenious to say the least, it seem the misdirection it caused worked both ways, and its staggering to think what this second-rate Riddler-knock off has managed to achieve.

Batman Eternal #51 Cver

Meanwhile, the Bat-Family do what they can to help the citizens of Gotham, but they cannot be everywhere at once. As Catwoman cracks the whip to keep the crime families in line, over at the GCPD, the situation looks grim, and its up to Jim Gordon to inspire Commissioner Bard to step up to the plate and be the commissioner the city needs. The brief interlude featuring Bluebird and Spoiler is a great moment for both characters, Harper’s exchange with Stephanie is rooted in the very essence of everything Batman stands for, and it’s a great defining moment for Bluebird – and its one that makes me like the character more than ever.

The art by Alvaro Martinze is stunning, every scene from Tynion’s exciting script is stylishly rendered, and the action flows seamlessly along at a cracking pace. The opening scenes are ablaze with high-drama, with the cape and cowl fluttering down into the flaming streets, before events shift between Catwoman’s nightclub, the GCPD, and finally Harper’s confrontation with Spoiler. Alvaro Martinze’s superbly conveys the flashbacks detailing Cluemaster’s scheme with his cohorts, and the ferocity of Bruce’s battle with Cluemaster is also really intense and brutal. Raul Fernandez’s inks enhance every detail, and the colors by June Chung are really bold and striking.

Of course the Bat is never defeated is he? As we might have expected Batman manages to get free and give Cluemaster a good kicking, but in his weakened state even the Dark Knight struggles, his punches lack power, and the moment Cluemaster has been waiting for is finally here. So, is the Cluemaster really the big-bad of Batman Eternal, or has this been just another red herring to keep us all guessing? Well, although he may have brought Batman to the brink of his greatest defeat, let’s just say that Cluemaster soon finds out just how cutthroat and unpredictable things can get when you attempt to step up into the big league of the major villains!

The year-long Bat-Epic is almost over! Batman Eternal #51 is terrific issue, by the final, shocking page, this issue will have sunk its claws in deep, and you will be left reeling by another shocking surprise cliff-hanger!