, , , , , , , , , , ,

Batman Eternal #52

Review by Paul Bowler

Gotham City is a raging inferno of chaos. Batman confronted the supposed mastermind at Beacon Tower, the Cluemaster. With the Dark Knight exhausted and beaten, Cluemaster was about to shoot Batman when the true mastermind emerged from the shadows… Lincoln March, the villain behind the Court of Owls storyline, the man who claimed he was Bruce’s brother, Thomas Wayne Jr! Dressed in his Court of Owls armour, March slit Cluemaster’s throat. Now, while Batman’s allies and the GCPD fight to save the city, the Dark Knight must confront his nemesis as the final battle between these erstwhile brothers begins…

The lives of Batman, his allies, his enemies, and even the city of Gotham itself, have become the focus of this landmark DC Comics weekly series as the Dark Knights world has been explored like never before over the course of this year-long event. The Bat-Epic concludes here in Batman Eternal #52, with a story from writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, script also by Tynion, along with consulting writers Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins and Tim Seeley, in this special extra sized issue as Batman Eternal reaches its thrilling climax.

Batman Eternal #52 gives us only moments to recover from last issue shocking cliff-hanger, with an ominous flashback to The Night of the Owls and a fortuitous meeting at Harbor House, before the action-packed showdown between Batman and Lincoln March takes centre stage. While it may have been Cluemaster’s plan, it was actually Lincoln March that funded the entire operation with the resources he plundered from The Court of Owls. Now as the confrontation between March and Batman atop Beacon Tower takes to the air, this violent reunion between these supposed Wayne brothers soon comes crashing down to earth, and the location for their final battle proves a fittingly apt battleground for “Eternal” to play out on.

Batman Eternal #52 Cover

The pace of this issue doesn’t let up for a moment. As the fate of Gotham City hangs in the balance, it’s up to Batman’s allies to do whatever they can to help the civilians escape from the carnage that has griped the city. With Penny One and Penny Two coordinating their efforts, Batwing, Red Robin, Bluebird, and Red Hood all have their work cut out for them, and even Batgirl must race to make a last minute rescue when she least expects it.

Batman Eternal #52 features a wealth of stunning artwork for this final issue provided by: Eduardo Pansica & Julio Ferreira, Robson Rocha & Guillermo Ortego, David Lafuente, Tim Seeley, and Ray Fakes (Artists), along with Allen Passalaoua, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, John Rauch (Colors), Steve Wands (Letters), with a stunning cover by Jae Lee & June Chung, and variant cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson. The different artistic styles form a perfect cohesion between the striking visual and intricate plotting required for this final issue of Batman Eternal, as the year-long storyline draws to a close. The collective work produced here is staggering, every scene builds towards the glorious moment where Jim Gordon address the city, whereby a clever twist inspired from events in Zero Year is utilized to create an urban victory for Gotham City as dozens of Bat-Signals light up the sky. It’s a rousing scene, and one of Batman Eternals finest moments ever!

With new allies joining the fray to help the Bat-Family, Commissioner Bard and the GCPD also receive some unexpected help, Spoiler faces her most life changing decision of all, and Batman’s fight with Lincoln March reaches a crucial juncture. Ever since Lincoln March’s fate and supposedly true identity as Thomas Wayne Jr was left unresolved in Batman #11, the characters return has been long expected, and the flashback to his encounter with Cluemaster brings further insight into the role he played in orchestrating the events in Batman Eternal.

The fight between Batman and Lincoln is a savage, brutal, no-holds-barred struggle, but even though Batman’s rag-tad suit is hardly a match for Lincoln’s armour, Bruce fights on, even when it seems everything is lost. It proves how indomitable the legacy of the Dark Knight really is, despite everything Bruce has had taken away from him: be it the gadgets, the money, whether being driven to the brink of physical and mental exhaustion, or even having the cape and cowl ripped away, Bruce Wayne is still the Batman, with or without all the trappings, and his personal resolve, strength, faith in his allies, and his dedication to city he is sworn to protect remains as unbreakable as the night that fateful gunshot rang out in crime alley.

Batman-Eternal #52 (A)

So much has happened over the last year: Commissioner Gordon was framed and sentenced to life in Blackgate for unwittingly causing the subway train accident that killed over one hundred Gotham citizens, Selina Kyle went from cat burglar to Gotham’s new Kingpin of crime, Wayne Manor was transformed into a new Arkham Asylum after the latter was destroyed following an explosive supernatural event, a nano-virus wreaked havoc in the Narrows of Gotham, and the Dark Knight and his allies were tested to the limit as they battled the villains of Batman’s rogues gallery in their quest to discover the mastermind behind it all. Sure, there were a few issues where the focus of the plot meandered a little, some characters story arcs were better developed than others, but overall I think Batman Eternal provided a really gripping and exciting storyline, one that has – for the most part at least – delivered the goods week after week.

The resolution to the fight between Batman and Lincoln March is another of Batman Eternals standout moments. While perhaps not exactly the battle royal we might’ve been hoping for, that magnificent two-page spread during the major turning point of the fight is an absolute killer moment, and the scene which follows afterwards between Jim Gordon and Batman sums everything up perfectly. From here Batman Eternal gradually winds down though a series of codas that neatly ties up some loose ends and sets up some potential storylines for the future. The times they are a changing in Gotham: especially for Jason Bard and Vicky Vale, Batman and Catwoman, Penguin, Batwing, Barbara, Jason Todd, and Harper and her new flatmate, but my favourite closing scene was a particularly fun moment between Stephanie Brown and Red Robin.

As for Lincoln March..? Well, let’s just say the past has a very nasty way of catching up with him. Ironic really, considering how Lincoln thought the Cluemaster was nothing more than a second-rate nobody, that it is Lincoln March who eventually suffers the indignity and horror of becoming the greatest nobody of all…

Batman Eternal has been a milestone comic book event, the scope of this weekly series has been immense, and the all star creative team of writers Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Jason Fabok, John Layman, and Tim Seeley, together with a host of superb artists including – Jason Fabok, Dustin Nguyen, Andrea Mutti, and more – have brought readers an intricately plotted and visually impressive series that has successfully managed to keep us guessing about the true identity of the villain behind everything right up until the penultimate issue

Batman Eternal #52 (CoverLight)

With everything in Batman Eternal taking place before the current events unfolding in Batman Endgame, the fallout from this year-long series is sure to influence the shape of things to come. We still have Batman #40 and the face-off between the Batman and the Joker on the cards for the finale of Endgame, then we’ve got the intriguing prospect of an “All New Batman” debuting in Batman #41, and if all that wasn’t enough for us to look forward to Batman Eternal Season 2 is also on the way. This second Batman Eternal storyline will be focused more on Robin and the characters that have been involved in the Dark Knights legacy as Robins, and it will be a major story event that will celebrate Robins 75th Anniversary!

The last page of Batman Eternal is magnificent point to close on. Over the last year we’ve seen how the Dark Knights world has gradually been torn down around him. Now, as Batman and Jim Gordon look out across the Gotham skyline it becomes apparent just how far reaching the events of Batman Eternal have been for everyone involved. Its been a tough year for Batman and Gordon, nevertheless they stand ready, prepared to face whatever the future might hold, and carry on the good fight for Gotham one more time.

Batman Eternal #52 rounds off this year-long event in fine style, it provides an exciting finale to DC Comics weekly Batman series, and sets the scene for the next era of the Dark Knight legacy to begin in earnest.