Batman Eternal: Final Thoughts

Review time. Collin Colsher and Paramvir Singh Randhawa discuss the yearlong Batman Eternal weekly series now that its fifty-second and final issue has been published.

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COLLIN:

It’s no secret, if you’ve been following my website, that I have had very little love for Batman Eternal. I often think of Eternal as this series that, at its initial inception, was supposed to be this really super fun story that would go for a full year exploring every nook and cranny of the Bat-verse while highlighting every Bat-villain and supporting character. And in a sense, that IS what we got, only it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t well-paced, and it wasn’t well-constructed. Surely what we got was not the intention of the creative team at the beginning. But before I dig into the meat-and-potatoes of the botched narrative, I’d like to separate the art and talk about that first.

The one saving grace of Batman Eternal was its myriad of different artists. The Ian Bertram issue was a personal favorite of mine. With a weekly book, you are going to get a lot of sloppy, rushed illustration, but overall Eternal was able to showcase a plethora of new and veteran talent. Jason Fabok, Dustin Nguyen, Andy Clarke, Guillem March, Alvaro Martinez, and Juan Jose Ryp (just to name a few) all had killer issues. How did the art strike you, Singh?

SINGH:

The art was the best part about Batman Eternal. We had talent from the range of Dustin Nguyen to Fernando Pasarin. The best part was that the cohesiveness that was missing from the writing team, was present in the art team. No matter how different the art was—and yes it was slightly mediocre at many times—it still managed to maintain an adventurous yet serious theme. Eternal #51‘s art under Alvaro Martinez is the perfect example of this. Not only does Martinez manage to depict Gotham City at its worst, he also manages to show fine increments of detail within almost every character. The best part, he does it with a degree of simplicity as well. That first page when we see Gotham burning, Alvaro Martinez shows it beautifully. Cluemaster’s associates are supposed to be an oxymoron, art showing them as simple and weak as opposed to the text box. Alvaro again does this perfectly. When Cluemaster unmasks Batman, the look on Bruce’s face makes me wish the writing in the series matched the level of talent we got from somebody like Alvaro, who I’m surprised has penciled only five issues for DC so far.

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Batman Eternal #51

COLLIN:

Let’s now address the narrative of Batman Eternal. I think you and I have a lot more to unpack in this regard. The title’s biggest problem by far was that it violated its own timing over and over and over while simultaneously ignoring literally every other Bat book. Weeks would pass (as we’d be told in the comic), but it would soon register clearly that action was continuing from a mere day or two ago. Then we’d be told it’s January when it could only possibly have been October a few weeks ago. These hidden ellipses are not just me nitpicking. These things RUIN storytelling—especially in a shared universe. I read and re-read these issues and tried to make a calendar of events that flowed naturally, following the beat of the story and the references to time (of which there are many), but alas I was unable to make heads or tails of how the passage of time was working. In fact, in order for me to get from issue #1 to #52 I had to insert several MONTHS worth of nonexistent ellipses that can’t really exist the tight way the story is written—Eternal never stops to breathe, never allows for any other stories to really fit in, and tells us that time has passed but actually shows that time hasn’t. Heh, maybe THAT is why it’s called “Eternal.”

I know, Singh, that you’ve been critical of the STORY of Batman Eternal maybe even more than me. What are your final thoughts on its narrative now that it’s all said and done?

Eternal #40

SINGH:

The best issues of Batman Eternal are the first four. Not only is the art extremely strong, but the narrative gives the series a clear direction and makes the reader excited for all fifty-two issues. While many can call Batman Eternal a Scott Snyder story, in reality it’s a Snyder story as much as “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” is a Dr. Dre album. Sure, Dre has a strong influence given his strong position at Interscope Records and close friendship with Eminem, but he is really just a producer. That is the position that Scott Snyder takes for Batman Eternal. In the first four issues, it is not hard to see Snyder’s writing and the fact that he has a direct impact on the narrative. The story built up in those first four issues really does belong to Snyder.

For Eternal, Snyder put together a strong creative team that included himself, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley. Each one of these writers had proven themselves great writers who had consistently crafted great stories—except Tynion IV. Yes, one could argue that Tynion IV’s backup stories are excellent, but in actual series Tynion has fallen short on his work with both Talon, which was entirely dependent on having Snyder’s name on the cover, and Red Hood and the Outlaws. Make no mistake, Eternal was strongest in the beginning when the point of the story was clear: tell a great story about Batman and his supporting cast that gets you excited about the tease, but more excited on the path there. It may sound harsh for me to place all the blame for Batman Eternal coming up so short on Tynion IV, but the truth is the most talented writers are listed as consulting writers.

It’s clear that, after establishing the story, Snyder’s contributions became tangential around the tenth issue. This is when things began to go wrong for Eternal. With Snyder focusing more on his other work and John Layman leaving, the team effectively lost two main pens that wrote the strings of continuity. It’s after this point when Eternal starts having chronological/continuity problems both within its own narrative and by contradicting other Batman books. After all, was Mr. Combustible not killed in Arkham War? Was Roadrunner not killed a few issues ago? Why isn’t this story addressing what Peter Tomasi is doing? When will they reveal the main bad guy? Around issue #18, which I believe was Layman’s last issue, these problems started to arise. No worries though, because Hush comes in soon after, right? Wrong. We get twenty more issues that actually do a fairly good job of progressing the story, but it’s the last twelve issues that really bother me. At issue #40, everybody started wondering, when will they reveal the main bad guy? At this point, Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley may have been writing their own titles, Kyle Higgins may have joined in late, and Mike Marts may have left, but surely letting Tynion IV be the man in charge had to be a last minute decision, right?

Eternal #36

Batman Eternal #36

Batman Eternal should have been the kind of story that reveals its main bad guy in the last five pages but is still good in spite of the late reveal. Those aforementioned editorial issues and placing Tynion IV at the head of the game plan, though, just may have placed too much pressure on everyone involved. And instead of writing a story about Batman and his supporting cast’s great journey during the Gotham Cold War, we got twelve-plus issues of filler. In fact, given that Snyder started writing “Endgame,” which is set after Eternal, one could argue that we got fifty-two issues of filler. Honestly, “Endgame” showed that, other than a change in scenery, there really is nothing fundamentally important arising from the events of Eternal. I can’t decide what frustrates me more, that from issues #36-49 Tynion IV was just treading water when he could have written a fantastic story about the Gotham City villains, or that Snyder invalidated a story he endorsed because the only way he could make “Endgame” work was by placing it after Eternal. Don’t get me wrong, all in all, Eternal as a concept isn’t a bad idea, but it really lost its way after the Hush reveal. Interestingly, in spite of all this, if one looks at web comments and other reviews week-to-week, it appears people were more satisfied with it than say Futures End because it, one, kept things continually happening (even though this ruined the element of surprise) and, two, concluded on a relatively satisfactory upbeat note.

Eternal #22

Batman Eternal #22

COLLIN:

After a literal yearlong barrage of bogus red herring storytelling that went absolutely nowhere, Batman Eternal went out with a whimper, although, as you just said, Singh, I presume most folks enjoyed it on account of the neat wrap-up and happy ending. Wow ‘em in the end and you’ve got yourself a winner, eh?

SINGH:

Your comments above are true: Batman Eternal‘s pacing was completely off. And, again, it may sound unfair to place the blame on Tynion IV, but one has to note how ironic it is that the issues that have the biggest continuity errors like with Batwing and Corrigan, are Tynion IV dominated issues. One can look at reviews online, but I’m going to point out reviewer FHIZ from GothamSpoilers. Read his reviews for the series from the first issue to the last. You see huge excitement and then by the end of it, you see a sort of relief that the series is over.

Like I’ve said before, who the main bad guy is should not have mattered… but it did because when you give a project this big to that green of a writer, chances are he is going to get stuck and stumble. I feel like I’m not hitting the point directly, but I’ll try my best. Did we get a conclusion to any main plot? After reading the series, can you tell me who hypnotized Gordon? They say it was Cluemaster, but what about Dr. Falsario and what about Carmine Falcone’s knife? Why were the nanobot infected kids on the train when Hatter clearly wasn’t working for Falcone but just accepting the invitation like the Roman? Why did Dr. Phosphorous get haunted by the Deacon and why did he start working for the gang right after? What was the Ten-Eyed Man doing and why was Jade McKillen all over the place? What happened to Vicki Vale’s flashdrive? There were three main stories in Batman Eternal before the series started stalling for time: the GCPD, the Arkham Infestation and the Nanobot Infestation. Let’s see: In the GCPD story, a gang war breaks out and Gordon goes to jail so Bard collaborates with Batman to take down the gang war. Bard stops the gang war, Batman doesn’t shake his hand but then he does, then Hush is revealed to have somehow manipulated Jason Bard, and then Bard injures his leg but he disappears for like eight issues and it’s better again, and then Bard decides to retake the city and then retires. I could go on about the other main plot-lines, but that should be an indicator enough about how clustered it was. Like I’ve said, we should have gotten a story where each week we’d be excited to see Batman take down an enemy of his but instead we got a story where we’d get frustrated at seeing Batman not fight the Big Bad.

COLLIN:

My only response to your last few statements is agreement about so many unanswered questions (i.e. straight up PLOT HOLES). I was particularly annoyed by the back-story of how Bard came to hate Batman and then came to Gotham to destroy Gordon. It made no sense at all. Very forced, contrived, and confusing, to say the least. Another moment in my mind is when they accidentally labeled Sebastian Hady as “William Hady.” These guys didn’t seem to give a shit about this arc. A real disappointment to all Bat-fans. Final thoughts, Singh?

SINGH:

My final disappointment is that not only did these guys not care about this arc, they treated it like just another pay cheque. Within the creative team, there was no cohesiveness, something that was even displayed in the less popular weekly Earth 2: World’s End. One issue Kyle Higgins was writing Tim Drake and then Tim Seeley, both showing inconsistency. At least in World’s End, Daniel H. Wilson was writing Mr. Miracle the whole time. A better example would be Futures End: Brian Azzarello was writing Superman and Terry McGinnis the whole time, so when Superman talked to Shazam and Terry talked to Tim, one could clearly see that it was Azzarello writing in response to what Jurgens had written and so on. These moments, which make a weekly an emotional journey where writers get attached to their characters and actually write with heart, were missing from Eternal. It sucks that with such a great art team, we had such a weak writing one.

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COLLIN:

One last shill for Singh: Check out his Youtube channel at Knight12ify and visit the Facebook page for the video game Mesozoica, which he is currently developing. Thanks!

About Paramvir Singh Randhawa

Paramvir Singh Randhawa has been an avid fan of and contributor to The Real Batman Chronology Project since the beginning of the New 52. He is currently managing the YouTube channel CutlockCrew and developing the video game "Mesozoica."
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1 Response to Batman Eternal: Final Thoughts

  1. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly hate Batman Eternal anymore than I already do, contributor Tip Tup Jr sent along a comment regarding some of his thoughts. I thought they were fit to share here:

    “The leaps in logic and expectations of what the reader is supposed to infer [in Batman Eternal] are just too much. For example…

    Batman #700 says there are like, sixteen sublevels in the Batcave, right? So there is really NO BETTER PLACE they could’ve put Hush than in a giant see-through tube in the middle of the Batcave, that’s not sound-proof, directly in front of the Bat-computer? ARGGHHH!

    Also, WHY didn’t Bruce at least foresee the possibility that Lincoln March and/or the Court of Owls could have been involved to some degree? And what’s this bullshit of him barely remembering who the Cluemaster is? It’s just utter nonsense. I don’t care if it’s a new continuity, they can’t just tell people ‘Ohh, forget this guy ever existed, forget how much of a big (relatively speaking) deal he was for multiple decades.’ If they REALLY wanted to dig into the well of obscure villains, there were much better options that would’ve suited the story infinitely better. How about Johnny Witts? Monarch of Menace? Iron-Hat Ferris? Yeah, people have never heard of them, and Eternal wants us to believe that CLUEMASTER is on the same level as THEM!!! RACHELLLL”

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