Balance is the key.
This month was an intriguing experiment in balancing all the elements of Gotham city – the technological, the supernatural and the ground-level.
Sadly two of those approaches failed due to different reasons.
After the first two issues were led with members of the Bat family with Batman only in cameos, the third one had Catwoman and Penguin in the spotlight while Batman was the main protagonist in the fourth act.
The artwork was generally good, with Andy Clarke the standout for me.
Tim finally gets a moment in the spotlight, as he investigates the rash of illnesses in the group of children who went to the museum on the night of Pyg’s attack and the train crash. The mystery is that the parents reported symptoms days before the trip.
In the narrows, Harper dresses up for a reconnaissance trip across the area while Cullen also seems to be showing the same flu like symptoms like the infected children.
At the Gotham Gazette, Vicki Vale is assigned a high school intern for a trip to the Narrows. Vale is in contempt at the ‘privileged up-starts’ and the duo get off to a frosty start.
Back in the Narrows, Tim monitors another of the infected children as Bruce pays a visit. Apparently Batman hasn’t communicated the fact that Dick is alive to anyone, making this meeting a little awkward.
But his interest is piqued by the fact that children outside the museum have begun getting infected as well. Bruce leaves, with the message that Tim can contact him anytime.
Vicki’s first tryst in the Narrows doesn’t end well, as Harper has to rescue them and takes the duo to her home. Upstairs, Tim’s inspection triggers a nano-trap attacking the Robin.
Just as the miscreants following Vale reach Harper’s home, the ceiling breaks and Drake falls into the Harper’s room below. The nanobots first attack the assailants and then integrate themselves inside Cullen, leaving him in a coma.
In Tokyo, a mysterious bespectacled figure with a robot armed monkey on his back says that young Mister Wayne will not like this at all and that he was his trainer.
Back in Gotham, Luke Fox aka Batwing encounters the Gentleman Ghost while Bruce gets a visit from a supernatural friend – Jim Corrigan aka Spectre.
Dr Phosphorus breaks out of Arkham as Bruce delegates Luke to go with the Spectre. Underground, an Arkham inmate named Martin falls into a nightmare as he is taken to a sea of severed limbs, on which sits the Joker’s daughter.
As Batwing and Spectre prepare to enter the Asylum, Dr Phosphorus explodes a truck infront of an incoming Batmobile with Batman in the seat.
Bruce is able to rescue the truck driver and sends him off to the hospital; while Pyg finds that his factory is in flames and emerges enraged with an army of Dollotrons.
At the Iceberg Casino, Penguin finds that Catwoman has entered the building. At Rhodes Motors, Falcone and Rhodes talk about killing Pyg and restoring the natural order of Gotham, which seems to include a return for Tiger Shark.
Shark attacks the Casino, causing it to submerge. Batman is attacked by the Dollotrons but subdues them and inadvertently tells Pyg to find the people who betrayed him.
Penguin is rescued by Selina, but not before the Casino has fully sunk. Pyg is released by Commisioner Forbes on account of being caught by a vigilante (actually, he’s working for Falcone) and takes revenge by blowing up Rhodes Motors.
A group of divers attempt to retrive Penguin’s sunken treasures, but are foiled by Batman. Not long afterwards, he hits a dozen of Falcone’s operations.
But his efforts are in vain as Forbes has instructed anyone captured by the caped crusader to be released immediately. Bullock’s in open revolt but Bard is conflicted about his actions, being a newbie in the city.
Tiger Stark makes another appearance as Falcone’s personal enforcer here.
We return to the Stephanie Brown storyline as Bard is grilled by Vale about a shooting that left three dead.
We see in flashback that Cluemaster assigned a hit on his daughter at the payphone she was calling from (she was in contact with her mother, who was relaying information back to Cluemaster), but due to a bit of fortune, someone else and passerbys took the bullet.
Forbes hatches a plan to trap Batman by using the Batsignal and Bruce attempts to repair relations with the GCPD. The operation is a failure for both sides but he does arrive at the conclusion that Bard is conflicted about his actions and he may be a potential ally in the future.
Batman decides that his actions in Gotham are being nullified by this joint operation by Falcone and Forbes, so he decides to trace the mobster back to Hong Kong, where a Catwoman like person is also present about to commit breaking and entering.
Tim is better presented in #5 than he has been during the entire New 52 run, but it’s kind of ho-hum until the final teaser. It’s always good to see Harper in the mix but Vale’s actions reek of amateurish which Vicki shouldn’t be.
The supernatural one is worse. Not only if the horrible elements of the Gotham Underground and Joker’s daughter included, longtime readers will find it easy to recognize that for some reason Etrigan/ Jason Blood was replaced by the Spectre/ Jim Corrigan at the last minute and it jars the entire issue.
The last two return to the gang war root struggle and are easily the best of the bunch. Penguin’s misery and the inclusion of Black Mirror elements Tiger Shark and ‘Roadrunner’ Rhodes are well done, and contrast well with Pyg.
The Batman vs GCPD plot with Forbes leading the assault is also engaging, through hopefully Forbes will be more fleshed out.
Bard’s conflict could have been more explored but it’s good enough for now (through the lack of screen presence of other GCPD regulars like Bullock is distressing). Stephanie’s arc is touched lightly but in that few moments, we see how ruthless Cluemaster is.
For now, we are about to explore outside Gotham and my love of Batman Inc is about to be revisited it seems (onwards, Mr Unknown!).
Showing the diverse faces of Gotham, not always with good results, Batman Eternal enters the next stage as changes must be enforced with a hostile GCPD and Falcone lurking in the shadows.
Most of the newly included supporting cast don’t fare well and prove inadequate replacements for the engaging cast in the first month.
The artwork is mostly above par and the contrasting styles work well in this format.
So, I give it 7.0 out of 10.
+The gang war elements are handled well
+Some great diverse artwork
+Fair attempt to explore all faces of Gotham…..
-that sadly doesn’t end with good results, either due to bland storytelling or last minute cast changes
-most of the supporting cast are side-lined