They did it. They finally went and did it. They tied together 50 issues and gave readers a mystery that built upon itself organically and using all the connective tissue they could muster. The BATMAN ETERNAL Crew of Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Tim Seeley, Ray Fawkes and Kyle Higgins took the Bat-Family across the world, underground and to the darkest reaches of Gotham’s bleak history in order to bring us to this point. Batman’s rogues were unleashed and even upgraded, necessitating some of the best and brightest teamwork seen from the ‘Family since Death of the Family caused a brief rift, and through it all the central strength of the storytelling has always been how consistent the characters have stayed and how organic it’s all felt. This tale began with a trainwreck and ends with a city aflame. The writers waste no time dropping Bats back into the action, and giving the readers a great notion of why he had to be taken off the board as he reasserts a degree of order with usual grim efficiency. They also show us some levity, thankfully, as we get Alfred and Julia cooperating (as well as a background shot of a bound Hush that evokes actual laughter, but not QUITE being on the same page. But then something happens and the tale twists as we, at long last, get the revelation we’ve been waiting for for entire story arcs: the true mastermind behind one of the most wildly convoluted (but never outright fabricated) plots in Batman’s illustrious history. And what a reveal it is.
Alvaro Martinez tackles pencils and does a phenomenal job showing how incredible Bats is, but also doing a great job communicating how utterly wiped out he is. There are lots of small things that show that he has reached the end of his rope, but can’t give up just yet. The writers should get some credit here as well for making his dialog clipped and curt, even by Batman’s already gruff standards, but the art REALLY sells just how much he’s been through and how much is still yet to come. Raul Fernandez's inks give the action a real sense of force and impact, which is important in a book with this many disjointed scenes, giving them a sense of coherency. June Chungcolors give the book a dark, shadowy tone that suddenly bursts into unrestrained life at the appropriate moment. The action is clear and easy to follow, but also exciting and incredibly satisfying.
The brawl hinted at in last issue’s cliffhanger is resolved not just off-panel, but off-book. We open and the fight’s over before the first page has begun, and while it’s done artfully it is on the disappointing side that we didn’t get to see at least one knock-down, drag-out brawl.
The reveal of the main villain comes off more as a confirmation for anyone who’s read the last few issues, even though the actual reveal is tortuously dragged out. While it’s the fun kind of torturous, it seems odd that the creators tipped their hand earlier, then pretended the surprise was still intact.
This is still an enormously satisfying issue in a phenomenal run of a great story. This will likely read incredibly well in trade as the cohesion will be even more apparent, but this issue manages to keep ramping up both the stakes and the players. The series isn’t over yet, and this issue drives that point home with still another gloriously suspenseful cliffhanger.