There aren’t many bigger cliffhangers to end on than the one that last issue gave us. After a litany of issues wondering who the true mastermind behind the entire storyline, from the very start with the fateful shot in the train station that landed Jim Gordon in jail, last issue gave one answer before pulling the rug out on it and slapping the reader across the face with another one. The brilliance of the reveal is that the reader shares Batman’s shock. The reader was played as readily and easily as Bats himself, creating sympathy for a character who sometimes finds that particular feeling in short supply. Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins and Tim Seeley open the issue with a flashback to the genesis of this whole thing, showing how the seemingly disparate participants first came together and how one of the most audacious schemes in all of Gotham’s history was hatched right under the nose of its most watchful protectors. The plot coalesces and we get an incredible throw-down between the mastermind and Bats as the rest of the Bat-Family struggle to keep Gotham as together as they can while the cops and the crooks find themselves with some unlikely commonality in the midst of all this total chaos. It would be hard to stress how utterly satisfying this ending is and how well the pieces come together, tracing a throughline that goes all the way back to issue 1. This is, for all intents and purposes, a 52-issue story arc that hangs together and makes organic, if not always completely realistic, sense and that’s to the immense credit of the above writers.
It would take many multiple pages to list the specific accomplishments of the litany of artists that have their hands on this issue, but at the very least their names deserve to be recognized as Robson Rocha and Guillermo Ortega bookend the title, as well as filling out a couple of pages in the middle while David LaFuente, Tim Seeley and Raw Fawkes give us glances at the various players in the aftermath of the catastrophic attack and, for the most part, it works well enough, each style matching the general tone and characters of the section it’s used on. Eduardo Pansica and Julio Ferreira are the primary contributors to the linework, illustrating the main bulk of the story and giving us an absolutely smashmouth, breakneck issue of the kind of fight Batman isn’t used to having: a messy, sloppy brawl. Bats is too exhausted to use any of his trademark sharp, clean style and must resort to getting his hands dirty (and bloody) in a proper melee and it looks great. Allen Passalaqua handles colors for those pages and almost seems to animate a Gotham being quickly engulfed in flames as the Bat and the mastermind battle their way through it and everyone else tries simply to hold it together. Passalaqua balances the darkness and light beautifully, making Gotham look dark, even as it burns, but it never looks hopeless. Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz and John Rauch provide colors on the other pages, and from top-to-bottom, they look fantastic.
Individually, the different segments of this issue look great but taken as a whole, there is a disconnect, especially on the pages that aren’t related to specific characters. And even when they are, some of the styles are similar-but-different enough that they feel like they’re invoking the same style, but the differences are clear enough to be obvious.
Scott Snyder has been incredible at making Batman and his world relatable, but at this point Gotham has undergone no fewer than three absolute, city-shattering catastrophes in about six years (and that leaves out the Night of Owls in which several prominent political figures were murdered) and at SOME point, it becomes a question as to why people live in this city. It has been burnt down no fewer than three times and, beyond a few minor mentions, no one on the street level seems to care. This also serves to greatly lessen the punch that each catastrophe inflicts, particularly as this event is coming to a close just as Endgame is ratcheting up.
First things first: the mastermind revealed last issue looked different, and the new look was less evocative of his general theme, but this issue revealed that it was simply an alternate version of the same costume and it still looks fantastic this issue. Beyond that, the Bat-Family really comes together and the various plotlines coalesce as new relationships and even new POTENTIAL relationships form to give a near-limitless amount of potential for future stories. Which are also incredibly interesting. BATMAN ETERNAL's team managed to pull out an ending that feels satisfying and even gives a sense of finality. With as much as this book accomplished, and as solid as the ending is, this one's going to be looked back upon fondly.