Here comes the sun, doodoodoodoo,
Here comes the sun,
And I say,
It's Dark Knight...
At long last, a villain from the past and our hero are cast into one final blast, to complete this black mass, and allies amass in this conclusion quite vast. It's the final issue of DC's weekly Batman celebration, Batman Eternal. One more villain revelation. One more race to the finish. One last bout with a rival. Last stands, surrenders, defenders, sneers, cheers, and a new status quo, all this this fifty-second, and ending chapter. As revealed last issue, as I had surmised for some time, Lincoln March steered this plan from the start, even if it didn't originate from him. Though some of my assumptions proved slightly off, generally I was correct in my deductions, and any differences are quite amusing directions that I'm satisfied with. The issue plays off at once the conclusion of this story and a great coda for the Snyder Batman, even if the actual scripting was done by another.
The issue begins with Cluemaster arriving at the meeting place for the Court of Owls on the Night of Owls early in Snyder's run. This was the night The Court had sent out many of its previous Talons, restored by a regenerative compound and a process Mr. Freeze helped them with. The Talons, the Court's assassins, murdered several prominent Gotham figures, in the Court's bid to show who was really in charge in the city. However, Lincoln March, who'd been raised by the Court, decided to betray them, and poisoned many of their higher ups, Batman arriving too late to stop it, which led to his first showdown with his so-called "brother". This issue reveals Cluemaster got to Lincoln before he did, seeking out the Court to help him destroy Batman. But when he arrived, his potential financiers were dead and all that remained was March, who liked the cut of his jib.
"Ohhh... did I come in while you were saying grace? Super sorry."
Of course, Lincoln planned on killing Bruce on that very night, but being the enterprising fellow he was, he didn't mind having a back up plan, which has been ready to go ever since his defeat. Cluemaster set his "invitations" plan into motion, getting Gordon thrown in the slammer, bringing elements like Falcone and Hush into the mix, leaving the cursed book with Milo, etc, and Lincoln has been steering things, turning Cluemaster's plot into his own.
"Nothing can hurt me worse than the last few DC animated features."
However, March and Brown had different philosophies. Cluemaster wanted to prove that he was just as good as any of the bigger criminals. He wanted to show he was in the big leagues- no, even better than them. He was the superior to the Riddler, to Clayface, Freeze, Joker. This was all about making a statement, putting Batman in his place, showing him he was nothing, that the city put too much trust in the symbol when behind it was just another man. That Batman was nothing special, and look how great he was for thwarting him, for proving that he was really nothing, as he, Cluemaster, had been made to feel for years. Treated like a joke. He hated Batman because people took Batman seriously and he wanted to prove how dangerous that was, providing that doing so would prove his own superiority.
I just assumed that Lincoln had a similar perspective. He was the one who stood by in the orphanage, waiting for his time. Biding his time, in his sickly body, to return to the prominence his Wayne name should have afforded him. He was a clenched fist waiting to strike, but the Court changed their minds, betrayed him, and he was forced to play a smaller role than he wanted to. All this time I figured that March shared Arthur Brown's idea to show Batman what happens when you forget, when you cast people aside, ignore them. After all, that's what a lot of this series has been about: the forgotten.
But it turns out, this is where March and Brown differed. March thought it was foolish that Brown wanted that spotlight. The only reason why Cluemaster was able to succeed as well as he did in the plan he had was because he wasn't a big deal. He was seen as a lesser threat, and because of this Batman was chasing so many of his better known rogues that he didn't think about the C-listers. But instead of walking up behind Batman and just slitting his throat (like Lincoln just did to Brown), he had to make a big show of it at the end (though, to be fair, March is having the same problem here), because he wanted Bruce to know who was boss.
March has the same broad thoughts about wanting to show that Batman is really nothing, but he doesn't want to make a big show of killing him. He's happy just killing our hero and then slipping back into the shadows, where he'd been for so many years. Except, March is kind of full of crap, too, just like Brown. He goes out of his way to make his "brother" know who it is killing him. He assumes that he can just do this and then leave, and with Brown and his men all taken out, and nobody around to blame to make sense of this, he'll have reduced Batman to nothing.
"It's not as impressive as that trick I did with the bridge and the flair in The Dark Knight Rises, but it'll do."
Fortunately, the citizens of Gotham don't believe Batman is nothing. Nowhere is this proven better than in the actions of one citizen who saves Stephanie Brown from an oncoming car. The nameless Gothamite is thankful that people like Spoiler help the people and is willing to sacrifice a little, help a little, to prove it means something. And this inspires the young woman to stand up to the Owlman, just like the rest of the city is standing against the chaos.
Yikes, Suburban Ninja has a mean right hook. Must be all that training she did... off-panel.
Steph fans, here's your big happy moment. Heck, I don't even really like Spoiler, and I found it satisfying, myself.
Of course, Stephanie Brown isn't alone. Batman's allies and ally-associates of Gotham all step in, including the now freed Jim Gordon, to prove that they, too, are Spartacus.
"Back off, scumbag. He's taking us to get shawarma."
Because fuck owls, is why.
Weeks pass, and thanks to emergency worker efforts organized by Jason Bard, the fires are finally out and the city has returned to some semblance of normalcy. Bard, for his part, will not allow the people to call him a hero after participating in the villains' scheme. He has stepped down from his office and seeks to clear the record, offering Vicki Vale the exclusive. It's not clear whether or not Bard will ever appear again in the Batbooks after this. His arc seems mostly finished, unless he plans to become the private eye he was in the previous universe and become a supporting character.
Though Selina helped evacuate people from burning buildings (along with Croc), it seems that she had things stolen from those buildings, and Batman isn't happy about it. Based on the pages of her own book, it looks like Catwoman is going to be her crime boss self and a thief again at the same time. But somehow Penguin has managed to revive his criminal career in the meantime, and Croc's in on all of this, too. Batman still has to contend with this continued change in his relationship with her.
It looks like Harper and Cullen have a new roommate in Stephanie, since her father's dead and her mother skipped town (it would be amusing if the car that nearly hit her was her mother). It's nice to see them getting along so well, and there's a potential for some mixed chemistry with Tim, who wants Harper to feel like a full-fledged member of the team, but seems to immediately share some kind of spark with Stephanie. The sad thing is that now Stephanie Brown is more relevant a character than Tim Drake. How did that happen? (GRANT MORRISON.) I'd love to see a book about Tim, Harper, and Steph (maybe with Cassie debuting in the pages). Especially if it's drawn by the person who drew the pages at Harper's place in this issue.
Oooh, and Stephanie Brown wins the Drake Bowl. Sorry, Harper, you had a chance, but then you had to go wear an internet meme t-shirt.
In the penultimate page, we see that the remnants of the Court of Owls have caught up to Lincoln March, restrained him, and are putting him in the freezer for later. They don't appreciate him murdering their officials, stealing their compound, and using their owl theme. I wonder what'll happen when they meet the Thomas Wayne Jr. from the Crime Syndicate. Well, that's Geoff Johns' beat. For now,
The final page has Batman and Jim Gordon conversing about all that's changed in the past year, and yet how the fight largely remains the same. In a perfect coda to Snyder's philosophy with the Batbooks, they discuss the very thing Bruce Wayne gave a speech about in Zero Year: that Gotham, for its faults, is a town that will tear you down, but allow you to make yourself stronger. Just as Bruce's dad posed to him, "What do you like about Gotham?", we have our answer: its transformative. And in their eyes, ultimately for the better.
I hear it's just the pizzerias.
Batman Eternal was a comic series that set out to celebrate all that Batman is and what he means to those around him, both the man and the symbol, and I feel that, for the most part, it succeeded, providing a lot of character, shaking things up a bit, giving us some compelling mysteries, and building towards a satisfying conclusion. It certainly pulled the drag chute towards the end, had some inconsistent art and lost its writing focus at times. It could be notably excellent for several issues and then dip in quality for a few, only to return to quality. Inconsistencies aside, though, it was a worthwhile ride.
And, of course, there's going to be a sequel! With all the Robins, from what I've read. This is speculation, but I'm guessing this is what Peter Tomasi is leaving his Batman & Robin book to work on. I hope it is!
Meanwhile... ugh... I have Morrison's Batman run to dive into. Stay linked!
- Penguin Truth
Story: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Script: James Tynion IV
Consulting Writers: Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins, & Tim Seeley
Art: Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Robson Rocha, Guillermo Ortego, David Lafuente, and Tim Seeley
Colors: Allen Passalaqua, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, and John Rauch
Lettering: Steve Wands
Cover By: Jae Lee & June Chung
Varient Cover By: Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson
Editor: Chris Conroy
Asst. Editor: Dave Wielgosz
Group Editor: Mark Doyle
Batman Created By Bob K--AHAHAHAHA, NO. Batman Created By Bill Finger