Batman Eternal is the new weekly ongoing Batman series featuring work from a host of writers like Ray Fawkes, John Layman, James Tynion IV, Tim Seeley, and of course current Batman writer, Scott Snyder. Jason Fabok, the artist of Detective Comics, is the main artist but more will likely join in due to the demanding weekly schedule. This first issue is written by Snyder and Tynion with art from Jason Fabok, and, true to his style, Snyder front-loads the issue with an attention-grabbing opening scene that jumps way ahead chronologically and where Batman's introduction is practically messianic! Gotham is literally on fire (end times, hell?) and Bruce Wayne, unmasked and stripped to the waist with a bat symbol carved onto his chest, is tied onto a broken Bat Signal (like Jesus Christ on the cross) while an unidentified voice taunts him off-page. That imagery and the title Eternal are suggestive of a weirdly religious slant on this Batman story. But the first page is "the end" scene and the second page sends the reader shooting back to the start where we're introduced to a new character called Jason Bard. Bard has recently transferred to the Gotham City Police Department and is an idealistic new lieutenant who's optimistic about his future in Gotham sound familiar? As if the way the character's introduced didn't set him up as a younger James Gordon, Fabok's character design and the panel where the two characters look at each other face to face hammers home the similarities. Bard's opening monologue describes Gotham City as "shining" at night with many different shades of light, perhaps referring to the numerous kinds of stories we're going to get with this series. Eternal is designed to be a platform for showcasing areas of and people of Gotham that don't get explored in the main Batman titles so, while the first arc looks to be heavily Batman-centric, future stories will likely have less Batman and more new characters, like Bard, in the spotlight. The main story features Professor Pyg who's up to his usual evilness, trying to turn kids into his dollotrons (brainwashed living dolls) and the scene opens with Gordon who's rescued the kids and is pinned down by gunfire from Pyg and his goons enter Batman! Batman's entrance is of course epic and readers of Snyder's Batman series will recognise the Iron Man-esque Batsuit from the Court of Owls storyline which he's wearing in this scene. I won't spoil the issue by telling you what happens next but events play out as you'd expect to in a regular Batman comic but end surprisingly with a major character being taken out of play, like an important chess piece being removed from the board. It's clear what happens is an accident suggesting devious illusionists/mind controllers at play somewhere in the background but it still happens and one of Gotham's heroes has to go down. This is a solid start to the new Batman series. It accomplishes many things like hinting at a larger, epic storyline while also laying the groundwork for the first story arc, there are a couple of great action set pieces, and it has some good Batman moments. Snyder/Tynion IV's writing is fine as is Fabok's art all of which live up to fans' expectations. But the approach doesn't feel very unique. The Gotham on fire/Batman on the ropes storyline seems similar to parts of Grant Morrison's Batman run which had the same features in Batman #666 and Batman Inc #5 (though granted those issues were set in an alternate future when Damian was Batman and not Bruce) while the inclusion of Morrison's character, Pyg, further underlines the strong Morrison influence in this comic. However Batman Eternal #1 is still a good issue and a decent beginning to the series. It may not be doing anything new but it's telling an interesting Batman story well the trick will be maintaining or elevating the quality week in, week out given the revolving door of writers with different styles and the stringent release schedule. Published by DC, Batman Eternal #1 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Jason Fabok is out now.
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