YESSSSSSSS. In my review of the previous issue, I expressed the sincerest of hopes that Eternal could still maintain the consistency of character arcs and plot developments that were dully accomplished there. Imagine my utmost relief when I read this next issue and got exactly that, if not much more. Four plot arcs have been zeroed in on this one and they had enough pages divided among them. It feel so good to finally review this series with more positive insights and praises because I truly want Batman Eternal to distinguish itself as a solid piece of storytelling. Lots of talented people are working for this title and there's just so much potential to this series that are just waiting to be deftly crafted to a wondrous symphony of suspense, compelling drama and interplay among characters and intrigue.
Before we venture on to the rest of this review, I just want to mention that Mikel Janin has been the artist for this issue and the last one, and I'm totally fascinated and enamored with his illustrations. Characters look so realistic in a sense that they have varied facial expressions especially during the most intimate moments of reflection and action and Internal Affairs has plenty of that to go around.
Now, the story. My only mild critique, to be honest, is the composition of the Red Robin scenes so far. I do like that we are establishing the striking parallels/similiarties between him and Harper Row as inquisitive young teens who want to help the world, so it makes such poetic sense to see them interact and rub on each other with a friction I hope will reach a climax soon (wow, that sounded dirty. That was NOT my intention). However, the transitions of his scenes have been abrupt. Sometimes I feel like we're missing something, as if half of his appearances played off-camera. Hopefully he and Harper Row will find some sort of peaceful accord, help each other, and hence get better slices of drama and action in the series later on because I am interested to know about the nanobots (especially after they infected Cullen and I like that boy so I want him to get better soon).
Other than this nitpick, the rest of the issue hit my sweet spot. Not so long ago I was vocal with my displeasure with the way Vicki Vale acted (in issue #5) when she just randomly picked a thug from the Narrows to interview to impress the high school intern Joey by showing him how tough she is with investigative work. I was ready to swore her off from that moment but then she got interesting once she started interacting with newly recruit lieutenant officer Jason Bard (whom she has great chemistry with, if I may add). This issue explored the ingenuity of Bard and Vale's own shrewdness which is such a refreshing angle for the story to take. It's uplifting to read citizens like a humble cop and a journalist still have the ability, resourcefulness and good sense to fight back for their city. In this case, Bard dupes the Falcone-dick-sucking, never-ever-going-to-be-police-commissioner, grand bullshitter Jack Forbes into complying the arrests of many of Falcone's men because Bard strategically ensured Vale as the media tags along so Forbes had no choice but to concede and allow Bard to do their goddamn jobs as cops, lest he will have the press breathe hard on his neck for his negligence which would the expose him as Falcone's good little bitch. They then proceeded to record a tapped phone conversation between Forbes and Falcone. I also want to add that I enjoyed that Batman never played any big role for this issue which showed that he trusted the good people in the task force and the media to step to the plate and make the best decisions to save their city. Bard and Vale embodied that and it brought a smile to my face to read it.
I'm going to state it again to be clearer: Not having more Batman in this issue was actually the best decision Synder and Tynion ever made. It allowed the supporting characters to come to their own and show us what they got. I must applaud that.
Speaking of supporting characters, we get another Stephanie Brown sidestory. Still hiding in the school library, she's been bust filling up crime chatrooms with stories about her father, the villain Cluemaster, hoping someone will take these seriously and catch him. And then she contacts a friend of hers who received a mysterious package addressed to Steph. The package has a clue in it which Steph will probably figure out if she hadn't already. Anyway, the package also had a bomb and instantly kills her friend. Heartbroken and furious, Stephanie realized that she is now prepared to face her father and end everything once and for all.
Once again, I saved the best for last to discuss: we get this incredibly chilling conversation between Jim Gordon and his psychopath son James Jr. That morbid family reunion was both intense and subtle in dialogue and I could feel my heart falter a little as I read just how accurately James Jr. knows his father far better than we would have given him credit for. James Jr. baited his father to finally own up to his rage against Gotham City, that he's no hero but another broken man that the city has claimed. In addition to that unwanted psychoanalysis, James Jr. also offered his father the freedom to escape Blackgate. He paid the guards to leave so Gordon can easily get the hell out of there. There's something very sad about this, you know. It's only during his father's darkest time that James Jr. felt compelled to reach out to him and find a connection he hoped can be sustained if his father just admitted to his own brokenness. Sure, James Jr. is a psychopath of frightening means and measure but I never believed he was truly unfeeling, that he never wanted to stay connected with his father. And here he now has a chance to do that but what he requires from Jim Gordon, the last man in Gotham, is for him to turn his back from the city he swore to serve and protect, so he could take his son's hand and walk the darkness with him. Phew, just typing this paragraph is painful. The Gordons are so tragic...
Anyway, as I've said, this has been a spectacular issue, just so stunning in every way because of the character arcs that were developed. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this remarkable pacing and tonality just keeps on going and going!