Sunday, October 26, 2014

Batman Eternal by Snyder and Tynion issue #18

In the last week since I started reading Batman Eternal with a diligence that demands patience and faith, I find that what's probably the most uplifting thing about this series so far is whenever I can finish an issue from its run, sigh contentedly and say, "Now that was a great story" which only happened six times out of seventeen issues. Luckily for me, this would be the seventh time now.

A Night on Earth had a seamless transition among the three events that happened in it. This isn't the first time Eternal employed a three-prong approach in narrative. When done superbly, we get an issue like the third one which remains as one of the strongest issues in the run; and if delivered too simplistic with no forward motion in the plot arcs themselves, we get an recent issue like the last three before this. A Night on Earth closely follows the former but with less gripping action and sequence than issue #3 which worked to its advantage. As I've stated many times, a sprawling saga of a comic book series like Eternal will always benefit more when character interactions within are meaningful, which would the  sustain the readers' emotional investment on what happens to these people as we move decidedly forward with plot progression as oppose to just getting stuck rehashing the same formula that not only becomes anticlimactic but also leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

This issue focused on Gotham City with Batman and Bard teaming up to investigate a case of missing people, only to find themselves navigating the sewers to pursue the lead, as well as an unlikely ally in the Killer Croc who was thankfully portrayed less harsher and more humane in this story. Still in Gotham, we also get the rising tension between Falcone and Penguin in Blackgate where both former crime bosses are residing (who decided this, seriously? It's not the smartest move ever but with Arkham Asylum overrun by Deacon Blackfire, there really is no other option is there?) and these two would probably continue fighting their turf war within this prison instead. In the middle of this development is Jim Gordon, still serving for his crime (the train massacre) and he may be the only one who can interfere before an all-out bloodshed happens behind bars.

Across another country, Batgirl, Batwoman and Red Hood encounter a child slavery organization and are of course more than determined and able to put a stop to it. We get a great interplay among these three, with Barbara and Jason totally having a not-so-subtle sibling rivalry that makes it awkward for an outsider like Batwoman but she was willing to step in to keep things from getting more abrasive between the kids. The last few pages had Jason Todd making a speech to Batwoman about Batgirl's ferocity and dedication and the reason why she's on a different level from the rest of them. Unlike Jason, Dick and especially Bruce, Barbara is not fighting as a masked crusader for some trauma or injustice done to her (which I thought was a significant detail in itself when you think about what she had been through; the girl is no stranger to trauma and injustice). But Red Hood asserts that this is not the primary motivation to why Barbara fights: she fights because she has someone she loves who is counting on her and that's no other than her dad. She fights for the living and not for some ideal. I thought that was an impressive piece of self-reflection for Jason, and also speaks of his respect for her as a fellow crime-fighter. Jason's speech also cuts into panels that show Batman and Gordon which gave the entire sequence a cinematic feel to it, montage-wise.

But Jason was not the only one who gets personal contemplative dialogues like this one. Killer Croc gets to express his rage and frustration for being pegged as a heartless, cannibal monster, and Gordon allows himself to believe that there is some hope for him to change things. To balance out the grimness of the story, we get some humor in the interactions too. The tension and budding working relationship with Batman and Bard is becoming a favorite of mine; it's great to see Batsy learning to trust someone again aside from Gordon to help him battle the crimes and evils of the city. No one is a perfect candidate than Bard. I'm also happy that we explore the humanity of Weyland Jones in Killer Croc. There's just something about humanized monsters that gets to me.

The issue also ends with a brilliant cliffhanger with Batgirl, Red Hood and Batwoman. I can then totally chalk up A Night on Earth as a sort of rising action to the climactic thing that's about to transpire in the next issue. With that, it definitely served its purpose, providing us with savory pacing and character interactions with heart and a lot of weight to them. I'm getting excited again..


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