After enduring some missteps and needless minor arcs that don't matter as much as this main one, I'm pretty happy again that Snyder and Tynion have taken more control with the reigns this time. It definitely shows with the tonality for this issue, which was unmistakably reminiscent of that of the first four issues. I maintain that those still have the strongest cohesiveness from what I've read so far in the series. It may come as a surprise, however, that this issue lacked the action that its four predecessor had which is a suitable narrative decision, because what made this one an enjoyable read is that it focused more on character developments alongside a plot thread that's slowly entangling itself among our important players in the story, and will hopefully unravel once we reach the climactic events in the next issues.
The story opens with Falcone making more decisive moves against Penguin and anyone who swore allegiance to him. The gang war has been an ongoing backdrop since Eternal began and the escalation has been moderately slower than expected but it's still an interesting angle to watch unfold. Meanwhile, most of the scope for this issue was about characters having meaningful and rewarding interactions as far as highlighting their roles to play in the arc. Jason Bard continues to impress me because he's one of the few characters whose actions make sense and seem to have a more forward direction than the rest. In here we see him discussing with fellow officers Bullock and Maggie Sawyer concerning the GCPD supporting Falcone in his takeover of Gotham, and that they need to strike back and hopefully
Other great character interactions compose of Batgirl and Red Hood. After their confrontation in Argentina where Batgirl pursued a red herring, hoping it would help her father's case, she hasn't given up yet and Red Hood offers to help. She accepted and I thought it was pretty nice because I would definitely want to see more of these two in a team-up. We also have Harper Row hacking intel from Red Robin because her brother Cullen has just been victimized by nanobots and she is going to do something about it. Red Robin pushes her out, however, to protect her from harm, but I know Harper Row and she's not going to stop until she's doing something that matters. Alfred and Julia had another awkward father-daughter moment where Alfred admirably defends his decision of working for Bruce Wayne, and that it's his most fulfilling calling ever. Tim Drake comes to the Wayne Manor after, intrigued by Harper Row, and Alfred gladly offers to tell him who she is and why she has been so important lately to Batman. I wonder if Tim Drake may recruit her. He of all the Robins knew what it was like to pursue your hero and not give up until he gives you a chance to prove yourself. I can't wait to see what the writers have in store for these two crazy kids.
Saving the best for the last, I just want to say that I am really loving how Batman reacts to the commotion in Jim Gordon's life at this point. Unlike Batgirl who had to run around chasing bad guys to make herself feel better (because that's what she's doing, okay? I'm sure she wants to help her dad but sometimes the simplest gesture woks better than whatever she's trying to do). In Batman's case, he disguises himself as a cop and escorts Jimmy to the courthouse. He then attends the trial in disguise again. He didn't do this to try and help Gordon escape because that would be stupid. He did it because he wanted to be there for Gordon; to talk to him, console him, keep his spirits up. It's quite sweet and surprising for Bruce, but that shows the level of friendship that has deepened between them all these years. A conversation between Bullock and Bard as they wait for Batman has even revealed the relationship among Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent who had served the city as its prominent guardians in the past.
As I've mentioned before, my favorite scene in this issue has to be that trial's opening where a lawyer delivers this fascinating and well-versed speech about Gordon being a hero--only to reveal that it wasn't his defense attorney at all but the prosecutor who effectively uses Gordon's good reputation against him. I really thought it was Gordon's defense attorney speaking because of the way he framed that speech but it was impressive that the prosecutor thought of turning Gordon's own great record as a law enforcer against him. My heart just faltered a little upon that revelation. Also, may I point out the fantastic illustrations for this scene? The characters in the background have nuanced facial expressions while the speech was happening (especially Gordon's own reactions), making the entire scene more realistic. So kudos to the artist for that attention to detail.
The issue ends with the most amazing thing EVER, by the way: James Jr. Gordon is alive and has something to talk about with his dad. Did I mention how much a fan I've become of this psycho ever since Snyder's The Black Mirror? I can't fucking wait what happens next. I hope Eternal thankfully keeps this pacing up!