DC Comics launches the first of its weekly series in fiery fashion with "Batman Eternal" #1, helmed by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with an assist from a team of additional writers involved with the series. Artist Jason Fabok once again leads off this new, high-profile Batman series, and in the same way he kicked off the recent "Gothtopia" event, he does so with a beautifully illustrated story that gives Snyder and Tynion's first chapter an almost cinematic feel.
Unlike previous DC weekly series, the first issue of "Batman Eternal" doesn't try to track multiple and largely unrelated storylines; instead, the writers largely focus on police lieutenant Jason Bard, a character familiar to Batman fans making his New 52 debut, as well as his first day with the GCPD. Bard's first night on the job doesn't go as planned, and leads him to a pretty awkward introduction to Commissioner Gordon, a first encounter that goes down in a way that is decidedly unexpected. Snyder and Tynion give Gordon plenty of face time too, and the situation Gordon finds himself in by the end of the issue is an absorbing setup for future installments.
Batman is there too, and makes a plenty spectacular entrance with a radically different look, as called for in the storyline. It's temporary, but makes for a great introduction, topped only by a return to his traditional costume that's spectacularly and imposingly rendered by Fabok a few pages later. Batman's first appearance leads to a subsequent situation that's all too infrequent: a brief but welcome team-up of Bats and Gordon, longtime friends and allies who rarely go into battle together. Their bond comes into play later, when things take a sinister turn for Gordon and Batman openly offers his support. The relationship between the two hasn't been explored much in the past few years, but this issue gives a solid indication of the strong bond these two men have.
If there's a weak spot in the story, it's the notion of Gordon attempting to disarm a man by shooting the gun out of his hand, apparently thinking he's Clint Eastwood for a moment. It's clear that Gordon's not shooting to kill, which is noble and all that, but his intent doesn't come across clearly, evasive to the point that even Fabok struggles with how to convey it; it ends up needing clarification later on. An inadvertent killing by Gordon arguably could have played well with the circumstances he finds himself in.
A qualm like this is easy to overlook, though, amidst the overall quality of this comic. It's a superbly paced story, taking place within the span of a few hours, with a very careful focus on characterization. Batman is intimidating as always, but shows compassion, while Gordon's bravery stands out even as he questions his own actions amidst the tragic aftermath. Newbie Bard is the rookie cop, but not just the stereotypical earnest do-gooder trying to find his place in a hostile bed of corruption. Every character works well, even Professor Pyg, whose creepy kind of insanity is nailed by Snyder and Tynion.
Fabok nails his responsibilities just as well. Everything, from gunfire to explosions to crashing trains, lavishly fills nearly every page. With rich coloring by Brad Anderson, the entire comic is a literal work of art. Fabok's larger panels detail the story's key moments, and the smaller ones pace it almost flawlessly. Before the issue even gets to any of that, though, Snyder and Tynion set up the issue with a foreboding one page flash-forward, grabbing readers at hello; a technique used to great effect in Snyder's other work.
"Batman Eternal" #1 is a tremendous start, not just for a weekly series, but for any comic series. There will always be skeptics regarding whether or not such quality can be maintained on a weekly basis, but for now, all involved have done their best and succeeded at quieting that skepticism, at least for this week.