“Batman Eternal” #19 demonstrates that the series remains strong over four months after it began, delivering another tense and fast-paced installment of DC Comics’ weekly Batman comic, scripted by Tim Seeley and illustrated by Emanuel Simeoni. Seeley is one of five writers involved with the book, and Simeoni is part of an even larger art team, but after nineteen issues there’s still a remarkable feel of cohesiveness; both creators bring their own style, yet manage to stay surprisingly consistent with the feel established in previous issues.
Seeley commands an extended range of emotion to this issue, adding a few lighthearted moments amongst all the tension and action. A few well-placed snippets of light-hearted dialogue in some places add some flavor to otherwise serious situations that enliven the scenes without detracting from them. Elsewhere, the dialogue gets serious and even emotional as two allies find themselves unexpectedly facing off against each other, while the lines from new villain Dr. Falsario evoke downright creepiness.
Simeoni brings a very dense and textured look throughout the book, often putting six or seven panels to a page, only stretching out on the opening double page spread and on the story’s final page. It’s a technique that works well given the story’s environment, which features the dark, cramped sewers below Gotham, an always-shadowy Blackgate Prison, as well as a shady Brazilian sweatshop that’s as much a prison itself as it is a factory. Colorist Blond adds to this mood by usage of almost exclusive darker color tones.
The shading method has a kind of smudgy, charcoal-like property, which appropriately darkens just about every single panel in the story. It nicely fills up the otherwise empty background of some panels, but only when there’s not something of importance to convey; just as Seeley brings in some elements of creepiness, Simeoni does the same, almost to an effectively disturbing level at times, whether it be zombified human remains or the disheartening sight enslaved and mistreated children. The only notable detriment artistically is some odd facial renderings in a couple of panels.
Seeley takes the darker mood established by Simeoni and uses it to construct a tightly paced story that switches between the ever-growing tension of the breakout at Blackgate Prison and the Bat-family’s confrontation with Dr. Falsario in Brazil. Along the way, Seeley sprinkles in mentions of past events and character names to help readers recollect who’s who and what’s come before, allowing them to focus on this issue rather than recall past ones. He also starts bringing together these past events, and in fact Dr. Falsario’s involvement with those from the very first issue is revealed, even as another part of the mystery deepens. This kind of connection to earlier chapters of the series is what keeps it solid, rather than allowing all of the various threads to spin out of control.
As one hallucinating member of the Bat-family battles another, Simeoni in turn builds off Seeley’s tense encounter with clever juxtaposition of what’s real, what’s imagined, and what’s remembered. The sequence also gives him an excuse to painstakingly detail a grotesquely-rendered, post-Death of the Family Joker that’s probably as nightmare-inducing as any depiction done so far. Seeley’s clever method of justifying one of the oddest Batman team-ups in recent memory gives Simeoni a chance to draw a definitive depiction of another member of Batman’s rogue gallery.
“Batman Eternal” #19 is the point of the series where readers who have stayed with it are not only rewarded with an enjoyable standalone reading experience, but also get that additional reward of seeing what the writers have laid out start to come together.