As "Batman Eternal" #38 continues the third act of the weekly Batman series, some issues continue to be stronger than others. In the case of this installment, we've hit the moment where the concept of the latest chapter is a little better than the execution, although Tim Seeley, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins and Andrea Mutti do their best to try and keep that from happening.
The basic idea isn't bad, with Bane encountering several of Batman's foes and learning the new world order within Gotham's darker side. I actually like the conclusion of the issue a great deal, as it ties in with another one of DC's Batman family titles in a way that will hopefully draw it some more attention. But the problem is that there's nothing that exciting about the issue itself.
Bane's never a terribly interesting character when going up against Batman -- he's usually just a primal force of nature then -- and while his old "Secret Six" days went a long way towards redeeming the character, here he's little more than machismo and muscle. His fight with Killer Croc in particular comes across a little hollow; the dialogue's there to try and guide us along a certain path, but there's a certain coldness that keeps anything from having that extra spark, and that's a pity.
Mutti's art isn't particularly standing out, which could be part of the problem. It's perfectly reasonable but it also has nothing that makes it memorable. The action in the fight feels a little posed, and perhaps more importantly there's no sense of power in either Croc or Bane. These are two of Batman's physically more formidable villains, and their battle might as well be Scarecrow and the Riddler punching one another. Nothing really clicks in a fight that takes up a large portion of the comic.
"Batman Eternal" #38 has the previously mentioned great conclusion, and it's the saving grace of the comic. It makes the reader want to see the follow-through, and that's a good thing. (It probably doesn't hurt that with only ten new comics on sale the last week of the year, that "Batman Eternal" #39 will be one of the only options for those heading to the store.) "Batman Eternal" has done a lot better than this, but it's reassuring that even one of the series' weaker issues is just a little below average. That's not a bad statistic.