Batman is busy elsewhere in Gotham, so writing team Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Kyle Higgins go across town and focus on some other members of the Bat-family in “Batman Eternal” #41. Red Robin, Batgirl, Red Hood and Harper Row have the unenviable task of stopping a horde of mind-controlled children from making a bad situation far worse, and it’s a grim situation indeed as captured by artist Joe Quinones and colorist Kelsey Shannon. With several issues still left in the series, the writers continue to throw in a few surprises as well, including an unexpected development with Stephanie Brown, a.k.a. Spoiler, and the anticipated return of another character.
Quinones is a fitting artist for this issue’s story as he evokes an extra degree of creepiness from all of these mindless kids; think John Carpenter’s “Village of the Damned,” combined with a kind of “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” vibe. Shannon plays this well, too, with an unsettlingly colorful backdrop given to the scene where they toil, which contrasts with the almost mono-chromatic hues given to the victims themselves. Quinones has a lock on the look of the Bat-players; his lines are simple and uncluttered, yet there is enough detail to ensure they are well-defined.
Quinones includes a poster-worthy illustration that spans two pages, which is not only is an attractive, dynamic shot of Red Robin and Batgirl but also one that clearly shows Red Robin’s confidence as well as Batgirl’s determination amidst her dissatisfaction with the team’s impromptu alliance. Harper is also shown, left behind, in a quiet foreshadowing of events later in the issue. There’s a pleasing dichotomy in Quinones’ art; he keeps his illustrations light by avoiding heavy shadowing, yet packs a lot of detail into the background and wherever else required that gives the pages a richly detailed look.
The tension starts off high thanks to the aforementioned creep factor, and the writers successfully build on it as the heroes work out their plan and carefully engage. During the course of the battle, a key player is revealed and, while not the biggest surprise, the identity of said character plays perfectly into the situation and makes the scene a little more horrific. The unfortunate result of the encounter amps the tension up even higher and gives a plausible reason for another long-awaited character to make an appearance.
Higgins implements a simple but effective scripting maneuver by bookending the story’s beginning and end with the same narrative voiceover. The identity of the narrator is unknown as the issue starts, although astute readers might be able to hazard a guess; it’s all made clear when the words are repeated under much different circumstances as the issue wraps up. It makes for a powerful punch at the end, and Quinones punctuates it with an impressive full page illustration of this new addition to the cast with a costume design that will look right at home with the other Bat-family members.
“Batman Eternal” #41 is one of the better recent chapters of this title, as it picks some of the series’ less utilized characters and gives them a unique dynamic by bringing them together, delivering a clean and attractive looking issue that has some emotional power.