"Batman Eternal" wraps up next week, which means that "Batman Eternal" #51 is ready to serve up one final burst of exposition. Along with fellow plotters Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins and Tim Seeley, scriptwriter James Tynion IV, artists Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez answer the Cluemaster's secrets, even as next week's finale is put into motion.
The more you look at "Batman Eternal" #51, the more it really works. Is it an elaborate plan? No. Does it need to be? On reflection, no. Most importantly, does it fit the character? Absolutely. Batman refers to the Cluemaster as "a second-rate Riddler knock-off" and it's wonderfully apt here. Cluemaster simply can't handle a scheme along the scope of "Zero Year" and, as a result, it's something with far fewer convoluted, carefully crafted moments. It's just a few big ideas that kick everything into motion, letting all of the pieces fall where they may. That's quite apt for Cluemaster, who imagines himself as someone big but really isn't all that.
Along those lines, as much as you might think "Batman Eternal" #51 would be all Cluemaster, it's not. Tynion touches base with the rest of the supporting cast and not just the Batman family members, but characters like Jim Gordon and Catwoman as well. Everyone rallies as Gotham teeters on the edge of destruction. Tynion keeps all of the balls in the air here, moving from one character to the next with a great deal of ease.
Martinez and Fernandez, along with colorist June Chung, provide a good looking book here, too. The art is lush and rounded, but it's also able to bring the dark. The unmasked Bruce Wayne is drawn really well; the stubble has come in just the right amount for a man who hasn't stopped moving in several days, and his eyes are dark and haunted even as blood trickles down from his lacerations. Add in the overall orange glow that's suffusing the burning city and it's a strong look for the book. They also draw an excellent Catwoman; as the ruler of the mafia, they make her look sleek yet professional, dangerous yet alluring. She's a tiny bit sexy but not sexual. I've liked the redesign of Catwoman in her main title and the art team here picks that up and runs with it.
"Batman Eternal" has been a big success creatively, and this issue carries that feeling forward into the finale around the corner. When a new Batman weekly title appears later this year, I suspect the readership will return if even a portion of the same creators are on board. This has paid off well, and it's a feat to be proud of. With one final cliffhanger to be unraveled next week, it's been a fun ride.