There are over a dozen sets of creative fingerprints leaving their mark on the script and pages of "Batman Eternal" #52, the double-sized conclusion to DC Comics' weekly series, which wraps up this week. Headed up by Bat-writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV with a script from Tynion, this big-budget, climactic issue is a tense and satisfying finish to the far-reaching and game changing arc.
Snyder and Tynion pack in everything that such a grand finale should include, among them a well-coordinated wrap-up of the series' remaining plot threads, a showdown between Batman and an important yet nigh-forgotten foe introduced by Snyder years ago and even more guest stars (from outside of the Bat-family, too!). The momentum built up over the past several issues is fully capitalized on here, and the entire creative team delivers the kind of fulfilling ending that a storyline this long needs to be properly closed out.
What has been impressive about recent issues in the series is Snyder and Tynion's ability to pull off surprise after surprise, especially as it entered its home stretch. That continues here, and no time is wasted as the writers reveal the origins of Cluemaster's plot to bring down Batman, with a revelation that ties into one of Snyder's earlier arcs over in "Batman," which gives "Batman Eternal" even more depth and an earlier storyline more importance. The flashback is told briefly over the course of only a few pages, in a sequence beautifully and cleanly illustrated by Robson Rocha and Guillermo Ortego, with moody colors by Gabe Eltaeb.
From there, the story picks up where last issue's surprise ending left off, with Eduardo Pansica and Julio Ferreira taking over the art and continuing on for the next twenty or so pages. The transition is all but transparent as their technique is also very clean and attractive, complemented with impressive layouts for the action scenes. Pansica and Ferreira heighten the drama with perspectives that give each character a larger-than-life air; even the most low-key, walk-on intros look impressive. Many high-charged moments are superbly captured; never has a unique, yet simple, variation on the Bat-signal in the sky appeared so powerful. Colorist Allen Passalaqua enhances this with the clouds glowing orange beneath a flaming Gotham.
As the good guys rally and the issue's mood turns from dark despair to hopeful inspiration, extraordinary layouts and beautiful coloring are themselves enhanced with Tynion's well-structured dialogue, as witnessed in key scenes such as Jim Gordon's effective and emotional call to arms. Heroes, villains and citizens alike respond, and the writers put forth a commanding moment that's all too rare in Gotham, yet so believable. Almost too quickly, though, things wrap up rather unexpectedly; it's the kind of sequence that's put together so well that an extended payoff would have been welcome, so it's disappointing when it comes to an end.
Arguably, the story could have carried on a little longer, though at the expense of some of the several epilogues that take up the final third of the issue. The short sequences, averaging two pages apiece, are all well-scripted but, collectively, there is simply too much time spent on them. To be fair, the cooldown time would be sufficient for anyone reading this entire series over the course of a rainy Saturday but, as a denouement to this single issue, it's like a big bite of bun after the hamburger patty has already been consumed. This part of the issue suffers from inconsistent art due to a series of disparate art teams for each scene, which is all the more noticeable after such a pleasing and consistent look throughout the preceding part of the issue.
Lengthy closing moments aside, "Batman Eternal" #52 fulfills its promise as a worthwhile conclusion to a sprawling series and as a table setter for the next era of Batman under Snyder. As a bonus, a typically stylish illustration by Jae Lee and June Chung makes for a striking image for the standard cover, even if the largely symbolic piece is more reflective of events in past issues rather than this one. While in past years weekly series have run out of juice long before their final issues, this one only got stronger and retained enough strength to pack a powerful climactic punch.