One of the nice things about “Batman Eternal” is that with multiple storylines weaving in and out of the series, every time you feel like it’s been too long since you’ve checked in with some characters — well, John Layman, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, and Tim Seeley bring them back. Joined by Guillem March, two plotlines advance even as Gotham becomes a more dangerous city than before, if that’s possible.
The bulk of this issue focuses on Batman between a rock and a hard place, namely the Roman’s forces and those of the Gotham City Police Department. With the Roman now controlling the GCPD, the few good cops left in Gotham are being put in a precarious position even as the force is not only ordered to stop arresting criminals caught by Batman, but also attempts to take him in. And while the two knights spotlighted this issue within the GCPD are hardly surprising, it’s still a relief to see them get even a small spotlight. Watching Bullock and Bard teamed up together is entertaining, as each reacts to the new orders on high in their own, amusing ways.
As for Batman himself, I like that even when he’s walking into a trap, he never comes across as stupid. That’s an important part of “Batman Eternal,” because it would be easy to dumb the character down a bit in order to let bad things happen. Instead, he’s someone who’s deliberately springing the trap, something that feels very on-point and right for the character.
More importantly, though, I think a lot of readers will be excited to see more of Stephanie Brown’s story unfold in this issue. It’s a small but important scene, one that continues to push her forward in a way that will hopefully make all of the fans of the character from the previous continuity happy. She’s still in her early stages — a little confused by what’s going on, but also understanding the right thing to do — but her survival against big odds bodes well for her overall. It’s also nice to see her storyline beginning to intersect, even if it’s just a touch, with other characters. Starting her in isolation makes sense, but for her sake she needs to start getting attached to the bigger picture(s).
March’s art works with the story here; it’s been a while since I’ve seen him on an interior of a book, so his arrival here was a nice surprise. I like his narrow-eyed, skeptical-looking Vicki Vale, for instance, which has her good-looking but also professional. His super-muscled almost explodes across the page, too; while I prefer the character looking a little leaner, there’s no denying the physicality and strength that menaces off the page as a result. I think March is still at his best, though, when it comes to the little details. The night sky when the GCPD are preparing their ambush, for instance, looks inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” The clouds and the darkness are beautifully textured, and it makes you want to reach out and touch it. Even things that might have otherwise been forgotten, like the trim on Stephanie’s jacket hood, are carefully rendered by March. I’d definitely welcome March back for some more issues of “Batman Eternal.”
Two months in, and “Batman Eternal” #8 shows that the series still has some legs. That’s important at this phase of the game, since it’s right around the point where I could see readers deciding to re-evaluate if they want to stick around. So far, I know I will. With a strong writing crew and good choices for the artists, “Batman Eternal” is paying off for its readership.