John Layman scripts "Batman Eternal" #9 over Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV's storyline, and Guillem March handles the art. As Batman temporarily leaves Gotham City to learn the recent history of the city's resurgent mob leader Carmine Falcone, Falcone declares war on even more of Gotham's costumed inhabitants. The writing team makes the most of this series' weekly format, continuing to bring additional characters into the ever-expanding story without convoluting it, and provide enough excitement to make readers thankful that it's a weekly.
This issue in particular is filled with surprising character appearances, structured by Layman and March to maximize their impact, each one a bigger twist than the last. There have been many ongoing plot threads established over the course of the past eight issues, but the writing team goes for depth here and not width, focusing only on Falcone's new target and Batman's investigation. There's definitive story advancement on both of these threads; nothing is padded out in an effort to fill what will eventually amount to a several-hundred page tale, and there's a connection between the different story elements that give this issue a cohesiveness often not historically seen in weekly comic titles.
With a huge gallery of characters available for use and a massive story big enough to fit them all in, the writers take full advantage and bring in an unexpected guest star that's not a big name in the Bat-verse, but one who makes perfect sense to use given the nature and locale of the story. In fact, there's even room for new characters, as witnessed by the introduction of one in particular, revealed to have a startling connection to an existing and long-standing character already firmly implanted in the Batman mythos, in the most surprising twist of all at the conclusion of the issue.
Guillem March is one of the strongest artists thus far on the series, dynamically moving the story along with a diverse assortment of page layouts. The combination of inset panels, skewed panel placement and unusual perspective gives the story flow additional punch. His polished look puts a nice accent on this issue's non-traditional setting, giving it a unique flavor while enabling it to fit comfortably within the context of the overall storyline. Colorist Tomeu Morey nicely distinguishes the two different backdrops; Gotham is typically dark, and is brilliantly contrasted against the brighter tones elsewhere.
With the series firmly underway, "Batman Eternal" #9 makes a strong case for its existence by continuing to grow the story in a manner that only a weekly would allow, telling a story that's clearly relevant to the other Batman titles. This is one of the series' best issues so far, in large part due to the concentration on specific elements and the surprises contained within.