Batman Eternal Vol. 1 collects a whopping 20 issues and says a lot about what a reader can expect from the comic going in. DC all-star writer Scott Snyder collaborates with James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, and Tim Seeley to put together an overarching story designed to run a whole year, and at a weekly pace no less, with one of the writers putting together a script and doing a few issues each before handing the reigns off and rotating to another writer. Not only do the writers have to coordinate and handle the big picture, but they also delve into and focus on their own areas of the story and are joined by their own artists, of which there are many. Despite being a recipe for disaster, the fact is that the comic ends up being incredibly compelling.
Nothing polarizes comic fans more than art; it’s an extremely subjective form of enjoyment such that it often leads to some strong opinions and, just like any comic book fan, I am of course no different. I’m not a fan of DC’s “house style” because it usually means a lot of the titles end up looking pretty similar (with the exception of a few choice titles), for better or worse. You can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to find such an eclectic group of artists with all kinds of varying styles drawing the book, and I have to say – they are all awesome. Personally, Dustin Nguyen, Andy Clarke, and Mikel Janin really steal the show for me, but there is a lot of great stuff done by Trevor McCarthy, Emanuel Simeoni, Gullem March, Riccardo Burchielli, Ian Bertram, and Jason Fabok as well.
In the first couple of issues Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV begin to carefully construct the web of plotlines that will end up playing the biggest roles in the first arc of the storyline and beyond. They are an incredibly compelling set of first few issues that are really well done, which is not to say that the rest of the issues aren’t good, but Snyder and Tynion do a great job of setting up the show.
Each writer really grabs hold of the story and makes it their own. There is no way that you won’t find an interesting plot thread or two that will interest you and have you ripping through the (rather thick) volume and an incredible rate. The pacing is really well done and, while there are a few hiccups in terms of art and editing, I only found a couple issues that I had any real problem with.
In particular, in addition to Scott Snyder and Tynion’s work, I found Ray Fawkes’ fantastic and mystical elements at play to be the most fun to read. He sets Batwing, who is all about technology, reason and science, up against some magical forces that really challenge the character. There are also some really great moments between Red Hood and Batgirl, scenes with Alfred and Gordan.
The magical elements are far from the only threads at work in the storyline, though. We get to see Gotham at street-level with the police force and its inner workings along with a new recruit that gets thrown into the story. We get to see Vicky Vale, along with the journalist perspective. We get to spend some time with Alfred, Nightwing, Red Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, the Red Hood—you name it, Batman Eternal has something for you. I especially like the conflict between the characters as well, both in the Bat Family and without, as they add an extra element to an already volatile story.
Unfortunately, therein lies the rub. While Batman Eternal is always in motion and has great pacing, the truth is that there aren’t going to be too many readers that really enjoy and care about all the plot lines woven together. Reading it as a volume helps with that because you’ve got a great first full arc in front of you, but there are still probably going to be a couple issues where stuff is happening that you don’t really care about. There are a couple abrupt transitions between plot lines and authors, but despite that most issues have something to move the story forward. I just felt like a few issues had a whole lot of filler and very little to actual progression at times—a big offense considering how much story there is and the amazing standard of pacing set throughout the rest of the story.
While not perfect, Batman Eternal deserves an award just for pulling off its massive scale. Written by an army of authors and artists, it has no business being as great as it is. If you’re a fan of Gotham City and all those that make your home there, this is what you’ve been waiting for. Even if all you’re interested in is Batman and the Bat Family, there is some really rewarding material and interplay here in this volume for you.