Batman Eternal #11 review


Well, that was unexpected. 

After ten issues of typically intense Gotham action and character work, Batman Eternal takes a decidedly comic turn. And it works brilliantly. All credit to writer Tim Seeley and artist Ian Bertram for a story that reads and looks like nothing else in the Batman universe.  


Oh sure, its use of characters from Grant Morrison's Batman incorporated recalls a delightful madness we've seen previously. And the art is reminiscent of that book's offerings from Chris Burnham. But Seeley and Bertram turn the nuttiness up to 11, making this less an issue of Batman Eternal than The Brave and the Bonkers. Even the title, Day of the Dads, is a joke - but a relevant one. 


Seeley plugs into several of this weekly series' ongoing plots - Stephanie Brown's journey towards the Spoiler identity, the jailing of Jim Gordon, the return of Carmine Falcone - while applying a layer of lightness we've not seen previously. The cover-featured plot thread is set in Brazil, where Batgirl is pursuing a TV actor seemingly connected to the framing of her father for the death of hundreds in a rail smash. And while Barbara Gordon is typically intense, the situation isn't. 



And Bertram embraces the 'comic' in 'comic book', exaggerating characters and settings. His sexing up of the players - Rubenesque women, ultra-buff men, and Starfire - is equal opportunity. Bertram's visual creations and recreations are joyful, from an unusually big-eyed Batgirl to the crazy coils of Scorpiana. And I like that he doesn't rule his panel borders - all frames are freehand, making for a welcome wobbliness. The pages are a huge palate cleanser for eyes weary of DC's New 52 grimness. I missed Bertram's work in the recent Gothtopia storyline, but I'll be watching for his name from now on - as well as Burnham, there's a Frank Quitely vibe and perhaps a smattering of Alan Aldridge. Whatever influences I'm seeing or imagining, the art works, Bertram knows what he's doing. 


While the souffl√© superheroics are what prompted this review, Seeley and Bertram also click well in the straighter scenes. Alfred's attempt to reconnect with estranged daughter Julia at Wayne Manor make for a quietly effective drama, while a graveside moment drips with Dickensian melodrama. The latter sees Bertram conjure up cracking compositions, with Batman's entrance especially effective. Dave Stewart deserves lots of credit too, for his well-considered, expertly applied colours throughout the book - every scene sings. Dezi Sienty's letters are understated compared to the work of his colleagues, but they do the job nicely.  

Guillem March's cover is a nicely bombastic opening image, made all the bolder by the colours of Tomeu Morey. It doesn't tell us exactly what to expect inside in terms of the visuals, but there is a hint of a different tone. 

This is part 11 or a series that's running 60 issues or something, but anyone could dive in and enjoy this - it's a superbly crafted comic that isn't afraid to throw fun in alongside the serious business. Need I say, recommended?

Comments

  1. This issue was good, but dammit I could not get into it like previous issues because of the artwork. It's so creepy looking with those big, lifeless eyes on the characters that stare into my soul. The weird body physiques and all that. Plus, after 10 issues of artwork that had at least a consistent tone and feel to it, this is so out there and really does not mesh will.

    It's would be like going from Frank Quietly to Philip Tan... oh wait that already happened once...

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    1. I'm sorry to hear the art wasn't for you, but that's fair enough. I love the different body types, I get tired of identikit folk.

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  2. Hi Martin, I don't buy individual comics anymore due to the cost, but going through your archives has given me many ideas of stuff I might want to check out in trades, thanks to your clear well written reviews. I've started a comic blog as well, covering mostly old stuff in trades and I thought it would be polite to let you know I added you to my blog roll :)

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  3. Hello Martin,

    This was one of my favorite single issues of the New 52 so far. Highest praise and a nice write-up on your part as usual. Bertram had nothing to do with that abysmal (IMO) Gothtopia arc, but he did pencil a brilliant future Batman story where Bruce is in his sixties or seventies in "'tec #27," which did have some Gothtopia stuff in it as well. Definitely check it out.

    Also, I just wanted to say that I couldn't agree more about the different body types. Every woman in this book was so real compared to the usual Barbie doll women in comics. I did a write-up on my own on my blog (http://www.therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/batmaneternal11andfeminism/) going into great detail about Bertram's fantastic work—highlighting it not only for its style, but for its FEMINIST qualities. Take Starfire alone... when has she ever been drawn without size triple D breasts? I think this might be the best Starfire image I have ever seen outside of the "Teen Titans Go" cartoon!

    Anyway, I look forward to what this new artist will bring to the table in the future.

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    1. Hello Treehouse Prom, that Starfire image certainly made a nice change. I'd like to think it'll set a precedent but I shan't hold my breath.

      And another new blog for m to enjoy. This is a good day!

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  4. This looks pretty cool. I may have to just pick up this issue. I love being dropped in the middle of a story without knowing what's going on--seriously.

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    1. I reckon you won't regret it, Jeff.

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  5. This was a fun issue, and I've been enjoying the series as a whole since I jumped on a few weeks ago. I worry a bit that there's a self fulfilling prophecy thing going on where DC decides (or has demonstrated to them) that their best selling characters are Batman, Batman and then Batman, and then assigns their best writers to Batman titles, and then of course these are the better stories leading to better sales, but what can you do. This is a good series. I've also enjoyed the past few issues of Batman and (insert Guest Star). The driving premise of fetching Robin's body was a bit ghoulish for me, but the guest stars (Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Frankenstein) were well written and fun. Of course Snyder's work on the flagship has been good and the former Flash team seems to be doing good things with Detective.

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    1. There are a few more than decent bat-books at the moment. As for the ones you didn't mention, I've not bothered with Tec after the first by Manapul and Buccellato, while I don't even know if the Finch book is still going.

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