The Vanier Report: Week 12
Batman Eternal #52
Written by: James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins, and Tim Seeley
Pencils & Inks by: Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferriera, Robson Rocha, Guillermo Ortego, David Lafuente, Tim Seeley, and Ray Fawkes
Colours by: Allen Passalaqua, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, and John Rauch
Letters by: Steve Wands
After all the twists and turns and reveals that this series has thrown at readers, Batman Eternal #52 delivers one of the most anticipated and most necessary final standoffs in recent memory. With the Cluemaster dead and the city in flames, Batman’s ultimate enemy is Lincoln March, the Owlman of Earth-0, otherwise (and supposedly) known as Thomas Wayne Jr.
The opening pages of the book reveal the beginning of the partnership between March and the Cluemaster, stretching all the way back to the Night of the Owls, just after March assassinated the then Court of Owls. He lends an ear to the Cluemaster’s grand design to tear down the Batman and agrees to finance the plot.
Those few pages are one of the only digressions from the final battle, and beyond illuminating the relationship between March and Cluemaster, the flashback serves an important role within the final issue. It brings the central premise of the series back to the forefront: is Batman an eternal symbol? He certainly believes himself to be; it’s one of the fundamental principles of his heroic identity that Batman can be bigger, do more, and last longer than any single man. But that heightened sense of self is also the driving force behind Cluemaster’s plot. As a “C-lister”, he is invisible to Batman. He is just an ordinary man and therefore does not show up on the radar of the mythological heavy-hitters like the Joker, Poison Ivy, and especially the Riddler.
By killing Cluemaster, Lincoln March astutely points out the flaw in the plan; where Cluemaster would have taken credit for killing Batman, March is more than happy to let him die another random casualty of the mayhem in the city. But March fails to realize that Batman is already eternal. The extended Bat-family is wide-ranging and ever-growing; something Jim Gordon calls attention to when he broadcasts the Bat-symbol on every screen in the city and floods the sky with a myriad of Bat-signals, calling on the citizens of the city to “be Batman”.
Obviously the Batman-is-a-symbol thing is extremely well-trod in comics and in film, but often this is put in the context of his legacy – who will carry on the mantle when Bruce Wayne cannot? What Batman Eternal has done – rather brilliantly, I might add – is reframe the symbolic immortality of the mantle in the context of a living legacy. No one needs to become Batman if Bruce Wayne is killed because the city and the world are full of other heroes inspired by his example. Red Hood, Batgirl, Bluebird, Talon, Jim Gordon, and countless others are all extended members of the Bat-family. Batman’s legacy lives within them already. In essence, all of the machinations of Lincoln March and the Cluemaster were in vain from the start.
In a way, this is mirrored in the very structure of Batman Eternal as a title. Obviously, there are editorial and publishing obstacles with a weekly comic, and as a result a number of writers and artists must contribute in order for deadlines to be met; but it makes for a lovely example of metatext that the legacy of Batman also lives in the writers and artists working on the title. They too have been inspired by his legend and he lives on in each of them. Each slight (or drastic) variation in writing style or colouration or pencil work mirrors the slight variations on the Bat-philosophy represented by the different members of his family.
When Batman Eternal focuses on this central question it excels. Its weaker moments, though few and certainly not crippling by any means, arise when the script deviates from that premise. The unearned Jason/Barbara feelings stand out like a sore thumb, as does the dialogue at the end between Gordon and Batman in which they discuss how much things have changed as a result of the events of Eternal. And while some things have changed – Bluebird and Spoiler as members of the Bat-family and Maggie Sawyer as the new Commissioner, for example – the fact remains that the bad guys lost, Bruce is back in a functioning Bat-suit, and things seem like business as usual. The changes they speak of are largely superficial. In fact, it appears that “Endgame” will have a greater impact on the future of the Batman mythos than Eternal will.
It’s not the most egregious writing sin, but it does feel out of place in what has otherwise been an incredible addition to Batman’s 76-year history. Batman Eternal, ultimately, is not about the character changing. It’s about him continuing. It is a love song to one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, featuring villains and supporting characters from all ages of the mythology. And, fittingly, it is hopeful that Batman will indeed be eternal; continuing to inspire and capture the imaginations of readers for another 76 years.
Feature Written By: Reid Vanier
“Reid is a comic book fan masquerading as a theatre artist. His love of comics (specifically DC) was inherited by his father’s collections of Flash, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Justice League of America. Reid is now the Editor and Lead Writer of Modern Mythologies.”