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ORACLE OF COMICS #032 – BATMAN ETERNAL #21 – TEN FORTY-EIGHT

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #21 Bullock
Halfway through Issue #21 of Batman Eternal, you think that you are reading a filler comic. It isn’t bad, but is one of those issues that this series churns out every now and again, where the story is slowly built upon, but is mainly an excuse to add some character development to proceedings. Good, but not essential. However, when the comic hits the halfway point, it speeds right up to the maximum, hitting us with a terrific scene with Alfred, a brand new villain entering the fray (no spoilers, but he is one of my favourites!), and a twist that will shake the foundations of this story.

If it seemed that I was criticising the slower first half of the comic, I wasn’t. I like that the side characters were developed. We got to see a few tender moments from characters that are often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. Harvey Bullock has been on exposition duties from day one, but this issue, we get to see his take on the events of the last twenty issues. We get a sneak peek into the private life of Bard and Vicki Vale. Falcone turns out to still be a player in the conspiracy (he is much better now he is not centre of attention, but allowed to just show up and be menacing from time to time). These small moments might seem like they are time-wasting, which they might very well be, but it does make Batman Eternal feel like a bigger thing. Everyone is a three-dimensional character and it makes the events that unfold have a much more dramatic read.

Batman Eternal #21 Falcone
Also, how badass was Alfred! Out of all of the supporting cast that never get truly explored in Batman, Alfred is usually the first to be dropped. He serves well for the origin and all of the stories that are closer to home, but for a lot of Batman stories, it’s hard to think up a reason to include him. Today, Alfred gets to show off. He is given an extended scene, where he just screams awesomeness from every angle. He has some great dialogue, handles a weapon impressively and somehow unleashes the Vulcan grip to put someone to sleep. I am glad that now Eternal has a bit of free time to explore new story avenues, Alfred was chosen to be a key part in the next one. I hope we get more moments like this from him.

Batman Eternal #21 Alfred
And that twist at the end! I am still not sure what to think of it. It definitely surprised me, but I might need to go over a few of the previous issues to decide if it makes sense or not. I hope it is a planned twist and not something thrown in to make Eternal more jaw-dropping. The next few issues on this twist be fully handled will be make or break for Eternal. Like last issue with Spoiler’s reveal, it does have the same annoying effect of the civilian characters either becoming superheroes or bad guys, rather than just being ordinary for once. But at least with the latter, it has the promise of doing something genuinely interesting. For now, I am glued to Eternal and unable to guess what this story has in store for us.

Quote of the Issue:

Alfred: You have broken into my home. You are a threat to my family. Master Wayne might have a predilection against firearms… but I’m afraid he isn’t home right now.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on September 1st, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #029 – BATMAN ETERNAL #20 – WILD ANIMALS

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #20 Croc
Wild Animals continues the streak of action-packed fight scenes. I slightly prefer the last issue, but at least Eternal seems to be picking up the pace at a rapid rate. Here, we get the conclusion of three storylines and the birth of another one.

We start off instantly with Batman, Croc and Bard taking on Ten-Eyes and his army of spectres. This storyline is tied up a little too neatly for me, but it does feature some neat set-pieces. I assumed that Ten-Eyes’ abduction of Gotham citizens would tie into Deacon Blackfire’s schemes, seeing as they both having ghostly figures lurking around the sewers as an integral part of their plot. Sadly, it seems that Gotham is just unlucky enough to have two supernatural invasions in one night. (While we are mentioning Blackfire, where has he got to? That imminent threat was a cliffhanger a couple of issues ago that has been shoved onto the back-burner). Essentially, reviewing this entire three issue story, we can chalk this up to a simple distraction from the ongoing story, which does make this finale a little flat. We wanted it to be another part of the conspiracy, yet now this entire side of Eternal is dead in the water. At the very least, it did give us some time with Killer Croc, who is always a fun character, and Bard’s development continues strongly. I can’t say I hated my time with these three heroes.

Batman Eternal #20 Pluck
Gordon’s story comes to an end rather abruptly. It is all good, but I assumed there would be four issues worth of Falcone-fighting to get through. Gordon is apparently too efficient a hero for my liking. That being said, it is nice seeing him take on an army of goons using his wits. He hasn’t got the gadgets that Batman has, so it is rewarding to watch him hold his own in an action sequence. The downside of this story being cut short is that we never really got any more time with Falcone or the Penguin. I was hoping that they would get a few monologues out of their characters being mentioned again, maybe some more rationalisation with the wardens of Blackgate. I felt that would have been an interesting feature to have, but sadly the return of these two villains wasn’t so much of a return, but more of a prolonged cameo. On the plus side, there is a great twist to end this story, that I didn’t see coming. It adds a nice after-thought to the gang war saga that doesn’t bring too much to the plot, but adds a neat little layer of intelligence and development to the series.

Batman Eternal #20 Batgirl
Finally, Batgirl catches up with Falsario. This storyline suffers the most, as there is simply no time to do this one justice. I would have relished in Batgirl’s character a little more if I was writing this chapter. She is always threatening to break into her dark side and this fight would have been the ideal time for her to maybe go too far with the vigilante persona. As it stands, the sequence is cut drastically short, although it does add some more questions, which will keep Eternal on the watch list for comic-readers everywhere. I just hope that the ending development doesn’t mean that Batgirl’s arc has come to an end, as she was the most interesting sub-character of the lot.

And then there is one twist to end the comic. I don’t like it. A side character essentially adopts a superhero alter-ego and I didn’t see the point. I loved this character as a civilian, helpless against the corruption of Gotham. It was a new dynamic, yet now this character is yet another Robin knock-off. This storyline is now no different to the rest of Eternal. Not every character needs to be a superhero, yet the writers don’t seem to want to have a civilian develop without donning a costume at some point. I will be watching this side of Eternal with very judgemental eyes.

Quote of the Month:

Row: Go pluck yourself, Cobblepot.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on September 1st, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #027 – BATMAN ETERNAL #19 – BREAKING BAT

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal- #19 Croc
First things first: best title ever.

And now onto the rest of the comic. This was quite a jam-packed issue, but in the right way. It cleverly picks up three stories that each have something different to offer. Batman carries on from last issue, tracking down the mysterious kidnappers in the sewers, teamed up with Killer Croc and Bard. It is nice to see these three great characters, even if they do little more than lurk around and look awesome (the artwork for Croc is terrific). Then we have a brand new plot-line with Jim Gordon. Falcone and Penguin are continuing their gang war from inside Blackgate Prison and Gordon finds himself in the position where only he stands between the convicts and the lives of several prison guards, taken as hostages. It is a triumphant return for an important, yet sometimes overlooked character. Finally, all chaos breaks out, when Batgirl, Red Hood and Batwoman take on Falsario, one of the biggest leads we have been given yet.

Batman Eternal- #19 Gordon
The pacing works, because we have a beginning of a plot-line, the middle of a plot-line and then, a massive punch-up. We need to get through the opening exposition of Gordon’s new story arc and we also need to progress with Batman’s descent into Arkham, but the writers understand that this should never sacrifice fun. The truth is, none of the readers overly mind the slow exploration of Batman Eternal, but we just need some action to spice things up a bit. Therefore, when we are given a great fight between a brain-washed Batgirl, a slave to her anger, and Red Hood, we don’t mind breaking away occasionally to spend long scenes with little more than exposition. We never hated any of the story-building or scene setting; we just needed something a little more to make picking up a certain issue worth it.

Batman Eternal- #19 Folsario
But best of all, I am barely able to wait for the next issue. This Blackgate prison riot is a side of the Batman universe that I love, especially if we don’t have Batman to help save the day, but need to rely on a cop, who has had his hands behind his back from the very start of this series. The cliff-hanger is pretty epic and I hope it promises another great punch-up next time around. One without the supernatural illusion tricks that made the last Batwing finale a little mediocre. And while the action was certainly more hyped than usual, the Batgirl investigation isn’t over. She still has to track Falsario down, who is an interesting figure, as he does have the powers to make Gordon think he saw a gun on that subway station. Despite that arc being up and down, I think that is the advantage it has over every other plot-line: it brings the mystery right back to Issue #1, grounding this massive serial of a Bat-story.

Quote of the Issue:

Red Hood: Me, I only remember what’s important. Like the day I met Batgirl.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on August 16th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #026 – BATMAN ETERNAL #18 – A NIGHT ON EARTH

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #18 Decided
This was a much stronger effort from Batman Eternal, mainly because we finally got to see Batman be Batman for an extended time. The issue is split fairly between Batgirl’s investigations in Brazil, as she teams up with Red Hood and Batwoman (why did Batgirl and Batwoman have to be sent on the same adventure? This is far too confusing for novices like myself!), and then Batman’s pairing with Bard. There is also a nice sprinkling of Jim Gordon, a character we must not forget is at the heart of this entire saga.

Batman Eternal #18 Killer Croc
It is good to see Bard back in good guy duties. As much as I liked his darker tone in the last few issues, I don’t want him to become a villain. I prefer him as one of the good guys, just someone who is willing to go down a slightly darker route than Batman. Here, he is thrown out of his league, as he takes on one of the more infamous figures in the Batman rogue gallery, the Killer Croc. It is a nice position to have Bard in, because at the end of the day, he is your typical police officer, way out of his league. This issue reflected that nicely, especially when contrasted with Batman’s cool and steady demeanour of going about things. It is great to see Batman get reintroduced to his own story, especially when pitted against Croc. As much as I like discovering less known Batman villains like Deacon Blackfire and the Joker’s Daughter, it is nice to have an issue grounded with a more prominent villain. Killer Croc ticks that box excellently, fantastic in every frame he is in. Croc is interesting throughout the entire arc and as the writers point out in one ghostly frame, he is no longer the scariest thing lurking in the Gotham sewers.

Batman Eternal #18 Shadows
The Batgirl storyline has been dragging its feet for some time. I liked Batgirl’s arc, because unlike a lot of the Robins that have been shoe-horned into the plot, she has a genuine reason to be involved with Eternal. However, despite the interesting premise, the storyline hasn’t really gone anywhere. One issue went for comedy over drama, while there hasn’t been a strong enough villain for Batgirl to face off against. She is paired with two characters that I don’t care much for. Red Hood is intriguing, but hardly someone I am clamouring to find out more about, while Batwoman hasn’t shown any personality as of yet. Her appearance feels like it is referencing her as an ongoing figure in the Batman universe, rather than giving her anything worthwhile to do. However, the issue does make me think twice about condemning this strand of plot. The issue ends with Red Hood reflecting on Batgirl, juxtaposed with frames of her beating up a bunch of goons. It is a terrific sequence and a great read.

Then we have Jim Gordon. His storyline doesn’t really progress, but it does offer up some nice details. We see a glimpse of Falcone, which is a nice touch. I don’t like it when villains are defeated and then written out of the plot. Eternal has been good with that, as evidenced by Professor Pyg. This issue is great with the small touches and I think that is what takes a comic book from good to great.

Quote of the Issue:

Bard (about Batman): Does he always talk to himself like that?

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on August 11th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #019 – BATMAN ETERNAL #12 – THE GOOD MAN

By Luke Abbott

Batman Eternal #12 Red Hood
This was the issue I figured out I had been reading Batman Eternal all wrong. Rather than checking them out each week, I should have collected the entire series and marathoned them in a single evening. There is not a lot I shall say in this review that I haven’t said before. “We check in with everyone’s storylines.” “Something big is around the corner, promise!” The truth is Eternal is playing the long game and the people who will get the most pleasure out of this series are the ones who are content to wait until they have every issue in their hands, before even beginning. However, I have started this weekly review now and I will see it through to the bitter end.

Batman Eternal #12 Trial
The Good Man tackles far more of the ongoing stories than any of the other issues so far. Jim Gordon makes a return after a long absence. His trial gets underway and we get a savagely delicious courtroom scene. Meanwhile, Penguin and Falcone are going to greater lengths to win the city back, the first page showing Penguin’s thugs getting mown down by armed thugs. Jason Bard, Harvey Bullock and Captain Sawyer get together and come up with a plan to end the gang war once and for all, but it requires a risky step which is revealed in the last few pages. Also, Batgirl and Red Hood’s encounter is carried on from the last issue, but without the distracting art or silly humour. Also… takes deep breath… we check in on Red Robin and Bluebird, who haven’t shown up in forever. And on top of that, there is more drama in the Pennyworth family. Yes, this issue is action-packed, yet the writers even find time to slip in a cameo from a certain famous DC reporter.

Batman Eternal #12 Harper
It’s all good. It really is. There isn’t any part of this issue where I could point to a certain beat and say: “that’s wrong!” As far as issues of Batman Eternal go, that would make this particular episode a success. It is just always promising something interesting in an issue’s time. Every frame is orchestrated into making you buy the next issue, rather than focusing on this particular one in your hands. This is a common sin for any comic book collector. However, it works, because I am unable to stop buying this Batman comic now: I am in too deep. So yes, if anyone is still on the fence about buying these comics, do it! Just maybe read them in one go, rather than sitting through a single issue that seems perfectly content to inch along with its narrative.

Quote of the Issue:

Bluebird: “Just told me to ‘buck up’ or something like that.”

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on June 26th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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DEVIL IN THE DETAIL #001 – “WHY IS THE JOKER SO MAD?”

By Kulbir Mann

Batman and the Joker are one of the greatest all time superhero villain combinations. Their names are etched in comic folklore stone. Where do you begin to explain how they work and why they work so well with each other? There are books written on the matter and there are countless works of comics, cartoons and films depicting the subject. Put simply, Bruce took on a persona to instil fear into the villains of Gotham and the Joker is Gotham underworld’s response to Batman. Is a killer clown any more or less ridiculous or crazy as a man dressed as a Bat trying to fight crime? Of course not. Regular street crime and villainy is no match for Batman and so new criminals are born and wander into the fray for the challenge.

Enter the Joker. His insane genius is so incomprehensible that a detective will not be able to piece together the clues in his mind.

Enter the Joker. His insane genius is so incomprehensible that a detective will not be able to piece together the clues in his mind. It is difficult to remember that Batman is primarily a detective even though he has a ridiculous amount of other skills. Unfortunately that is not enough to fight the Joker, which appears a ridiculous statement as Batman always wins. However there is a cost to these victories: namely to the ones Batman holds dear. Batman’s second Robin, Jason Todd was brutally murdered, Sarah Gordon, Jim Gordon’s wife was also hideously killed, Barbara Gordon, Jim’s daughter was left paralysed and he almost sent Jim to Arkham asylum. The amount of times Joker was arrested and sent to Arkham only to escape and kill is immeasurable. The only way to stop is to prevent his fleeing incarceration or simply to kill him. Batman does not kill and therein lies the problem.

The Joker adores Batman and has no immediate wish to kill him. He is a bored man and finds the Bat incredibly amusing and loves to torture him. The Joker has described Batman’s eventual death as a work of art that needs to be planned in order for it to be fitting of the icon. There was even an episode of the animated series where the Joker stops Batman from being killed because the death scene was not amazing enough. He also knows that Batman does not kill and eventually he will always be free to inflict suffering on him. All Batman can do is try to outthink his eccentric mind and catch him again before another loved one is hurt. As complex a hero villain complex as this is, there is only one man who suffers and that is Bruce Wayne.

The Joker adores Batman and has no immediate wish to kill him. He is a bored man and finds the Bat incredibly amusing and loves to torture him.

Joker has been away. He was only in one issue of the first year’s worth of new 52 comics and that was Detective Comics #1. This featured a break into Arkham asylum in order to meet the Dollmaker, who gave him the ultimate disguise: he removed his face. A disgusting final page showed Joker’s skin pinned to a wall and that was the last we heard of him, until now. The Death of the Family has begun and the Joker has returned to Gotham ready to inflict pain on Batman again. The title suggests that there will be more death and destruction to the people Bruce holds close. What is his current motivation and why has he returned now after a year? In order to answer this question we need to look closer at his comic book return.

This featured a break into Arkham asylum in order to meet the Dollmaker, who gave him the ultimate disguise: he removed his face.

There are a few obvious truths to the return of a homicidal megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. He has to be the most feared and hated villain irrespective of Batman. He is a son of Gotham returning to reclaim his throne and he alludes to this many times when confronting Batman and the Gotham police. He also stamps his role when meeting with the Penguin, where he places himself as a prime suspect for thug murders. He barters with Cobblepot in order to manipulate him into performing a favour. Once again outthinking and positioning himself above the Penguin in the super villainy stakes. The Joker is jealous of the troubles inflicted on Batman from the court of owls, making two separate mentions of it. He is irate that Bruce struggled so much and genuinely thinks he should have managed better. The Joker wants to be his toughest villain, not some old owls. Finally I think he just missed the place and running amok around the city.

The Joker has an interesting ideology when it comes to Gotham and Batman. Batman is the Godking of Gotham and organised crime is Batman’s purpose in life. The thugs fear the bat insignia and it’s meaning, escalating Bruce to mythological status. Successfully completing a crime is the reward; it means that you have evaded the bat, let alone the booty itself. The Joker compares this to a worship like practice and Cobblepot is in charge of the offerings. There is a lovely line that states that the Penguin is the bishop in Batman’s dark kingdom. As Batman feeds on all of this crime he is satisfied he is doing his job. He is kept busy and Gotham has its champion, its king. These villains are fulfilling a role but they are simple folk, not like the Joker, not like him at all.

The Joker compares this to a worship like practice and Cobblepot is in charge of the offerings.

The Joker is special. He is Batman’s enemy and his nemesis and that relationship is special to him. When he talks to Batman he does so with emotion and sentiment, which is easily disguised with his crazy grin and laughter. The Joker has gone to a lot of effort in his return, just for Batman. He has gotten his face back, because it is who he is and he needs to be seen again, even if it means using a belt to fix his face in place. He does not want to remain unrecognisable because the world must know what he is doing and how well he is doing it. He uses an analogy of the play My King and I to describe his relationship with Bruce. It’s an interesting reference to a show about a couple being on opposing warring factions. The man and woman eventually understand one another and only then are able to share their feelings with a single dance. The Joker understands Batman’s mentality and holds him dear. He is his jester and no one else can take his role. He wants to dance with him again. The Joker takes great lengths to re-enact the evolution of their relationship, as he recreates his first kill and one of the earliest Batman meetings on a bridge at the Gotham reservoir. Batman says, “You’re nothing to me” and the Joker replies, “Shhh. Don’t do that, don’t pretend, not here, not to me.” These are amazing lines showing how upset Joker becomes when their relationship is belittled.

The Joker takes great lengths to re-enact the evolution of their relationship, as he recreates his first kill and one of the earliest Batman meetings on a bridge at the Gotham reservoir.

Batman has changed. He has a large support network and family. He is no longer a lone warrior patrolling the night and this irks the Joker. The true villains of Batman are the company he keeps and they have ruined the Joker’s dear king. He states that Batman has become soft and fat because of his poor efficiency when handling the Owls. The Joker expects more maybe because no one else is allowed to be a bigger threat. He misses the real Batman and is angry he has become weak and dependant. He needs Bruce to be stronger and be more of a challenge and therefore he needs to eliminate his family. His dialogue during the two issues is very protective of Batman and hating to all his associates. The city deserves a better Batman and he is going to return him to full glory.

He needs Bruce to be stronger and be more of a challenge and therefore he needs to eliminate his family.

Where do they go from here? Clearly the crossover will involve many titles and many bat family members. If Joker had his way they would all be killed leaving Batman to himself. I imagine he would try to torment him for as long as possible in his strange bad romance fantasy until he mentally breaks. We know that is unlikely to happen and that Batman will win outright and probably send him back to Arkham. It is the status quo as I alluded to above, but there will be a change, and it is likely someone will die or be irreparably damaged. I hope the Jason Todd storyline will be well handled given he died at the Joker’s hands once before and is not as moralistic as Batman. Whatever happens once again Bruce will be left with the guilt of an injured or dead loved one and I wonder where it will take him. What roads will he travel that he has not travelled before? He has a huge family with his world of Batmen, which need support and continued motivation, so that cannot be changed. The Joker will remain to fight another day but Bruce will bear the consequences again and I am interested to see another scar added to his brutally abused mind.

For more comic views and reviews follow Kulbir on Twitter at @Kooliebear and check out his website over at houseofflyingscalpels.com

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Posted on November 23rd, 2012
Category: DEVIL IN THE DETAIL, NEWS & VIEWS
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