Scott Snyder takes a break from ‘Zero Year’ to tell a story set in Batman’s future (I can barely remember the last time I read a story set in Batman’s present) that serves as a teaser for the upcoming ‘Batman Eternal’ weekly series. Before reading this issue, I wasn’t planning on picking up Eternal, but now I am, so I guess you have to put this down as a success as Snyder, along with co-writer James Tynion IV and artist Dustin Nguyen set up a lot of interesting mysteries about what’s going to happen in Eternal as well as making major changes that really make me want to find out what happened in between now and the future.
The setting of this story is Gotham City after some sort of disaster that’s led to all sorts of trouble, there’s some kind of disease that’s killing people, and the Police are enforcing a curfew, which is how this issue begins, as Harper Row is picked up by the cops for being out at night. Before they can beat the shit out of her, she says a code-word, and is taken to an underground nightclub ran by the new ‘Kingpin’ of Gotham. Harper tells the people there that she needs help to cure her brother of this mysterious sickness, but they know she’s lying, as the codeword she gave is out of date, and she’s in deep trouble. Harper has an ace up her sleeve however, and she presses a button, turns off the light, and when it comes back on, the goons have been beaten up by Batman!
Yep, what we’ve all suspected for a while has come to pass, Harper Row has become a superhero and joined forces with Batman. She even has a Nightwing-esque costume, although her name isn’t Nightwing, it’s Bluebird. I’m very interested to see just how Harper becomes Bluebird, and it looks like it’s a quite complex story, as she and Batman seem to have a frosty relationship, and she says she’s been training with his other sidekicks, rather than Batman himself. It looks like in the aftermath of ‘Death Of The Family’ (which has been bungled by immediately going into the past) Batman has built a new family, including Harper, and someone else back in the Cave running the computers. What happened to Alfred and who is this mystery person? Batman and Bluebird take out some more goons, and are generally a pretty good team, but then the new Kingpin arrives, and it turns out to be Catwoman.
I had pretty much guessed this from the name and theme of the club (The Egyptian, and it’s full of cat statues) but it’s still interesting to see how Catwoman has gone from being a member of the Justice League and an ally of Batman’s, to the overall leader of Gotham’s criminals. This is probably the first time in like, 15 years when she’s been a proper villain, which is cool too. Batman and Bluebird have infiltrated Catwoman’s club because they know she has in her possession the ‘key’ that can supposedly save Gotham and (I guess) stop this disease from killing people. Catwoman takes them to her vault, and this key turns out to be not a what, but a who, and it’s the return of none other than Spoiler! I’m not really a fan of Stephanie Brown, so I wasn’t amazed and excited by this, it was more of a raised eyebrow. I think the use of this character here makes a lot of sense actually, she knows a lot of secrets, and her name is ‘Spoiler’, it’s pretty clever.
Dustin Nguyen’s art throughout this issue was excellent, he’s always been a good fit for Batman, going back to Judd Winick’s (underrated) run, and I really like the design of Bluebird’s costume.
Overall, this issue was an intriguing teaser for Eternal, I want to find out how Harper Row became a superhero, I want to know what cataclysmic event has fucked up Gotham this time, I want to know why Catwoman turned back to villainy, and I even want to know what’s up with Spoiler. I don’t know if I have room in my budget for a weekly series, but I’ll at least check out #1.