Batman Eternal #4: Zorbatos’ House

Batgirl isn’t taking her father’s trial very well, and that’s particularly bad news for anybody in Gotham wearing a Pyg mask. Time for Batman to… save the pyggies? Those goons need a better gimmick. It’s Batman Eternal #4!

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Writers: John Layman and Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV
Consulting Writers: Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Derek Fridolfs
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Rob Leigh

Batgirl isn’t taking the arrest of her father very well, and by this I mean she’s punching people dressed up in pig masks whilst yelling to herself. As the latest issue opens, we see her punching up some random people whilst flashes to her father’s bail hearing are interspersed with all the fighting. It turns out that the judge sentencing Gordon is also of the ‘you are the problem here, James Gordon’ sentiment, and says that the 162 deaths of the train crash are all his fault. He’s also responsible for the billions of dollars of damage, and for the infrastructure which was ruined. And for disrupting Gotham citizens.

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It’s a little surprising he doesn’t keep going with the accusations and also say that Gordon sprayed the kids with acid, broke a priceless biplane by letting a pig-obsessed serial murderer fly it, and seriously damaged the reputation of hard-working criminal minions citywide. Seriously, this is the strangest mass accident to ever happen in a city which is routinely overrun by a clown-themed maniac and everybody is taking the whole scene at face value? I sigh.

Gordon’s bail is refused, fairly sensibly on the grounds that he’s friendly enough with so many superheroes that they’d probably just whisk him off to hiding if he were let back on the streets. He’s therefore sent to Blackgate – which on the other hand, seems particularly not a sensible idea, given that it’s the most dangerous prison in comics. Barbara openly complains in court, which the judge says will put her in contempt and yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the whole reason why she’s complaining to begin with, judge.

She tries to stand up for her dad and say that he’s innocent, but he cuts her off and says maybe he is guilty – and then he’s taken away. Hence the punching now, as she takes out a whole gang of people dressed up as Professor Pyg. Also one man who is literally a lizard. He’s not wearing a mask or a strange costume or anything like that… he’s actually a lizard person. You’d think that’d be more of a big deal really, but maybe I missed the “there’s loads of reptile dudes now” memo.

Batman arrives and tells her to stop, because she’s being too violent, which is classic modern-age Batman behaviour. The worst trait of current Batman is his insistence that his allies not do anything at any point in time – and certainly they should never act like him, follow their instincts and finds leads, or engage in acts of vigilante justice. It’s like if Cyclops went around recruiting mutants but only on the proviso that they never use their mutant abilities ever. It’s always really dull and unengaging whenever Batman tells one of his mentees that they shouldn’t do anything without his permission, and that’s certainly the case here.

She punches him twice in the jaw before he catches the third punch, and it’s a reminder of just how much the “Batgirl of Burnside” run changed about the Barbara Gordon character to give her more distinction.

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Here she seems incredibly bland – angry, punchy, but without anything really that she wants to say except grim one-liners. You can see why they wanted to bring in Stephanie Brown, because at least she sometimes gets the chance to tell a joke. Batgirl here is funereal. She also refers to her dad as “Jim Gordon”, which is weirdly formal.

Speaking of Steph – she continues to try calling her mother, despite it being fairly obvious that mum is just as in on the D-List villainy as her dad. She finally gets through, and has a quick conversation with mum where she gives away her location. Her mum, standing in a pretty empty house (apart from some kind of floating three-headed lamp thing), then immediately skypes her ex-husband to tell him that “you have a problem”. Well, that isn’t the best news for Steph Brown, but at least she hasn’t started formally referring to her dad as “Arthur Brown” yet.

Say, has anybody ever asked Arthur about his crazy world? I hope he shows up in the next issue and offers Stephanie the gift of hellfire.

At the GCPD, Jason Bard is still settling in when Commissioner Forbes shows up. He’s basically sizing up how corruptible Bard is, but I’m more interested in how Bard got his hair to be so glossy and nice after only one night in Gotham. He also looks sort of like Peter Parker, which is a bit disconcerting after three issues of being basically Ben McKenzie in glasses. Anyway Bard wants to tackle this whole gang war between Pyg, Penguin and various other mobsters, but Forbes shuts down that idea. They’re only going after Batman from now on.

Lord knows how the public is taking all this, by the way. Batman wasn’t even pegged as being at the crime scene, so I have no idea how he’s managed to become fugitive #1 as a result of it.

Killing off perhaps any of the tension in this particular storyline, the next scene has Batman smash into Falcone’s penthouse – which he found bloody easily, don’t you think? This is only the fourth issue – and beats up some of the guards before Falcone stops things. Being a penthouse, this whole scene is set in a room with a glass ceiling, which makes it bizarre when Falcone decides to shoot into the air in order to stop Batman from fighting. You’re shooting your own roof, you idiot!

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Falcone and Batman have a brief chat in which neither character learns much about the other of any real import, but the readers get a blunt-force anvil of foreshadowing to the face. Falcone says he wants to get rid of all the people in costumes who are in Gotham – heroes, villains, all of them – so mobsters can basically take over again. He then rubs the scars on his cheek and says “I have… unfinished business”, which if Batman had any sense would immediately be seen as a threat being made to Selina Kyle. Batman’s not a very good detective, though, so that seems to slip right past him.

Batman, having achieved absolutely nothing, grapples back into his Batplane and flies off. Hilariously, Falcone then has a panel where he stares up through the bat-shaped hole in the ceiling, as if he’s only just realised “oh no, I literally live in a room with a glass ceiling! Why did I shoot it?”

In the batcave, Batman gives Batgirl a telling off for not having a nap. She’s busy looking through the CCTV footage of the crash and finding clues, and Batman is 100% not onboard with this level of proactivity. On the other hand, Batgirl’s investigation seems to suggest that the real culprit behind the train crash was a Brazilian soap opera star called “Gonzolo”, so perhaps he’s right about that whole nap thing.

The issue ends with Jim Gordon being led into Blackgate, where he meets the warden, Agatha, Zorbatos. Seriously, she’s called that. She doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, so I’m not going to take her threats to Gordon particularly seriously. Great character design, though.

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He’s marched in handcuffs to his cell, where various villains yell at him – Wraith is there, as well as ‘Emperor Penguin’, who was featured in a recent arc of Detective Comics where he tried (and failed) to take over Penguin’s empire.

Another villain in there with Gordon is called Amygdala, which just goes to show just how rarely Blackgate has a jailbreak – I’ve never heard of that dude before, so he must’ve been locked up for a long while. Gordon is eventually put into his cell, where he finds that he has a new cellmate: a guy who looks like Zeus, and is called Leo. Leo says that Gordon probably won’t last more than a few days amongst the inmates of Blackgate. If Amygdala’s the best they have to throw at him, though, I predict within two issues Gordon will be living like a King. What’s so tough about Blackgate, anyway, eh?

48 issues to go.

Want to read along with Shelfdust? You can pick up Batman Eternal Vol 1 from Amazon here – and buying it from our link helps us out too!

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