Listen: gang wars are one thing, and I’ll even allow a robotic nano-invasion or two. But now we’re going to bring ghosts from the Nth dimension into your yearlong Batman story? Well okay – but this had better be good. It’s Batman Eternal #6!
Writers: Ray Fawkes, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Consulting Writers: John Layman, and Tim Seeley
Artist: Trevor McCarthy
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Batman Eternal has been threatening to go full madness ever since the first issue, which makes it surprising that this week we have what’s really only our first stop-off at Arkham Asylum to date. Things start off at an abandoned truckyard, however, which is the scene of a fight between Batwing and Gentleman Ghost. This iteration of Batwing is Luke Fox – Lucius Fox’s son – and a relative newcomer to the scene, if Gentleman Ghost crying “rookie!” at him is any indication.
They crash past Batman, who just happened to be nearby and was surprisingly not busy doing any gargoyle-based brooding, and he steps in to save the day. “What happened here?” he asks, standing in for the reader after a particularly messy and poorly put-together fight sequence. Batwing complains that the ghost never showed up on any of his sensors, prompting Batman to reprimand him. Turning over his Obi-Wan fanclub card, he tells Batwing to forget all his tech and targeting computers, and instead to rely on his instincts.
After ascertaining that the truck yard was a front for Carmine Falcone – meaning that noted costume-hater Falcone hired a literal Gentleman Ghost to work for him, the hypocrite – they tag up the trailers so they can see where they go. In a nice touch, they also sabotage the guns – just because you want to track them, you don’t have to leave them functional.
I get the feeling this is going to be Batwing’s character arc during Batman Eternal: learn to accept that Gotham makes no goddamn sense whatsoever. This is highlighted when the pair leave the scene, and we see a green light glowing up from the crack in the pavement Batwing made when he landed. Dr Phosphorus is sat down there, watching them for some reason. He’s looking a bit peaky too. He’s able to then wander off from this random part of Gotham straight to Arkham Asylum somehow, which suggests that Gotham has not just one but TWO labyrinthes underneath the city streets.
Arriving back at the Batcave, Bruce Wayne heads upstairs when Alfred walks in to tell him that a guest has arrived. “I don’t like what happens to the mirrors when he’s here”, he adds. Alfred drops like four or five clues rather than just state who the guest is, which must be some sort of special game that they like playing together – given that we see the guest on the very next panel, where he states his name, there’s no other reason for the comic to hide it from us. It’s Jim Corrigan, drinking a Boston sour and reading apropos literature.
He’s come over because of “mystic shenanigans”, which is a better title for a book than Justice League Dark ever was. Something is happening in Arkham Asylum which requires attention, but Batman says he’s not able to spare the time to check. I’m sorry, Batman, but what did you just say? Are you actually considering sharing some of your burden? Somewhere in the house Alfred’s going to have to wipe clean the “it’s been 100 days since Batman asked for help” whiteboard. Batman knows just the person to take his place, though.
In the Asylum, one of the inmates is being led by a faceless doctor through the building. The inmate’s been having nightmares about a black maze, decorated with millions of handprints – like the ones Dr Phosphorus has been leaving around, I guess. Y’know, the radioactive man who recently vanished and nobody noticed? The doctor keeps leading this poor dude down into the basements, anyway, at which point he finally starts to wonder if something dodgy is going on.
There’s a man sat on the ground with one hand missing, using his other hand to put prints on the wall. Then there’s Maxie Zeus, also missing an arm, being attended to by two one-armed nurses. It’s really freaky, especially because surely somebody should be keeping an eye on the attendance register. Not one but two supervillains have recently just vanished? Maybe they should get some kind of automated system. Or, y’know, CCTV. I know, I know, it’d clash with the gothic stylings to have CCTV dotted around – but at least it’s stop Greek Gods from wandering off and ripping their hands off.
The doctor keeps leading the man down the corridor, and tells him that he’s fed the guy some drugs which are designed to keep him compliant. They arrive at a throne, where the doctor greets someone as “highness”. When you turn the page, do you know who it is?
It’s Joker’s Daughter. Eugh.
I hate her. I really hate this character. She’s stupid, nonsensical, and the star of the only bad Ann Nocenti comic I’ve ever read. She’s say on a throne surrounded by chopped-off arms, calls herself the princess of dreamland, and tells the doctor to lop off this new guy’s arm and then set him loose in ‘the maze’. A THIRD one?? Oh, gross, and I just noticed she’s wearing an arm like it’s a feather boa. She’s the worst, you guys.
Over at Luke Fox’s flat, he’s building some kind of tech thing and bantering back and forth with a dude called “Rory” I’ve never heard of before. Was there a Batwing series at the time of this issue coming out? Maybe he’s part of the cast of that. He simultaneously seems pretty boring and like he’d be good boyfriend material for Luke, whose flat has a single bookcase, a single desk, and two chairs. Not much for interior design, this one.
There’s suddenly an explosion through the window, and Batman calls immediately – but not to send Batwing off on that mission. Instead, he wants to send him elsewhere. Arriving at the drop off point, he finds Jimmy Corrigan waiting for him. Corrigan immediately starts wielding magic on him, which Batwing doesn’t object to as much as you’d think. They exposit for a little bit, and establish that they’re going to spend the next few issues investigating weird magic in Arkham Asylum. Y’know what? I’m in for a bout of that, sign me up, sounds fun.
Batman, meanwhile, is chatting to Alfred whilst driving through Gotham’s streets. Alfred is wiping steam off a mirror – is that really all Corrigan’s presence does to them? I was hoping it was going to turn out he warps them into funhouse mirrors or something – whilst monitoring police signals. Y’know, Alfred doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a master of multi-tasking. I bet he’s got a lobster thermador cooking eve while he guides Batman and cleans up the library. What a guy.
While they’re having a chat, Dr Phosphorus is casually sitting around next to some highly flammable barrels of chemicals. Dude, you couldn’t find a better place to hang out? Also, how did you carry these all to this location? I kid, of course, it’s all part of a plan to, uh, blow up a truck as Batman’s chasing it. And that’s how the issue ends, weirdly.
Not much of a cliffhanger! They’d have been better off rearranging things so Luke Fox and Corrigan got the last page, because I’m not sure anybody’s particularly worried about one random lorry getting blown in half. Still, that’s where we leave things, so maybe it’ll turn out something exciting was in there. Ooh, maybe it’ll be like the end of Gotham’s second season, where a bunch of loonies were locked up inside? Let’s hope for that, eh?
46 issues to go.
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.