Poison Ivy, Bane, Mr Freeze, Joker’s Daughter, Scarecrow and Clayface are holed up in a children’s home, all trying to pretend that they’re the ringleader of their little crime gang. But who is actually the leader? There’s only one way to find out: FIIIIGHTTT!!! It’s Batman Eternal #38!

Writer: Tim Seeley
Consulting Writers: Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Ray Fawkes and James Tynion IV
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Giulia Brusco
Letterer: John J. Hill

Batman is on the Bat-Hanglider, which just for your future reference has a little yellow sandbag hanging from it for untold reasons. Does a sandbag help with hangliding, or does Batman just like to make sure he ramps up the difficulty for everything he does? He’s gliding across to the Willowwood Home for Children, which appears to be the abandoned location which has now become the Willowwood Home for Criminals. As he heads across, Julia helpfully reminds him that he’s almost completely out of kit – that must be why he’s taking the hangglider instead of literally any other form of transport. She also tries to guilt-trip him about leaving her at the Batcave, but he then reminds her that she basically abandoned her dad in order to go off to war, which…. burn. Ouch.

Scarecrow, Clayface, Mr Freeze – who looks extremely pissed off about this whole thing – and Joker’s Daughter are the four villains holed up in the building, with a few token hostages for good measure. Clayface makes a random comment, which of course leads to a two-page Scarecrow monologue, as must all things. Scarecrow thinks he is the one in charge right now, because he sees through everyone. Apparently being in a children’s home will be distracting for Freeze (who killed his mother) and Joker’s Daughter (who has the Joker as her father figure), he presumes. The whole thing is essentially showing up that Scarecrow is reading far too much into the situation, because he thinks he’s a grand mastermind when actually he’s a C-Lister subplot.

Speaking of C-List subplots, next the comic remembers that James Gordon is still in Blackgate! Gordon wakes up to find that his roommate – Selina Kyle’s dad “the Lion” – is getting a back massage. Now we know who he is, the comic has decided to queer-code him without specifying that to any real degree, so now he’s getting massages and alluding to prison relationships and Gordon spends the whole time doing a massive gay panic cringe like he’s in a 1990s sitcom. It all ends with the Lion making a hamfisted pass at Gordon, which gets rebuffed, of course. I think the idea is that he’d lead Gordon out the prison via the sewers – but the sewers collapsed in on themselves, right? So not quite sure what Rex is getting at with all this.

At Willowwood, Joker’s daughter is thankfully taken out within a few panels, via chloroform which Batman has smeared over his cape. Smart move! He then uses a small piece of string to tie her hands together, which makes a loud noise somehow? Poison Ivy hears it anyway, so she and Bane are now aware that Batman is in the building. Bane starts to prepare his ambush in the sewers, but gets distracted by a sudden instinct to marry Poison Ivy – it turns out she dosed his food with her pheromones (ew) and now he’s basically under her spell. Ah sweet memories of watching Batman and Robin all those years ago. Ivy abandons him immediately this time, though, leaving the lucha in the hands of an attacking Killer Croc. Hoss fight!!

They start bashing each other up, and trying to psych each other out with duelling “this is my domain!” taunts. Croc is in the literal sewers and still Bane is trying to say he’s got the upper hand here. It certainly looks like it, until Bane goes for his finishing move and, Croc already being aware and expecting to get picked up for a backbreaker, simply spins round and bites through the venom supply. Just as Bane was taunting him about not learning any lessons from last time! That’ll teach you to showboat.

Freeze is defeated off-panel using… um… a freeze grenade? Julia then remotely takes over the hangglider to swing that conspicuous yellow sandbag through the window next to Scarecrow, which distracts him long enough for Batman to nip in and punch his lights out. Batman explains that nobody here is the ringleader, because they’re all basically useless – harsh, but kind of fair, really. This has been a bit of a break from the main storyline, to be honest. Scarecrow tries to take a hostage but Batman shoots them – because the hostage is Clayface in disguise. Clayface is down too. This is very quick work. It’s a shame they spent thirty issues making Jason Bard out to be a cool villain and then to counteract it they throw away all these other villains in one go.

Bane and Croc are still fighting in the sewers, but now Croc is getting the upper hand for once – that’s a pun, because Croc bites into an artery in Bane’s wrist and relies on him bleeding out. Bane loses stability and his bleeding arm falls into the sewer water, oh it’s so gross.

Meanwhile Batman finishes off Scarecrow, but not before getting a few coded messages about there being a “riddle” to this whole situation which hasn’t been solved yet. Batman is the greatest detective in the world, so he cleverly notes that the word “riddle” probably means that he needs to go speak to…. The Riddler!! Well, no surprise there. He heads to the sewers to take out Bane, but finds that he’s been beaten to it – Bane is tied up with “Le Roi est mort. Viva le Roi” written in blood behind him. Croc speaks French?

Back at her casino, Catwoman pays off Ivy and then sits down in her boardroom to let everyone know that all the other villains have been dealt with and are now no longer an issue to them. The mobsters will be able to take the city back. Smart plan! This elevates the issue, to be honest, it’s a clever way to lay everything out and change the city.

Another twist – Jason Bard goes to Blackgate and confesses everything to James Gordon. He says that he ruined everything, that the city is doomed, and that there’s nothing that he can do to save the day. Gordon’s response? “get me the hell out of here”. Jim’s coming back!

Finally, the issue ends with Catwoman in her penthouse, observing her empire – and her new bodyguard, Killer Croc, who is wearing an Egyptian costume. It’s ridiculous. It’s brilliant. She goes to sleep in complete safety, having won.

 

14 issues to go!

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