Setting is character. The iconic image of Batman on the rooftops of Gotham City, protecting his dark, violent world tells the reader all they need to know about what kind of person this masked man is.
The television show Gotham has, to mixed success, attempted to make the city as much of a character as any of its citizens, though it labors under the handicap of not being able to use Batman or any of the city’s costumed heroes.
For that, readers need Batman Eternal, a 52 chapter story published in weekly installments last year. This year-long story, written by all the talent currently writing the Batman books, creates and epic story about Gotham and all its myriad facets.
Batman Eternal features every aspect of Gotham: the mob, costumed heroes, the colorful villains, the GCPD, the press, and the supernatural corners that lurk in the darkness. While an ambitious a story with a large cast could seem intimidating to a newcomers, each plotline has a tentpole that hold the elements together and provides its own point of view the city and its citizens.
Batman is, of course, the tentpole for the heroes, but the Bat-family—Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl—have plenty of page time. The series also includes several new heroes, in and out of costume, such as Bluebird, Stephanie Brown returning as her original Spoiler identity, and Luke Fox as the new Batwing. The only people missing are Dick Grayson/Nightwing, who is presumed dead and off on an undercover assignment, and Cassandra (Batgirl) Cain.
However, the driving force behind Eternal is the villains. At first, it appears one of Batman’s old mob foes is behind the city slow slide into chaos but as the story continues, it’s clear a great deal more is going on. Catwoman is swept into the dark side of these events as Selina Kyle makes an unexpected choice to run the Falcone crime family, hoping to work outside the law to protect her city.
That brings us to the GCPD. Every time someone wants to take over Gotham, they go straight for Jim Gordon, the one incorruptible and competent official in Gotham’s inept bureaucracy. Gordon is framed for murder and sent to prison while it’s shown that the new commissioner isn’t made of the same stuff as Gordon. Even Bruce Wayne is stripped of nearly everything and his house is turned into the new Arkham—becoming Arkham Manor and leading to an interesting mini-series, Arkham Manor, as Bruce tries to solve a murder inside his former home.
The supernatural elements sometime are left out of classic Batman stories, but in Eternal, the Spectre, that force of supernatural vengeance, teams up with the new Batwing to fight the true evil oozing into the city. This also led to the excellent horror series, Gotham by Midnight out in paperback on August 25th.
Eternal comes to a final conclusion with Batman fighting the mastermind, a man who is the mirror image of Bruce Wayne, while Batman’s allies and enemies pick sides, and the citizens of Gotham have to act to save their city.
For readers who desire a trip through Gotham that includes the full scope of the Batman mythos, I’d highly recommend this story. The first volume, Batman Eternal: Volume 1, is already available at Amazon and other bookstores, Part 2 will be released on July 14th, and the conclusion will come out this on December 1st.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.