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Zadzooks: Batman Eternal, nos. 1 to 3 review (DC Comics)

- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2014

I'm only three issues into this new, yearlong, limited weekly series Batman Eternal (DC Comics, $2.99 each), and things are already ugly for Commissioner James Gordon.

I really feel sorry for this guy. Often, over the past three quarters of a century, he's been the stooge standing on a rooftop flashing an S.O.S. beacon for his brooding buddy or waiting for that Caped Crusader to solve a crime and pull his butt out of the fire.

My memories are not flattering of him and akin to Nell Fenwick tied to a railroad track waiting for Dudley Do-Right to save her.

To offer some perspective, my last impactful encounter with James Gordon in sequential art found him nude and in a cage at the hands of the Joker courtesy of Alan Moore and John Bolton's brilliant single issue comic "Batman: The Killing Joke."

Alas, amidst the crumbling urban sprawl that is Gotham City, our valiant police officer has stepped in the doodoo again.

Specifically, I swipe open the first issue and by its end, Gordon is getting emasculated. Despite his hard working ethic, in the middle of a firefight while protecting children no less, he is once again in need of Batman to save him.

Life goes south quickly, and he's accused of shooting an unarmed lackey of Professor Pyg (anybody remember this rogue?) and causing a "Die Hard"-sized explosion in subway leading to a death of many citizens. He's arrested immediately and tossed in jail; forget the guy's previous accomplishments.

This familiar setting allows a basketball team worth of writers (Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley) to help celebrate Batman's 75 anniversary in the series by bringing back a parade of obscure as well as nostalgic villains and allies to the Bat universe.

It's a tantalizing read when flipping pages leads to encounters with Dr. Phosphorus in Arkham Asylum, an obstinate Vicki Vale, the overpowering spooky presence of Deacon Blackfire, the vicious Cluemaster and such luminaries as Batgirl, Batwing, Batwoman, tough cop Maggie Sawyer, Red Robin with even an encounter with the famed Oswald Cobblepot aka the Penguin.

Heck, a sexy Catwoman also stops by to pester a focused Batman, and she is at her flirty best.

Let's also welcome a legendary crime boss back to Gotham, first seen in the series Batman Year One, back in 1987, but film fans might remember him from the first Tim Burton-directed Batman movie.

Artist Jason Fabok style is well suited to the character hit parade using the Jim Lee handbook for Batman and his leggy female accomplices. He delicately throws in a few twists on lead character designs such as Catwoman resembling actress Anne Hathaway (who plays the feline in the film "The Dark Knight Rises").

If the first three issues are any indication, Batman Eternal is worth the investment. With added hints of a supernatural element to the story and an exploding gang war, the action should be irresistible for the Bat fan.

I'll also mention, the opening panel of the first book found Batman bloodied and tied to the bat signal, a potential foreshadowing of his latest lack of appreciation by Gotham City's Finest as well as his impending brutal difficulties to come.

However, no matter the Dark Knight's problems, rest assured my buddy Gordon is going to end up taking a beating.

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