Adventures in Improbable Anatomy #27,391

Oh comics.

I was catching up on my pull list when I came across this image in Batman Eternal #9Guillem March is just trolling us all at this point, right? He doesn’t actually believe this to be an accurate representation of human anatomy?

Or being more charitable, the pressures of a weekly title meant he didn’t have sufficient time to fix this one image in an otherwise largely acceptable issue.

Or being less charitable, he just can’t keep his cheesecake tendencies under control – certainly there are a couple of other images in this issue that lend credence to this theory.

As for Batman Eternal…yeah. 10 issues in and it isn’t exactly setting my world on fire. It manages to simultaneously feel as though too much and too little are happening – there’s plenty of plot threads, but few of them have been given any space to develop, and the focus of the last few issues has almost entirely been on the corrupt commissioner who wants Batman caught at all costs. Said commissioner is a dull in-the-pocket-of-the-bad-guys archetype, and there’s little sense of how the citizens of Gotham are affected by him choosing to ignore Carmine Falcone’s criminal activities. Professor Pyg’s character shifts with each appearance, as though the writing committee can’t get a handle on what Grant Morrison was aiming for. And the art is always blandly competent. The best description I can think of is workmanlike. If it was monthly I’d have dropped it ages ago; unless issues #11 and #12 represent a significant improvement I’m pretty sure I’m done.

What’s in a weekly?

After touching upon the value of the single issue format last time out (and ahead of my longer go-around on the subject in a future piece), it seems quite fitting that I have another reason to talk about floppies: the release of new weekly comic Batman Eternal.

DC has past form with this, of course. I read the entirety of 52, and while it wasn’t a truly great series it had some strong moments (off the top of my head: Booster Gold’s “death” and triumphant return, Sobek’s heel turn, and Lobo and the space dolphin). Countdown passed me by, which is probably for the best judging by the headache I’m nursing having just read the Wikipedia page. And the upcoming Futures End holds no appeal; I suffered through eight issues of Age of Ultron, and have no desire to experience DC’s version.

In Marvel’s case, the closest it came was the Brand New Day relaunch of Amazing Spider-man. Putting out three issues a month meant the creators working on the title were quickly able to establish their vision for the character, and how that represented a shift from the Spidey titles that were being published beforehand. And eliminating the satellite titles meant writers were no longer working at cross-purposes to impose their own idea of what Spider-man should be; instead, everyone was pulling in the same direction. It’s no great surprise that this resulted in a huge leap in the quality of stories being told.

It’s the sort of approach the X-Men line would hugely benefit from – consolidate All-New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, and Amazing X-Men into a single weekly title with a rotating cast of artists and writers (although Brian Michael Bendis could probably handle the workload alone) and you’d have a much more interesting proposition than the current set-up, where quite a few of the titles have no pressing creative reason to exist.

At any rate, broadly speaking weekly publishing is definitely something I’m on board with, because it really does benefit the majority of ongoing stories. Waiting a month between installments inevitably breaks the flow of any narrative (imagine having to wait that long between TV episodes). Weekly publishing allows for a more immersive reading experience, and it gives creators a little more freedom in terms of both content and pacing.

That’s true of Batman Eternal #1, which is either a slow or a measured start, depending on how charitable you’re feeling (I lean towards the latter). It’s a mood piece, 20 pages that set an overarching tone for what will follow whilst establishing the bare bones of what the series is going to be about – which judging by this issue (and the interviews the creators have given) is law and order in Gotham City.

Unfortunately there are some fairly major issues with the two overlapping plot threads. They’re supposed to be covering the same period of time, but that’s patently impossible: one scene is a quickfire action sequence involving Batman and Jim Gordon, the other is a leisurely introduction to the Gotham police department from the perspective of a new cop. Which in itself is ridiculous – how on earth are these people finding time for character-establishing small talk when there’s a major criminal incident taking place in the city? And then because the story demands it, they halt the small talk just in time to arrive in place for the ending. Failures of logic that drag the reader right out of the story.

That’s not the full extent of the problems, either. The new cop on the beat and the corrupt cop on the take have been plucked from the shelves of Archetypes R Us; the art, by Jason Fabok and some colorist who isn’t credited on the cover but obviously should be, is as DC house style as it gets (within that remit it’s actually very strong work, but then the remit comes with built in limitations); and if Grant Morrison couldn’t sell me on Professor Pyg, I’m not sure anyone else has much of a chance. If Batman Eternal #2 was out in a month’s time, chances are I’d have already pushed the book out of my head.

However, because the second issue is out so soon I’m more inclined to overlook the first issue’s problems. Whereas a 30-day wait would’ve eliminated any lingering curiosity as to how this title will move forward, only having to wait a few days means the more interesting ideas are still firmly in mind. The issue starts with an ending, and it’s a striking enough image that I genuinely want to know how we get there. And I like that the inciting event is the best of Gotham’s protectors being discredited. I’m in for at least the first month, and if it hooks me within that time most likely I’ll be on board for the entire series. In which case I’ll have a reason to visit my local comicbook store every week even if I end up dropping most other titles. Bravo DC.