Written by: Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly
Art by: Andrea Mutti, Roger Robinson, Goran Sudzuka and Gabe Eltaeb
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: January 20, 2016
I am so up and down on Eternal that I really should take motion sickness pills. Thankfully, I'm in the "up" phase right now, but if you have been reading the series along with me, you are well aware that can change at the drop of a hat. What makes it even worse is when shit goes bad in this series, shit really goes bad. Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly are back again this week and last week's issue made me change my opinion on them slightly. I didn't hate the issue and in fact, really enjoyed the character work they did with Azrael. So, I was curious if they could completely turn my frown upside down and make me a fan while continuing the positive Eternal trend this week. Well, did they? Let's find out...
The issue begins with a flashback and I was so glad we have finally left Prague behind. Seeing Batman in Cairo was pretty cool especially knowing why he's there, but the interaction between him, Robin and Scarecrow was just okay. Scarecrow begins it by "tsk tsking" Batman for bringing Robin into their plan and of course the boy blunder steps up to take Crane down. He actually does a good job here (finally!) and Batman sends him home to Gotham to put the bad doctor in Arkham. It all felt a bit rushed and just a convenient way to get Scarecrow and Robin out of the picture so Batman can prove his loyalty to Mother.
I don't think I've mentioned it in my reviews before, but am I the only one who thinks these flashbacks play a bit like an homage to the Batman '66 television show? I'm waiting for Batman to call Robin "chum" or Robin to say "Holy back alley shenanigans, Batman!" I'd say I'd love it if that actually happened, but I'd probably bitch and moan. I'm an asshole like that.
We then head off to Gnosis (I hear it's the Secret City of St. Dumas, you know) and check in with Tim, a concrete encased Azrael and St. Dumas himself. While Dumas has a captive audience, he decides to tell us all about Ichthys. By forcing the target to face and overcome their greatest fear, Ichthys turns them into great warriors...without fear. Hmmm... We get to see it at work inside Jason Todd's mind and knowing what was at work made the scene fall flat for me. I'm not going to spoil it here, but I wish that everyone involved would have let Jason face his greatest fear on his own, or better yet, shown that he already had. As a side note: what were the drones using to carry Jason's body around?
I mentioned above that I liked what Lanzing and Kelly did with Azrael last issue and that continues in this issue. While Dumas continues to treat Jean Paul like yesterday's model, Tim jars loose a memory of his family and it's not a good one. What's with all the throat slicing in this story? You know those stories of old ladies lifting burning cars to save a kitten? Add the (former) Angel of Death to that list because he just breaks out of his concrete shell and goes after Dumas. However, Dumas disappears into thin air...literally.
While Azrael fights off the St. Dumas monks, Tim tries to figure out how to save Jason. I may not have loved the fear itself, but I did love how Tim helped fight it. He begs Jason not to fight the fear, but to experience it all again, bit by awful bit. It's a really good scene and ends with what really feels like a pivotal moment for the character that I hope carries on in all his books.
For a brief moment, I got the Tim, Jason and Azrael teamup that I was hoping for, but Azrael's damn righteousness ended it quickly as he sends the Robins off while he deals out some "truth". They fly off to join Dick, Harper and Cassandra (and Orphan) and it finally feels like the overall story is picking up some steam. However, the issue ends with what I was waiting all week and all series for and...nothing really happens. Damn you! We better get something next week, but I'm not expecting it.
I like a lot of what we got this week. Lanzing and Kelly continued redeeming Azrael and the issue ended with him being a hero. While I didn't care for the reveal of Jason's greatest fear, I loved how it was resolved and made Jason a better hero and man. Plus, even if we didn't get what I thought we would concerning Batman, this issue did feel like it was moving the story forward after slowing down the pace a bit the last couple of issues.
I was not a fan of the art at all. There were three artists on the book and I can't decide who was worse. Yea, I hated the art that much. The biggest gripe I have is the ever changing Red Hood mask. It's bad enough that it doesn't remain consistent throughout the series, but why does it change panel to panel in this one issue? Everyone needs to get together at some retreat and hammer out one official look. Just get rid of the mouth and I'll be happy.
Bits and Pieces:
This is an average issue lifted up by some really good moments. Azrael becomes a hero and Jason Todd faces his greatest fear by reliving it all over again. While I wanted some answers on the Batman front, the issue still ended with the story moving forward for the stretch run. I can't say I'm more excited after reading this issue, but I'm looking forward to seeing the gang all together and getting this whole thing resolved.