Each week, MTV News is breaking down the big moments in DC Comics' "Batman Eternal," the weekly series that redefines the Dark Knight and his allies for a new generation. This week, all hell breaks loose - literally - in Arkham Asylum, under the direction of writer Ray Fawkes. To find out more about what's gone wrong, and to tease a little of the secret code in the issue, we talked over e-mail:
MTV News: A lot of this issue seems to be about not being alone, staying together – why was that theme important to you, and now in the run?
Ray Fawkes: There’s a real strength and comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. In this part of "Eternal" - where we deal with the fear and madness that dwells in (and under) Gotham, there are forces working to tear characters away from each other and force them into isolation. When the heroes are cut off from one another, they’re vulnerable... and when they’re vulnerable, they’ll be sorely tested...
MTV: Obviously things are way worse in Arkham than we thought... Timelinewise, how long have things been going downhill?
Fawkes: A long time. A lot longer than anyone on the outside knows. Probably years. As Corrigan says in this issue, the problem with evil magic is that it hides under the surface of the common world, eating away at it while its future victims walk unaware. Now it’s finally bursting to the surface, and it’s a huge problem.
MTV: Unrelated: is Harper shopping at the same mask shop as Grifter?
Fawkes: Heh. Maybe she saw a picture of him somewhere and thought his mask was cool. This is her early “homemade” mask stage.
MTV: We get to briefly see The Riddler is out, and has a code on the wall. It’s a little tough to see in the art, but how much does this play into what’s coming? Corrigan seems to dismiss him pretty easily.
Fawkes: Corrigan ignores the message because he knows he doesn’t have the skill set to decipher it - but I think we all know it’s never a good idea to dismiss the Riddler offhand. Of course his message will play into what’s coming. If readers are curious, and think they can take it on themselves - I’d love nothing more than to find out that someone’s cracked the code before Batwing does - here’s a clear version of the text in that panel:
FFFXD VDGDD VFDAV VAFXF
VDAVA FVADA AGGGA VXXXD
XGVGA AVGAX DXVFV AXDAG
FXAVX XFXGD AAFAD VAXGX
VVXVD FFDVA FDGVD AFXFF
DDVXG AXAXV FGGAG FDXXX
XXXXV AXFXA VXFAG XGXX
MTV: Scarecrow is attached the bottom of the pillar... Is it powered by his blood? And do we know what he’s saying? “Dife nwa, sove m.”
Fawkes: It is powered by his blood, and his fear - and magic, of course. He’s speaking Creole... and anyone who translates it will see that he’s pleading with someone for help...
MTV: Bard and Batman find themselves in a very different place this issue than the end of the last. What changed?
Fawkes: I like to think that Batman is grappling with his own perceptions of Bard’s methods, and trying to figure out if he can trust him. Last issue he took exception with Bard’s methods in bringing down Cobblepot and Falcone, but now he sees that the gang war “cleanup” operation is being handled very strictly by-the-books, very meticulously. It’s significant that he took the handshake in this issue - but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re best buddies now.
MTV: I know we're jumping back and forth here, but why can’t Corrigan summon the Spectre?
Fawkes: That’s just not how it works for him now. The Spectre is a spirit of divine judgment - it’s not up to Corrigan when he does and doesn’t unleash. It’s up to...something else. The Spectre, maybe, or maybe the power that The Spectre reports to... We’ll get more into this later.
MTV: Joker’s Daughter is talking about her Daddy, which seems to make it even clearer that Joker is involved somehow. Can you comment on that? How soon we’ll see him back? Whether he’s in the series at all? We want answers, Fawkes!!!
Fawkes: This is an answer I will not give you until the time is right.
MTV: Damn you, Fawkes. Okay, at the end we meet Mister Bygone, who seems to be a whole new character. Is this who Corrigan knew was behind everything? And what can you tell us about him, if anything?
Fawkes: He is a new character, though readers of "Eternal" saw him before the terrible transformation that made him into Mister Bygone. We’ll learn more about that next week...
...and no, he’s not the one Corrigan realized is behind this. That’s someone Batman fans already know. Mister Bygone is just a horrible product of the mystic processes at work in and under Arkham... and now Gotham City has him to contend with as well as all of their more familiar villains... and he’s not the only one.