'Batman Eternal #51': One Last Twist, As Batman's Identity Is Revealed
Each week, MTV News is breaking down the big moments in DC Comics' "Batman Eternal," the weekly series that is redefining Gotham City as we know it.
This week, Batman is beaten, broken, bloodied and his identity revealed -- but the biggest twist is saved for the last page:
MTV News: At the beginning, Bruce has been beaten and bloodied and battered down… But is he just biding his time? Trying to find out what Cluemaster has been up to?
James Tynion IV: This is a Bruce who has just exerted himself to the fullest extent of his body and beyond. He hasn't slept in 36 hours. He's just had to take down four of his most powerful villains, and he's been in TWO plane crashes, and then been electrocuted by a battery of tazers. His whole body is agony. At his peak, Cluemaster wouldn't have a fighting chance against him, but this isn't Bruce at his peak. Cluemaster DOES have the upper hand here, and Bruce uses that to take a chance to recover before he strikes, but this is definitely Bruce hurting, not planning to get one up on the bad-guy.
MTV: And we know what Cluemaster thinks – that he’s beneath Batman’s notice. Is that true? It’s always felt like Batman cares as much about the small criminals as the big ones, maybe even more so… But is there a germ of truth?
Tynion: I think Cluemaster is underestimating Bruce here. There is absolutely a file on him in the Bat-Computer, and Bruce has probably been lightly tracing his whereabouts over the years since their first encounter. But there's also definitely a germ of truth. Something on this level, Bruce would never have given Cluemaster a second thought. He would look through all of his colleagues' rogues galleries before he would have considered Arthur Brown.
Batman has an ego, because he is, ultimately, human. He looks for the biggest answer to the biggest problems, because that is ultimately where those problems tend to arise. It's not that Batman doesn't care about them... It's just when you have Hush, Ra's Al Ghul, Bane, The Penguin, Carmine Falcone, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, etc, etc, etc... All going at it, clearly being organized by an unseen hand... The assumption isn't going to be that the kind of villain one of those villains might hire as a thug would be behind it all.
He's a master detective, but such a huge misdirect is ultimately effective tool against him. Batman is, after all, only human. He can make mistakes. And that's what Arthur Brown was counting on.
MTV: Selina is clearly torn here, but what is she torn between? Is it figuring out whether she’s a criminal or a hero, or is it more complicated than that?
Tynion: It's definitely not as clean-cut as heroism against villainy, it's the fact that she doesn't like being manipulated as a piece in anyone else's plan, and furthermore, she has a complicated relationship with Batman. She's not the type of person who is just going to take this massive assault against him and turn it to her advantage. Not without considering all the options on the table first.
MTV: Serious question: how did Cluemaster get all the villain’s addresses?
Tynion: We see at the end of the issue that he's had a benefactor, someone with the full resources of the Court of Owls at his disposal. That's the extra helping hand he needed to get his plan up and running, and we'll see more how that partnership came to be at the start of Issue 52. This wasn't something he was capable of doing alone, but it was his plan from the beginning. He just thought he would be able to take all the glory in taking Batman down here at the end, but clearly he didn't know what he was dealing with.
MTV: Gordon’s speech to Bard seems to be inspirational, but there’s also perhaps a few other undercurrents – that Gordon is figuring out his own place as non-commissioner, and also leaving Bard to his own end, whatever that may be. Is that accurate?
Tynion: That's definitely the case, but Gordon's greatest strength has always been seeing the potential for good inside of people. He has his own means of taking the city back, but there's work that a commissioner needs to do right now. The city police force needs a leader, and Bard, for all his flaws, was a man who came to Gotham City because he thought he could make it better. Now's his chance.
MTV: The Spoiler/Harper scene is nicely reminiscent of the bike scene with Catwoman and Batman in “Dark Knight Rises.” Was that a touch-point for you at all?
Tynion: I'll be totally honest, that's the first time I've thought of that comparison! It's difficult to talk about this scene without the scene that follows it up directly in the next issue, but it's a key point for Stephanie. I'd say Stephanie Brown is one of the most crucial figures in Issue #52, so people are going to have to wait just one more week to see how it plays out.
MTV: …And there’s that last page. For those not familiar with Lincoln March, who is he, and what’s it been like building up to this one last huge reveal?
Tynion: Lincoln March believes himself to be Bruce Wayne's younger brother, Thomas Wayne, Jr... And there isn't the evidence to say whether that is or is not the case. He was the key villain of the original Court of Owls storyline, at the end of which, he killed the ruling body of the Court, stole a huge portion of their money, and vanished. He's clearly been working hard these last few years, helping to bring this plan to fruition, but we'll see the details of that play out next week!
MTV: Given that Cluemaster just kicked the s**t out of him, does Batman even stand a chance against the uber-Talon?
Tynion: It sure as hell isn't going to be easy. If Arthur Brown can lay those punches, what can a man with the durability of a Talon, and a suit like that accomplish?