With a monster team of writers and artist Jason Fabok, "Batman Eternal" ramps up the pace as Falcone's insidious forces make their presence known throughout Gotham, leaving it up to Batfamily alone to save the city. For their third installment of this weekly series, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV -- with consulting writers Ray Fawkes, John Layman and Tim Seeley -- helm a fast-paced script with engaging character work, while Jason Fabok and colorist Brad Anderson add incredible detail and texture to the book.
"Batman Eternal" #3 brings readers the first look at Stephanie Brown since her shocking reveal as Spoiler in flash-forward issue "Batman" #28. Although there's not much of her in this issue, she bookends the story nicely, providing both a street view of the chaos and a glimpse into Falcone's widespread influence. What's more, Snyder and Tynion give her the spirit and fire of her past incarnation, which comes across naturally in the few pages in which she appears. Her character reads clearly and easily through her dialogue and doubly so in her quick thinking and reflexes. Likewise, her genuine teenage voice rings true as she realistically grapples with her situation, never sounding forced or overbearing. Her presence injects a bit of dark humor in an otherwise serious book; it's hard not to chuckle at her shock when she stumbles right in to her father's super villain clubhouse. If her character is any indication of the direction which Snyder and his team are willing to go, count me in for the long haul.
The book's pacing is just as fast and efficient as Steph Brown's character development, which -- after two issues of buildup -- is a welcome shift. That isn't to say, of course, that the issue is packed full of action; although we do get a couple fight sequences, the suspense comes from dramatic reveals and a thematic, well-established sense of isolation on both Steph and Batman's behalves. The issue drags a little bit in the middle, with a dense if gorgeously illustrated scene where Batman and Alfred run through the information available to them, but the sequence never feels extraneous. There's a lot of dialogue to sift through here, which interrupts the narrative flow just enough to be noticeable, but the story clearly necessitates it and allows room for the issue's swift, climactic conclusion. This dip aside, Snyder and Tynion's storytelling is tight, compact and dynamic.
With artwork that feeds into DC's house style, Jason Fabok impresses nonetheless with an articulate, meticulously wrought world. Each page presents an almost overwhelming amount of detail; there's simply so much to look at that it's hard to pick a place to start! Every little element breathes life into Fabok's work, from the storefront signs that Batman speeds past to the Easter egg-riddled whiteboard in the Gotham PD's precinct. Each figure looks distinct, with naturalistic body language and excellent reactionary expressions. With no two panels looking exactly alike, Fabok's work takes on a dynamic, cinematic quality in that he uses subtle, organic movements to mimic real life. Brad Anderson aids this lifelike quality by adding incredible texture to Fabok's pencils, giving backgrounds like the precinct realistic-looking wallpaper and shading the lines in character's faces, defining unique sets of traits. Together, Fabok and Anderson create a world that feels as though you could step right in.
For a weekly book, "Batman Eternal" gets loud and sensational real fast. With utterly phenomenal artwork, this third issue comes packed with dramatic revelations and compelling characterizations. If the series is able to keep up the pace all year, it has the potential to go down as one of the New 52's best ventures.