Batman is attempting to solve a mystery that is riddled with dead ends. In this issue he’s led to yet another familiar face, but is this the true culprit? Given the fact that Etrigan the Demon is on the cover, probably not!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Batman’s tried everything on Earth to stop the menace hunting his friends and family…now it’s time to turn to things not of this Earth! In the past, whenever Batman’s encountered the supernatural, he’s turned to Jason Blood for guidance–and to Etrigan, the demonic entity living inside him! But securing their help is never simple, and what Blood has to show him will shake Batman to his core!
Why does this matter?
At this point, if you’ve been following the story this long, you’re in it till the end. Who knows so much about Batman to attack those he loves? Who could possibly create a monster that shapeshifts and pushes Batman to the limit? We’ll find out eventually, but you have to read this issue to get a little bit closer.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
It’s becoming clear Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke are playing the hits in this last arc before the milestone 1,000th issue. In this issue, we’re privy to three familiar faces and an action sequence involving the Hellbat suit. It’s fan service, but good fan service at that. Hugo Strange was Batman’s latest lead last issue and this book opens with Batman confronting him. As the story twists and turns, Tomasi has Batman interact with characters and much like the previous issues he’s tested along the way.
The strongest part of this issue is the Hellbat sequence as it’s fun to see Batman kick ass at a cost. The suit runs off his metabolism so if he overuses it he could die. The suit looks great and it’s nice to see Batman go toe to toe with something he’s way outmatched against. It’s a reminder even against demons, Batman has a chance.
The art by Doug Mahnke is sketchy, dark, and works well with the characters involved. A scene with Batman talking to a good guy is particularly well crafted as Mahnke takes us around the office, calming our senses before things fall apart. This transitions to a trippy cliffhanger that’ll have folks talking and possibly scratching their heads.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The opening with Hugo Strange is a false start that’s a bit of a waste. It’s a way to close the door on the villain being a culprit, but when Hugo explains how he couldn’t have done the things Batman has faced in this story arc he makes a good point, which makes Batman come off as a bit dense. It also reads like filler and is pointless. Ultimately the main fight involving Etrigan is pointless too. At this point, this arc seems to be a bunch of false starts and “tests” leading to an answer, but I’m afraid that answer may be one big misdirection for the sake of misdirections. This issue, in particular, feels quite vapid in comparison to the previous chapters because Batman doesn’t come away with any meaningful interactions or insight.
Is it good?
A fun action issue to be sure, but aside from the last few pages, it feels like filler material. Batman’s encounters are entertaining in a sense, but the big picture seems to be we’re biding our time for a massive explanation.