by Brian Truitt)
Batman Eternal isn't everlasting, but it is teeing up one really insane year in Gotham City.
The weekly series begins Wednesday with the first of 52 issues aiming to change the geography and power structure of the Dark Knight's hometown, follow a whole city of folks dealing with an incident that rocks the town to its core, and present an epic story worthy of celebrating Batman's 75th anniversary.
And it's all being told from the point of view of a murderer's row of creators, from writers Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins and Tim Seeley to artists such as Jason Fabok, Dustin Nguyen, Andy Clarke and Trevor McCarthy.
"We really wanted it to feel like you are in Gotham as Gotham is going through its craziest year ever," Snyder says, "and you're with everybody, from your favorite Arkham rogues to brand-new characters: guys who have been invented like new orderlies at Arkham and people who write the crime book on the Joker — and are afraid that he's following them — and police officers and reporters."
In addition to working with his fellow creators on Eternal, one of the most enjoyable aspects for Snyder is "the breathtaking room and scope you have to do things you just don't have the real estate or capability you have of doing in a monthly. That's why I think people will flock to it and love it."
February's Batman No. 28, penned by series writer Snyder and Tynion, acted as a one-issue glimpse at the world of Eternal, where Snyder will return to after his extended "Zero Year" arc set in Gotham past. The present-day city presents Catwoman as a nightclub-running crime boss, Batman's still protecting the city but with Harper Row as his sidekick Bluebird, and a last-page appearance by fan-favorite character Stephanie Brown in her Spoiler get-up.
Snyder and Tynion craft a three-issue arc set before that, however, beginning with Eternal No. 1. Illustrated by Fabok, the issue features a flash of the series' endgame as well as the inciting incident that will drastically reshape Gotham in ways "Scott and I never thought they'd let us get away with," Tynion says.
He adds that what happens was built on hatching an event that will immediately change the board in Gotham and at the same time make everything more threatening and harder for the Dark Knight: "What is the first step you would take if you wanted to rip everything away from Batman?"
On top of that, Snyder teases, "it's the beginning of a much larger, more nefarious set of instances that you'll see happening very fast and unfolding quickly in the other issues."
The incident spreads throughout Gotham in the second issue, Eternal No. 3 puts into perspective just how big the scope of the project is, and issues 4-7 set up smaller plots branching out from the over-arching story. After that, the weekly series shifts into three-issue arcs by various creative teams.
"Each arc reflects the tastes and the real talent of each writer," Snyder says, "and yet at the same time it will feel really seamless and singular — like one bombastic game-changing story that rolls forward through these different neighborhoods of writing in an interesting way."
Batman and Gotham's all-time top cop James Gordon appeared in the same comic for the first time in Detective Comics No. 27 in 1939, and they're back together again in Eternal No. 1.
For Snyder, they're the twin pillars of the city as protagonists, but with 52 issues to work with, "we can drastically change their relationship and explore it from so many different angles when they're under intense duress and they're at each other's throats or one of them thinks the other one's going to die and vice versa," the writer explains.
"Its one of the spines of the series, getting to put them in situations you've never ever seen before where the conflicts and challenges they're up against are different than anything they've experienced on the page. From the end of the first issue, you'll think, 'I can't believe that's going to happen to these two.' "
Snyder has written them both in his regular Batman series, yet a major draw for him with Eternal is doing issues from the point of view of new and/or peripheral players, like Gotham Central used to do with the city's finest.
"When you have 12 issues (a year), you just don't have room to break the mythology in so many way," Snyder says. "But here, have room to do the biggest things you can possibly do and also explore the more intimate moments with characters you don't normally get to see in corners of Gotham you don't get to explore."
Stephanie Brown is back in Eternal issue 3 for an important story that will roll out over the course of the year and set her as a strong figure in Gotham and the rest of the DC Universe, according to Tynion.
The writers were big fans of the character, who hasn't been a part of the DC series since the publisher's "New 52" relaunch in the fall of 2011 — much to the chagrin of a very large online fan following for her.
"We saw this as an incredible opportunity to introduce her from the ground up to an entire new generation of fans and make them as big Stephanie Brown fans as the fans that are already out there," Tynion says.
Fawkes is bringing back The Ten-Eyed Man among various other villains and characters that haven't been seen in Gotham in years, as well as the return of a woman that everybody on the team thought was a crazy idea.
But with Eternal, "crazy" is par for the course.
"We sat with it in the room and there's totally a perfect place for her in this story," Tynion says. "We're rerouting everything to make it one of the key parts of the series.
"Gotham is the best toy box in the comics industry, and we're getting to play with all of the toys, even the ones that are sort of in the bottom of the bin that have been forgotten about."