Batman Eternal #42 – Comic Review

Bluebird arrives in the latest, weekly instalment of the epic Batman Eternal story arc.Batman Eternal #42 offers:

  • Artwork with good use of body language and perspective
  • Contrast between two character to raise themes of control and Agency
  • References to Alice in Wonderland, a classic story featuring a female protagonist

This review contains minor character spoilers for Batman Eternal #42

The moment where the story shifts gear is captured when Harper Row dons a new hat. Body language and perspective contrast Harper Row and Stephanie Brown.

A powerful moment in the artwork takes place at a key turning point in the narrative. Harper Row dons the Mad Hatter’s green hat, taking his power away, and taking control of the army of slaves that he has under his thrall. A full page is devoted to Harper Row – now using the identity BlueBird – striking a pose, while tipping her newly own hat. She faces the reader,
tipping her hat, probably as a greeting gesture, since this is the first time she is using her new identity.

The artwork also contrasts Harper Row and Stephanie Brown. Row leaps onto the rooftop of the Mad Hatters Headquarters. Brown wakes up in a pristine bedroom.

Stephanie Brown’s house is eerily clean. The washed out peach light spread across the panels adds an unnerving tone to all the scenes where she interacts with her mother.

The body language drawn into the comic establishes themes of control. Harper row is confident, and snatches control from the Mad Hatter. Stephanie is drawn with forced perspective to appear smaller than the other characters around her.

Harper Row as Bluebird, and Selina Kyle as the new Kingpin – Queen – of crime both
have strong moments. Bluebird informs Red Robin it’s laughable that he could influence her: she choses when to act, and when not to.

Harper Row debut’s her new identity: Bluebird. This debut marks a turning point for the character, and ties into a plot point woven into the New 52 Batman storytelling back in Batman #28, which contained a small flash forward into the storyline of Batman Eternal. With this issue, the storytelling connects and catches up with those events.

The comic also explains how the Catwoman captured Stephanie Brown, and held her hostage. Selina Kyle appears in this issue to take Brown prisoner.

Red Robin also has a discussion with Bluebird about how much influence he had on her decision to act against the Mad Hatter’s plans. She says it is laughable that he influenced her: she chose to act, and makes her own decisions. Again, Harper Row takes control, and shows agency.

Themes of control are brought out in The Mad Hatter’s plan, and through contrasting
Row and Brown. With reference to Alice in Wonderland, the comic explores female protagonists with agency. It is likely Stephanie Brown will follow Harper Row, and similar build her own identity to reclaim control.

There’s a theme of control here. Including the Mad Hatter as the villain also adds an over-arching Alice in Wonderland theme to the storytelling.

Considering Brown is literally smothered by Catwoman‘s knockout chemical (soaked into a rag), and Harper Row takes the Hatter’s hat, and wears it herself, the contrast highlights the power of decision making, agency, and taking control. These two characters are opposites in this issue: one is empowered by her actions, and breaks out into a new identity. The other is controlled, and held down.

Catwoman’s role in the comic adds somewhat to the Alice in Wonderland theme. The super thief recently became a kingpin of crime – a queen of crime. It’s fits the theme that a Queen-like character would feature prominently. Particularly as an obstacle for Stephanie Brown to eventually overcome as a character who resembles Alice.

Harper Row seizes control, while Stephanie Brown is controlled by others. Further, adding a references to Alice in Wonderland explores storytelling with female protagonists.

It is likely that by contrasting Brown and Row, that Stephanie Brown will soon follow Harper Row in breaking out into her own new identity where she can retake control and agency.

Batman Eternal #42 is published by DC comics ($2.99 USD). Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV (Story.) Kyle Higgins (Script.)
Ray Fawkes and Tim Seely (C.W.) Jed Dougherty, Goran Sudzuka, Roger Robinson (A.) Lee Loughridge (C.) Steve Wands (L.)
Cover artwork by Reis, Prado, and Moon.

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