“While the Bat’s away”
So we enter into week three of the half-year epic Batman & Robin Eternal, and while I appreciate that it must be quite a daunting task for any creative team to sustain interest and high level of creativity, it’s important to me as a reader that they don’t simply phone it in.
Each issue should be constructed almost like an episode of a season of a tv show with individual events but a long reaching overall story arc. While the first week was a big splash right out the gate and last weeks was lackluster, this one was somewhere right in the middle.
The theme that all of Batman’s former young proteges are being targeted from a secret menace from his past is very intriguing. The new villain “Mother” could have lots of promise if handled properly. I have been thoroughly impressed with the “Bat books” since the rebirth of the New 52 a few years ago. So many concepts were revamped and updated with great achievement. Sure it’s a bit wacky that we are to believe in the new condensed continuity that Batman has had four Robins (Dick, Jason, Tim and Damian) in just 5 years (Talk about not longstanding job security) but hey that’s comics.
So on to the issue. The skinny here, is that Mother has a list, and all the Robins and former teenage sidekicks and even one current one (Harper Row) are on it. It’s not a good list, like the Dean’s list. This is bad news indeed.
Last issue we were treated to a yawn of a slugfest with a new villain named The Orphan, kicking our heroes collective butts, with no real explanation. This week we open up with the resident hothead of the Robin’s: Jason Todd, now known as Red Hood about to execute the ninja newbie Cassandra Cain. To Jason’s surprise she is more than ready for him. As Jason gets the upper hand though, big brother Robin, Dick Grayson aka Nightwing aka Agent 37 (Seriously Dick, pick one) steps in with words of peace to calm this kill fest down.
Red Robin (These guys sure love colors in their names) suggests if they are going to try to solve a mystery like the old days, there’s only one place to go: The Batcave. When they arrive in an effort of complete transparency (guess we are not in Congress) Dick plays Bruce’s secret message for his team. Team Robin tries to make heads or tails of it but with no real results. All they know is that “Mother” is some kind of teen agent human trafficker with deadly intentions and very vast resources.
Like the TV show Arrow, This story makes common use of flashbacks to give us crumbs to follow to piece the mystery together. (At this point though, you can yank my junior detective badge because I got squat)
What we are shown in the flashback is more details of a case that Bruce and Dick worked on very early in their crime fighting careers as Batman and Robin. This one particular tidbit comes from the Dynamic Duo’s legendary first tussle with Dr. Jonathan Crane aka The Scarecrow. Robin (Dick) has been exposed to The Scarecrow’s “fear toxin” and nothing is seeming to shake the effects. In an effort to restore his partner to sanity, Bruce removes his Batman cowl and ask Dick what he’s seeing. In short Dick explained to him that the toxin makes him see his greatest fears and his fear of being a failure to Batman. Basically a failure that could resonate in any loving father-son relationship.
Just as Robin pours his heart out, Batman slips the cowl back on and heads out on the case.(wow a bit harsh in my view, but he is Batman after all)
Here’s where it gets dicey. Batman was exposed to the fear toxin, the same as Robin, however he tells him that he was not effected at all. Hmm, I’m sure this will come into play later but for now I’m stumped. Perhaps at this stage in The Scarecrow’s career the “toxin” only effects adolescents? I’m not quite sure but they put bait on the hook because the writers got me here.
As for the rest of the issue we are treated a look at the non Bat- Bruce Wayne and left with yet another cliffhanger. I really wish the creative team would get us back the the great cliffhanger bomb they dropped on us back in issue one but I guess a modicum of patience is required.
Overall: As I pointed out this is a weekly story and takes time to build. However a weekly saga needn’t be a “weak” saga. I like the flashback scenes so far and that issue one cliffhanger was killer. I’m just not properly feeling it yet. At least the writers have another 23 weeks to turn me around. On the plus side, the art by Paul Pelletier and Scot Eaton was very polished and dynamic. I feel they have a terrific handle on the look of these characters without making them look juvenile. I particularly love the revamped design of Dick Grayson’s Robin costume for this era. It invokes a lot of the original Tim Drake costume design from the early 1990’s (One of my personal favorites) and there is nothing wrong with that. While I’m not floored yet at this juncture, like a loyal fan I will see how this plays out. So for the foreseeable future you can catch my weekly review here. Press the tights and check the utility belts, till next week same Bat .. err bird time, same bird channel!
Story: James Tynion IV, Tim Seeley, and Scott Snyder Art: Paul Pelletier, Scott Eaton
Story: 6 Art: 8 Overall 6.5 Recommendation: Read