Comic Review – Batman and Robin Eternal (DC Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those times.

Warning: Spoilers!

Me again people! I’ll be doing the review again this week as one of the weekly series I’ve been reading has come to an end. So, this will be a review of Batman and Robin Eternal #1-26, written by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, with a variety of writers throughout the run on scripting duties. Similarly across the 26 issue series various pencillers, inkers and colourists were on art duties. For the finale, Scot Eaton, Carlo Pagulayan and Igor Vitorino pencilled the issue; Wayne Faucher, Michael Jason Paz and Marc Deering inked it; Allen Passalaqua and Gabe Eltaeb coloured it and it was lettered by Marilyn Patrizio. I won’t be able to do each issue in detail but I can definitely let you know how the whole thing stacks up!

B&R1The story really kicks off when Dick Grayson, returned to Gotham to team up with Tim and Jason. While following up on a lead that a dirty bomb will go off at a the grand opening of The State University ‘Tower of Enlightenment’ Dick is attacked by the other party goers and the mysterious Orphan. On making his escape Dick picks up a name, Mother. On returning to the Batcave and checking the archives he locates a recording from Batman. Mother was the one villain he was never able to best, and the source of his greatest sin. We get a shot years ago, of Batman, with a gun, standing over two dead parents and a child.

And things kick off from there! We get visits from a huge cast, ones we’re familiar with like the ex – Robins, some new like Orphan and Mother, some returning like Harper Row and Midnighter, and some seen for the first time in the New 52! Cassandra Cain and Azrael!

For those of you who know what’s been going on with Bats recently you’ll rightly not be expecting him to be making much of an appearance in this, he does star through flashbacks to an era so far unexplored – Dick Grayson’s innings as Robin. Dick is the lead in this story and one of my favourite characters, I loved getting to see more detail of his backstory and getting to see how his relationship with Batman developed. As he’s the first Robin we get to see how Bats’ relationship with his sidekicks started out, his doubt, uncertainty and trust issues. We also get to see how his encounter with Mother went and why she’s his biggest sin. If you’ve been missing the Batman and Robin pairing these flashbacks alone will give you your fix, for now at least.

As you’d imagine the team begin investigating what’s going on. They meet a huge cast, including Cassandra Cain’s first stint in the New 52. She’s very different to how I remember her, a broken child soldier trying to find her way. I enjoyed this version of her, and they’ve given her a uniqueness beyond Batgirl as that role is currently filled. We also get lots more of Harper Row as Blue Bird, who I have always liked and personally would have loved to see in a full Robin role.

The art is very good throughout, although the faces in this last issue kinda bugged me. Otherwise the action scenes are fluid and detailed and the colours fantastic. Obviously the art changed over the course of the run due to the number of different artists on the book but the level of quality remained consistently high.

B&RSo, in all what does this story do well? It gives us some real depth to the Batman and Robin relationship, which is great. It calls into question Batman’s motives for raising the Robins and gives us a villain who mirrors Batman so very well, to the point where in an alternate universe I could very much see Bats being written just like Mother. Seeing Dick’s past was also great, as was developing Cassandra, Spoiler and Harper.

What the story didn’t do so well? Some of the individual issues dragged a little. I was reading this week by week and I think it’d hold up better in a single volume. The cast was very packed, maybe a little too much, especially towards the end. As well as this I felt there were some really amazing ideas, that could have fundamentally changed who certain characters were, and add a very dark streak to things that were shied away from as the story developed. I was a little disappointed not to see many big changes for some of the cast in this story. I can understand why though. Those changes to the characters probably wouldn’t have gone down well with everyone. Also, although the start was great, the middle solid, I felt the build up to the end a little lacking.

Things became a little predictable and some of the final issues became nothing more than build up/holding space while people got ready for the final battle. I think some of this would be avoided reading this in volumes though. However, a twist or two more towards the end would certainly add a point to this review for me.

Final Verdict

A very interesting addition to the current Batman run. It’s great if you want more Batman and Robin or Dick Grayson. It doesn’t shake things up quite enough for me though, which I think will lessen it’s appeal to a more neutral reader. Tynion and Snyder have done a great job with a lot of the characters they’ve been given (as you’d expect) to work with. Overall, I’d recommend this if you wanted something new to read and are up to date on the other Bat family stuff.

Final score – 8 Orphans out of 10

Comic Review – Robin Rises: Omega

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Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

Definite spoilers if you haven’t read the Requiem story started back in Batman Incorporated #8

This week I picked up the Robin Rises: Omega one-shot from DC Comics, written by Peter J. Tomasi with pencils from Andy Kubert, inks from  Jonathan Glapion, colours from Brad Anderson and letters from Nick J. Napolitano. This one-shot kicks off the Robin Rises storyline that has been brewing in Batman and Robin (also written by Tomasi) for over a year now.

 

Final spoiler warning

 

Right, so as you probably know the most recent Robin, Damian Wayne, was killed in the pages of Batman Incorporated early last year. He fought and was stabbed by ‘The Heretic’, a solider of Talia al Ghul (his mother) who would turn out to be some form of overgrown baby/clone of himself. It was very much Grant Morrison killing the character that he had put so much effort into developing, which I guess is his right to do. Following on from that, Batman and Robin became Batman and…, with guest characters filling in for the Dark Knight’s lack of a partner as he basically went through the stages of loss after the death of his son. This being a superhero world, and ‘the revolving-door-of-death’ making a permanent grave a laughable concept, obviously Damian would return somehow. It was only a matter of time. Refreshingly, DC haven’t bothered to shy away from this fact (though the promotion behind the death itself left a lot to be desired. I had it spoiled for me in an advert in the pages of a Green Lantern issue, after going to great lengths to avoid it in the news) and the Batman and… title has been Bruce Wayne, mad with grief and incredibly stubborn, trying to find a way to bring his son back from the dead. Which always ends well.

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That is where Robin Rises: Omega picks up from. The assumption being that by the end of this story arc, either Damian will be alive again or some other new Robin will have taken his place. The issue starts with a very brief and effective recap of everything you really need to know about to how we got where we are, which happens to be Batman (and Titus, one of my favourite DC characters!), Frankenstein and Ra’s al Ghul, on the same side for now and accompanied by his League of Assassins, facing off against a small army of parademons and soldiers from Apokolips led by Glorious Godfrey. After a good old fashioned brawl, Godfrey and his men take off through a boom-tube (extra-dimensional teleportation) with Damian’s sarcophagus. Batman decides he must follow them to Apokolips, to recover Damian’s body and to use their technology to bring him back to life. The story will then continue in Batman and Robin #33 next week.

This is more a kick off to the main story, but what is here is really well written. I like Tomasi’s work, and he has a great grasp on these characters. The bulk of the storytelling in the issue comes from the 7 page recap though, which I think is done clearly enough to make this a very easy jumping on point for anyone not reading the title and thinking about giving it a go (though for people that are up to date, the price bump up to $4.99/£3.50 for an extra sized comic* that includes 7 pages of stuff they already know may be a bit of a slap in the face). Written as inner monologue from Bruce, he reflects on the circumstances that led to Damian’s birth and the upbringing that created him, their time together until his death and admits that he did things he wasn’t proud of to try and get him back. The bulk of the rest of the issue is all Batman being a badass, people threatening each other and fighting. I particularly enjoyed how desperate he seems, and now more than ever appears totally prepared to die fighting rather than give up. Kubert does a really nice job illustrating key moments from the last several years of Batman history, and some excellent big superhero action on a tundra landscape, brought to life by the rest of the art team with the flashy colours looking great on the white background. Also this happens and it looks awesome:

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Since the start of the New 52 back in late 2011, Batman and Robin was a title that I have picked up in trade paperbacks rather than monthly. That isn’t to say it isn’t worth picking up, it absolutely is, and I have really enjoyed the volumes I have read. I was just trying to limit my comics budget and was already getting my Batman fix from the main Batman title (though I was also reading Detective Comics from the relaunch, and dropped it after only a couple of issues because it was totally forgettable and a waste of money). I started back up with it during the ‘Requiem’ storyline, and issue #18 (the first issue after Damian’s death in Batman Incorporated #9) was my favourite comic of 2013. Track that issue down because it really is one of the most powerful things I think I have ever read. But money got tight again so I dropped it to wait for collections.

That being said, I think I am going to jump back on it from this point. The series is definitely worth it, so I’ll make room in my budget. I’m interested in seeing how it all plays out, and if you are a DC fan not reading the main series I recommend jumping on this one-shot and carrying on with the story afterwards. If you are new to DC (and anything I have said made any sense), this should be a good story anyway but in the wider context may not mean a great deal to you. Regardless, as always you can pick it up at your local comic book shop or through the medium of the internet and apps.

Score: 8 Boom Tubes out of 10

 

* I’m also not sure why the paper stock was different than what DC usually puts out.