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 – Batman Eternal #45

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

This week I managed to keep my comic pile relatively small, picking up 6 or 7 books including Batman Eternal #40 from DC Comics. This weekly series was plotted by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, but the actual script was written by Ray Fawkes, with art by Javi Fernandez, colours by Dan Brown and letters from Steve Wands.

Batman Eternal started back in April 2014, opening with a defeated Batman and a city in flames, while a hidden villain pontificates and gloats about his victory. Over the course of the last 44 issues, we have seen numerous plot threads involving the whole Bat family and almost all of his rogues gallery, from Carmine Falcone to Hush. Starting with Commissioner Jim Gordon being manipulated, framed and wrongly deposed and imprisoned for manslaughter of two train cars full of Gotham citizens, a chain reaction of seemingly unconnected events all start off in the city, leading to the police and public turning on Batman. Gang wars, nanoviruses that take over children, ghosts under Arkham Asylum, invitations to all of Gotham’s worst villainy to gather and see the coming fall, all this has slowly coalesced into the machinations of someone still hidden behind the curtain. This issue we get brief glimpses of Batman battling ghosts, more buddy cop action from Batwing and Jim Corrigan fighting even more ghosts, Harper Row talking down The Spoiler and her Bruce Wayne hatred, and after months of red herrings, of people reporting to people who are reporting to other people, Batman finally puts the pieces together, revealing who is pulling the strings at the end of the issue. Unless that too is a misdirect.

Ray Fawkes does a solid job as usual in delivering the story, and dialogue and characterisation is strong for everyone. The art is really nice and dynamic here from Fernandez and Brown, with the ghosts looking ephemeral and creepy, and some very nice action sequences. The spread of Batman surrounded by the GCPD and throwing down a flashbang was gorgeous.

My issues with this comic, this story in general have nothing to do with the writing or the art. Like Futures End, the weekly format with a previously designed length and end game means that the story often treads water. Even now, closing in on the end of this first ‘season’ or whatever they are calling it, there are so many disparate threads to juggle between that little progress is made between any of them. It seems like Harper has been talking to The Spoiler for several issues now, though I’ve really enjoyed Harper Row in Eternal and hope she sticks around. The reveal of who has been behind everything from the start may seem a little obvious (mainly because there is barely anyone left that it could have been), but I didn’t really guess it until a few pages before. One of the things I like about Batman comics is often the detective angle, having hints and trying to figure them out alongside Bruce. I feel like nothing has really been made available for any of that. Also ‘He said he’d steer clear of me’ is pretty terrible reasoning for the world’s greatest detective to rule out a suspect.

This was a good entry into Batman Eternal and I’m certainly very much looking forward to seeing how it all plays out in the end. If you’ve not been interested at all in Eternal so far, this really isn’t the place to jump on and I’m hardly going to convince you to try it. If you’re reading it, definitely keep checking it out. If you dropped off somewhere over the previous 44 issues, maybe give this one a try now that everything is starting to come together! Pick it up at your LCS or digital comics platform.

Score: 7.5 Ghost Punches out of 10