May 27, 2024

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Comic Review: Batman & Robin Eternal Volume 1

With Bruce Wayne temporarily no longer Batman, it's up to the various Robins, led by Dick Grayson, to stop an international human trafficking ring.

For the 75th anniversary of the first Batman story, DC Comics put together a massive, weekly, year-long series celebrating their best known hero.  That story, the fun Batman Eternal, trotted out just about every Batman-related character for one big tale with a handful of notable exceptions, most notably Dick Grayson.

Most of those absent characters appear in the sequel series, Batman & Robin Eternal.  That one ran for half the number of issues and the first trade volume covers the first 12.

The story is set in two different time periods, a current time when Dick Grayson was publicly outed as Nightwing and became a spy for an organization called Spyral, and another when he was a fairly new Robin working with Batman.  Bruce Wayne apparently lost his memory of his duel identity, and Commissioner Gordon is patrolling the streets as a new, Iron Man-style Batman.

Gordon’s Batman barely appears in this story, for what it’s worth.

But something involving both time periods is a mysterious human trafficker called “Mother,” who seemingly makes blindly obedient assassins, particularly children.  In the past, Bruce appears to have made a deal with her.  In the present, the repercussions of that case come to bear, a case Bruce left very little information about behind.  Can Dick, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Harper Row, and the mysterious Cassandra Cain figure out where Mother is and what she’s up to before she brings her dark desires to fruition?

So, Batman Eternal was a more confined and, ultimately, a messier story.  Batman & Robin Eternal, again from plotters Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, is a tighter story, with a lot more globetrotting (heck, there’s barely any time spent in Gotham in the grand scheme of things) as Dick, Cassandra, and Harper go searching for Mother in one location while Jason and Tim follow other leads.  There aren’t nearly as many characters as there were for the previous story, and this one even sees fit to provide New 52 returns to Cassandra Cain and Azrael.  About the only major Batman villain with a decent-sized role here is the Scarecrow, but somehow, despite the way the series has a more global setting, ti feels smaller than the previous one.  If Batman Eternal was a celebration of all things Batman, what is Batman & Robin Eternal?

I’ve finished the whole series as I type this, so I know the answer.  But it isn’t so clear in the first half.  Ultimately, the first half somewhat loses me when it suggests Bruce would have made a deal with Mother where he would do something that is way outside Batman’s usual moral code, something that has been a part of the character for decades.  Dick doesn’t believe it when he hears about it, and as a reader, neither did I.

And as villains go, Mother appears to have potential in the first half, but she looks an awful lot like Mallory Archer.  Consequently, I heard all her dialogue in the voice of Jessica Walter.  That’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s just a thing.

No grade until the next volume is reviewed.