Batman & Robin Eternal #1 introduces Cassandra Cain to the current continuity!

br1.6So….that’s all I really need for this review, right?

Cassandra Cain aside, this is a phenomenal issue.  Mystery…check.  Action…check.  Humor…check.  Great artwork…check.  Creepy little kids trying to kill you…check.  Cassandra Cain…check ( yeah, I know I said “aside”, but it’s Cassandra frickin’ Cain!  WooHoo!!!)

The story opens with a scene that is both familiar and entirely foreign all at the same time.  It easily captured my attention and generated a curiosity in me that demanded to be satiated.  While an answer of sorts is presented on the last page of the book, it only managed to raise even more questions.  I think it is safe to say that this will be one of those stories that has us chasing after answers the whole time.  I know that some people don’t like stories like that, but I really enjoy them.  I love theorizing and trying to solve things.  Trying to guess what the next big thing will be.  Having theories blown out of the water as new and ever changing clues are thrown into the mix.  While I do enjoy stories like this, I will point out that an opportunity presented itself to explain away all the mystery.  Obviously, the writers aren’t going to do that or there wouldn’t be a story, but it makes you wonder why the character in question wasn’t more forthcoming with info. 

Spoiler
 So…Batman leaves a secret message for Dick Grayson from beyond the grave, even has someone special deliver it to him….and it’s the most cryptic message ever.  What are you doing Batman!?!  Just tell Dick what is going on!  Who is Mother?  How can he beat her?  How are you involved in this?  What did you do?  This would have been the perfect opportunity to spill your guts.  Why are you being so secretive with the person that you’re trying to help? 

BR1.1Actually, they aren’t locked up in his head at all.  They’re simply not there.  Didn’t you get the memo?

After that, we get reintroduced to the boys: Dick, Jason, and Tim.  They essentially tackle a no name villain who isn’t relevant to the story.  Ultimately, it’s just an action set piece, but designed to show us the players and give each of them a chance to do their thing.  It’s got plenty of humorous banter, the trademark of any Robin really, and thrusts you into the typical evening of any Gotham based super hero.  It’s a pretty potent intro that easily establishes who they are and what their world is like.

br1.11One of the best?  Really?

Next, it’s time to get reacquainted with Harper Row.  Harper had a very divided fandom.  I talked with people who both loved and hated the character.  Personally, I never fell to either extreme.  I thought she was fine, if at times oddly arrogant for someone who didn’t have the skills to back up her big words.  With this reintroduction, I’m feeling quite empathetic toward her plight.  She was finally getting somewhere, and then Batman “dies”.  She lost her “Master” and her way.  Usually I wouldn’t like seeing some teenage punk upstage Jim Gordon, but seeing her dismiss him as any kind of real Batman is cool with me since I agree that he is not Batman.  Way to stick it to the man Harper!

From here, we jump back to Grayson, and it’s a none stop sprint to the finish line with each page picking up momentum.  This section covers the last half of the book, and beat after beat it is relentless.  I’m not going to go into detail here (because you just need to experience it for yourself), but by the end you have a dozen questions with no answers and several cliffhangers to keep you on the edge of your seat till next week.

Jason Fabok was the lead artist on Batman Eternal.  While it would have been nice to have him back, he is currently busy with Justice League and the Darkseid War.  If you can’t get Fabok, but like his comic book style, I think the next best options are David Finch and Tony Daniel.  Fortunately for us, DC actually got one of them for this issue, Daniel.  While his work is a bit smoother and less textured than Fabok and Finch, I feel like he is better at capturing facial expressions.  Fabok and Finch have a tendency for stoic/posed faces where Daniel’s seem more natural.  Much in the same vein, Daniel’s action scenes have a stronger sense of motion to them.  They feel less like snapshots and more like Gifs that you’re just waiting on to load.

This particular issue is over-sized, and you aren’t even asked to pay for the bonus pages (8 in total).  Retailing at $3.99 and containing 30 pages, you’re definitely getting a lot of bang for your buck here.  Since the story and artwork are great,  you’re not just getting free pages here, but free pages that are actually worth paying for!

What did I dislike about this issue?  Not much.  Other than the section in which the one character could have given more pertinent information, the only other thing I didn’t like was the fact that they said Tim was kind of a show-off.  Granted, this is new continuity, but Tim was always a very humble individual.  It bothers me that this particular element was stripped away from the character in exchange for the exact opposite.

Spoiler

 

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  • That name behind Dick Grayson’s head could be Jean-Paul Valley.  Get out of the way Dick!
  • That last page….NO WAY!  It’s obviously just there for shock value and to get us hooked.  No way should that be taken at face value.  There has to be a trick behind it.  I mean, it can’t be real……can it?????
  • If they kill Harper in the second issue, I’ll be seriously impressed.  Not only would it be an opportunity to show us a competent bad guy, but we would immediately take him seriously.  All the stakes would be raised, and with something so unexpected happening so early on, we would know that nothing was off the table.  Anything could happen!

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  • Personally, I think little kids being creepy is the absolute creepiest thing there is.  Read what that kid just said and then stare into his eyes.  Is your flesh crawling yet?

Interesting Facts:

(I’m going to have a blast in this section over the next few months!)

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  • Richard Grayson first appeared in Detective Comics #38 (1940).  Surprisingly, many of the original details from the characters origin story have stayed intact over the years.  Parents killed by gangsters using acid on the trapeze ropes after Haly wouldn’t pay protection money to the mob.  The mob boss of the operation being Tony Zucco.  There is also a particularly cool scene where Batman has Robin swear by the light of a candle to “fight crime and corruption, and never swerve from the path of righteousness.”
  • One of the more amusing things that didn’t make it’s way into the present day telling was Tony Zucco’s penchant for finishing every sentence with the word see, i.e., “You’ll be wearing concrete shoes. see.  That’s right. see.  And there will be no escape for you this time. see.”  Cause goodness knows, that’s how mobsters talked…see.

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  • Jason Todd first appeared in Batman #357 (1983).  This was, of course, the pre-crisis Jason who’s parents were circus performers just like Dick Grayson’s.  In this particular continuity, it was Killer Croc who orphaned Jason Todd.

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  • Four years later, in Batman #408 (1987), we got the origin story for Jason that we all know today.  Mother died of a drug overdose, Father was a gangster killed by Two-Face, Jason was left to fend for himself on the mean streets of Gotham, meet Batman while stealing the tires off the Batmobile, etc,etc,etc.

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  • Tim Drake first appeared in Batman #436 (1989).  This story introduced a 5 year old Tim in a flashback sequence where he got his picture taken with the famous Flying Graysons.  Tim was there the night that Dick lost his parents.  At the time, we didn’t even know who this little kid was.  It wasn’t revealed till later that same year in a future story arc, that the little boy from the circus was indeed Tim Drake.

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  • Cassandra Cain first appeared in Batman #567 (1999).  Before that lovable scamp Damian Wayne came along, Cassandra was the resident child assassin in the pages of Batman.  Unlike Damian who is always running his mouth off, Cassandra originally didn’t speak at all.  She was raised by her father, David Cain, to be the perfect assassin.  She learned every conceivable form of combat from him, both armed and unarmed, but was never taught to read or write.  Because of this, she developed the ability to read people’s body language.  This ability increased her hand to hand combat skills, enabling her to read the moves her opponents were going to use on her before they even did.

Recommended if…

  • You are a fan of Cassandra Cain and are stoked to see her again.
  • You like unrelenting action.
  • You like mystery and intrigue.
  • You thrive on unanswered question.
  • You’re a fan of the Batfamily.

Overall:

Thank God this is a weekly title.  There is no way I could wait a month to find out what happens next.  I don’t really even want to wait till next week.  Give me issue #2 now!

SCORE: 9.5 / 10