This issue continues the flashback trend, providing us additional insights into the background and character motivations of our favorite Batfamily mute: Cassandra Cain.  She also pulls off a pretty impressive solo insertion into the heart of The Nursery that I found offhandedly Snake Eyes-esque in nature.

Pardon me while I follow my train of thought, I’ll get to the review in just a second.  Initially, the idea of Snake Eyes came to mind while reading this because the non flashback portions of this story were somewhat reminiscent of G.I.Joe #21 (1984), the silent issue.  In that issue, Snake Eyes single handedly invades Cobra Temple in order to free Scarlett by performing an air drop into enemy territory.

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While I was initially only vaguely thinking these two stories had similarities based on their plot points, I then started to realize that the similarities ran a bit deeper than that.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to make this connection, but Cassandra is kind of like a female version of Snake Eyes.  In a nutshell, they are both mute ninjas who dress in black and basically kick everyone’s butt.  It’s funny, because I am literally writing this as it comes to mind, but David Cain also looks like Storm Shadow.  I’m not really going anywhere with this, just pointing it out.  Now, onto the review.

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When I opened to the first page, I honestly thought for a second that a different comic had accidentally been packaged inside the cover of Batman&Robin Eternal #13.  Who were these people?  Where were we?  How did this tie into Eternal?  What the heck was going on?  It totally makes sense at the second page, but that opener really threw me for a loop.

There were also a couple other elements in this story that got me turned around and had me checking my bearings.  For some reason, I started reading this issue as if it were supposed to bridge the gap between the ending of #8 and the ending of #12.  I thought it was a flashback that was catching us up on what Cassandra had been doing ever since the time we saw her flipping out and running away after Harper had touched her hair, to the moment we saw her in a pit covered in blood with a bunch of dead kids.  The fact that this issue also included a scene with dead kids in a pit and Cassandra getting drenched in blood only served to further support the delusion I was apparently under.  (I actually thought that cliffhanger from last time was supposed to be inserted between pages 13 and 14)  I figured the slight changes in scenery were due to a change in artist, not a change in venue.  On top of all that, the story was including flashbacks in what I already thought was a flashback.  How much of this was me, and how much of this was a missed opportunity for the creative team to more concisely clarify what we were seeing is unclear.  But nonetheless, it was my experience, so I am sharing it with you.

It should be noted that I am not counting any of this against the book, as on consecutive reads, everything made total sense.  It is more a question of whether or not the creative team could have made things more straightforward from the get go, and way less open to interpretation.  Once all my confusion was brushed aside, and even during, this was an excellent issue.  Full of cool action, exotic locations, and heart-wrenching exchanges that make you feel even more for a character you were already in love with.

bre13.9An upside down castle in an underground cave.  How cool is that?

Marcio Takara handles art for this issue, and to be honest, I’m a little confused.  Takara recently handled art for Detective Comics #45 and 46, and when I reviewed those issues, I found Takara’s work questionable.  But here, I actually quite enjoyed it.  I’m not sure why his work for this particular story looks so much more polished than in the Tec’ issues, but it definitely does.  Maybe it’s because he is putting more effort into it since it is a character that actually matters to him, like Cassandra, instead of one who doesn’t, like JimBat.  (That is entirely speculative, as I have no working knowledge of Mr. Takara’s personal preference in Super Heroes)  One of the more interesting art elements was the technique used to depict the flashbacks.  The coloring tint that was placed on them and the way they looked all scratched and faded was definitely trying to mimic the way old film stock looks when weathered by time.  Very cinematic.  And not just cinematic in the sense that they are mimicking film, but in the sense that even contemporary films use this technique to portray flashbacks from time to time.

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I realize that I have not touched on all the positive elements that made this book a worthwhile read, but I wanted to leave something for you to discover on your own.  So, have fun Eternal-ing.

Spoiler

  • While Cassandra sought out Batman several months ago, I’m really curious to see what transpired between them years ago that would instill such trust and confidence within her towards The Dark Knight.
  • I’m curious to see if Mother’s betrayal of David will actually make him side against her in the coming issues.  He looks genuinely shocked that she would sacrifice him to kill the others.  This might be the wake-up call he needs to get his act together.  I could see him dying taking Mother out down the line.  Having him atone for his atrocities in that way would draw him even further from the original David Cain and set him even more so apart as his own character.

Odds and Ends:

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  • I’m fine with Cassandra “borrowing” equipment from Argus, but is there a reason that the Halo Glider Drop Suit had to look like Batman’s cape.  I mean, other than the fact that it looks aesthetically cool.

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  • This little bit of action seemed highly unnecessary to me.  First, I had a problem with David so easily overpowering Cassandra when it has been shown on multiple occasions that she has easily kicked his butt.  Second, what was the point in strapping her to a table only to dump her off of it into a pit only 3 seconds later.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to have just surprised her from the shadows, and while she was momentarily off balance, push her into the pit?  That approach would have easily eliminated both pieces of business that gave me a moment of pause.

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  • I thought it was super cool that she gave herself a bloody bat mask.  The way I see it, Since that was the blood of the innocent slain children, and Batman is about vengeance, it was like the ghosts of the slain children were getting their revenge through Cassandra and under the guise of the greatest symbol of vengeance ever: The Bat-Signal!  I also thought it was nice that they worked the cover art into the story itself.  When I first saw it, I thought it was just going to be one of those images that was created to look cool on a cover and grab peoples’ attentions, not actually factor into the story itself.

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  • At first, I thought this was a shot of her grapple hitting the cave wall.  On my second read, I realized it was her glider blowing up.  I tried to figure out why she would self detonate her own glider “mission impossible” style.  It was on my third read that I realized the sentry gun had shot her glider down seconds after she had ejected.  This little breakdown basically sums up the problems I was having with lots of other little stuff in this issue.  It took me multiple readings to smooth out all the kinks.  Maybe I am just tired and need a nap, but I think things weren’t as self-evident as they could have been.

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  • David, are you completely delusional?  She already beat you twice and chopped off your hand to boot.  I think that fear gas you keep snorting has warped your mind.

Editorial overlook:

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  • Usually in this section, I am pointing out spelling error or the complete omission of necessary words.  This time, we have an extra word…so maybe that is a step in the right direction?

Interesting Facts:

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  • What you are looking at is an aerial view of the Mir Open Pit Diamond Mine in Mirny, Russia.  It is .73 miles (3,900 ft) in diameter and .32 miles (1,722 ft) deep.

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  • Looking at these images, you’d almost swear it was photoshop or a really convincing miniature model, but no, it is real.  Here you can see an Eastward and North West facing view of the mine.

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  • As is mentioned in the comic, this real world equivalent is also a no-fly zone.  It is so deep and wide, it has its own air circulation pattern, creating a downward air flow that sucks helicopters and planes into it.  In case you didn’t notice, that is an airport right next to the mine (in the real world, not the comic).  I hope they are really diligent about warning new pilots of that closely looming death trap.
  • The toxic gas thing is just something to make it seem even more otherworldly than it already is, but if you ask me, it didn’t need anything else to nudge it in the direction of awesome.

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  • If seeing that the entire city of Mir could fit into the hole wasn’t enough for you, here is a picture of a giant dump truck that looks like a spec of dust when viewed in comparison to the mine.
  • I’ve really been enjoying Batman&Robin Eternal’s penchant for finding a way to include real world locations into the story.  They did it with The Bone Church in Batman&Robin Eternal #7, and now with the Mir Mine.  I can’t wait to see what other things make their way into this story.

Recommended if…

  • You want to continue the character background excursion that Eternal has been on of late.
  • You want to see Cassandra engaged in more activities that make her look beyond amazing.
  • You like when a story includes action set-pieces worthy of celluloid.
  • You liked the gruesomeness, depravity, and emotional negligence that was depicted in the last couple of issues.  Plenty more of that in this installment.

Overall:

Issue 11, 12, and 13 have definitely felt like a little mini-trilogy set in the midst of the larger arcing story that is Eternal, providing us with essential information on the backstory of the characters introduced to us within these pages.  While I had a small lapse in comprehension of the material on a first read through, on consecutive reads, it was much more clear what the team had intended for me to take away from the story and I found it fulfilling on almost all levels.

SCORE: 8 / 10