Batman vs Scarecrow, Grayson vs Orphan, and Cassandra/Harper vs a bunch of sentinel rejects from The Matrix franchise?!?  Well, two out of three isn’t bad…

There are two main plot lines involved in this tale.  One takes place in the present and involves Grayson, Cassandra, and Harper trying to escape the nursery before it explodes in a nuclear blast.  The other takes place in the past and involves Batman & Robin tracking Crane to his lair of operation.  The Batman portion of this story is basically Batman by the numbers.  It has the Batmobile, our heroes taking out henchmen amid a cloud of billowing smoke, enduring lengthy villain monologues, putting the fear of god into their adversaries, and a confrontation that hammers home the fact that Batman is always prepared and one step ahead of the game.  While some might say that it is played out, I say they are always welcome elements to any Batman story.  It might give you what you expect, but if what you expect is what you want, you’re going to walk away from this issue a very happy camper.  But seriously though, that “one step ahead of the game” moment was so Batman, I couldn’t help but crack a smile when it happened.  That section alone is worth the price of admission.

bre14.6  Who are you posturing for?  Robots can’t be intimidated.

The counterpart to the Batman portion of our tale is less than riveting.  It involves Harper and Cassandra battling robots…  I know that it was shown last time that the nursery has automated defenses, and I should have addressed it before, but it just seems odd to me.  Given the medieval setting, it just seems more natural for them to be fighting something a little more ordinary and less tech heavy.   I know that Orphan killed all of Mother’s Children who were at the nursery, but I would have much rather seen them taking on an army of creepy little kids than goofy looking robots.  I found it doubly annoying when it turns out that we don’t get to see the majority of the fight that took place between Grayson and Orphan in exchange for added time with Cass and Harper.

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When you see the level of punishment Grayson took to overcome Orphan, you know that it must have been one hell of an awesome fight, but we don’t even get to see it!  Not only do we have to watch the girls battle trash cans instead of witnessing an actual fight between two skilled combatants, but there is an emotional moment between the girls that takes up valuable page space, and I just really wasn’t feeling it.  When they think they are about to die, Harper looses her composure.  Since WE all know they aren’t going to die, it was hard for me to become emotionally invested in the scene.  At the same time, it was nice to see Harper finally coming to terms with the reality of her choice to become a super hero.  Realizing that family is far more important to her than saving a bunch of strangers was very realistic, and I could see this being the wake-up call she needs to retire.  In the first Eternal, Harper said that she would do super heroing till she didn’t want to anymore.  To her, this was never supposed to be a lifelong gig, and I think this might be one of the deciding factors in her decision to eventually retire.

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The part that I found the most surprising, was David’s decision to keep fighting.  Last time, I conjectured that  Mother’s betrayal might be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and David would finally end up turning on Mother and helping out our band of heroes.  Afterwards, I realized my mistake was approaching this dilemma from the stand point of a sane person, and David is clearly not sane.  He has been completely brainwashed by the ruling faction of his organization.  It got me to thinking about real world entities who are willing to sacrifice their lives in the name of their twisted beliefs.  This depiction of David has ended up hitting a lot closer to reality than I had originally discerned.

Fernando Blanco and Roger Robinson are on art duties for this issue, with Blanco handling the contemporary scenes with Grayson and Cassandra while Robinson deals with the flashbacks involving Batman and Scarecrow.  Since I’ve already spoken enough about Blanco’s work in previous reviews, I’m going to concentrate on Robinson’s art this time around.

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When I first opened the book, there was something vaguely familiar about Robinson’s art, but I did not recognize his name.  I was initially thinking how his style had an old-school look to it, and I mean that in a good way.  By the time I got to page 5 and saw Batman gritting his teeth, I realized where I had seen this pencil work before.  I dug into my back-issues to confirm, and sure enough, Robinson had been a penciler for both Batman: Gotham Knight and Azrael back in the early 2000s.  I have not seen him for some time, but interestingly enough, he has been brought back for this series.  Seeing as how Azrael has been reintroduced in this story, I find it unlikely that Robinson’s involvement is nothing more than coincidence since he worked on the previous title that Azrael headlined.  Azrael doesn’t appear in this particular issue, but since Robinson is here, I think it would be a missed opportunity not to let him draw the character again in a future installment of this book.

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My favorite part of Robinson’s work from this issue, was his depiction of Scarecrow.  Just check out that top left image…..he looks completely awesome! Right?  The other thing that I really liked was how the hood wasn’t form fitting.  It hung voluminously about his gaunt face.  The openings in the hood really allowed you to get a sense of his face underneath, which in turn, allowed you to connect with his facial cues and emotional state.

Odds and Ends:

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  • This scene where Batman & Robin invade Crane’s chemical plant totally reminded me of the 1989 Batman movie where Batman raided the Ace Chemical Plant.

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  • ?!?!?!?!  What am I looking at here?!  Did Grayson just try to decapitate Orphan?  If Orphan had not ducked, isn’t that what would have happened?  Kinda goes against that no kill rule doesn’t it?  Now maybe he was going to hit him with the flat of the blade, but it still seems weird for Grayson to use a means that could even have the potential to turn out fatal.

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  • Kind of odd that they had the time for this cute little exchange when one considers that they are literally surrounded by 21 robots who are trying to blast them into the middle of next week.

Recommended if…

  • You want to see a story that touches on all the best tenets that Batman has to offer.
  • You want to see Harper flip-out.

Overall:

If I were grading this story on the Batman portion alone, you’d be seeing a much higher score.  As it stands, the contemporary portion had several flaws that drug the rest of this issue down.  Even with these minor problems, the Batman section is definitely worth the price of admission in and of itself.  If you’ve been looking for a classic Batman tale that depicts everything you want and expect from our pointy eared paragon, then look no further.

SCORE: 7.5 / 10