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First off, what is up with that title?  I think they are trying to pay tribute to The Killing Joke, but that doesn’t make sense.  Sure, the Joker is in this story, but the events of this tale mimic the famous Joker scene from A Death in the Family, not the famous Joker scene from The Killing Joke.  I guess somebody got their wires crossed or something.  Anyway…

In this issue, Batman and Robin catch up with Scarecrow, Jason Todd battles his inner demons, and the Reds (Robin and Hood) escape loony land with the help of Azrael.  Having said that, not much really happens in this story.  At least not anything truly relevant.  We get some meandering fights, anticlimactic take downs, and a seriously questionable pep talk.

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In regards to the Batman stuff, it’s very minimal and abrupt, but it looks like they are finally getting things set-up to answer the question we have all been waiting for since issue #1.  So, at least there is that.

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When it comes to the Azrael stuff, it feels a little hollow.  When he realizes that Dumas is nuts, he turns on his former master and helps the Reds escape.  If we had been given more time to get to know this version of Azrael, I think his turning would have been more momentous.  As it stands, I think this turn of events was inevitable and completely expected when one considers that the past version of his character also became an agent of good.  Don’t get me wrong, it has all the elements of something awesome and epic, but we just haven’t had enough buildup to make this feel like any kind of real payoff.  I was happy to see that when the moment came, Jean-Paul Valley was more intelligent about it than Orphan.  When Orphan was presented with this same dilemma, I thought he was going to throw in the towel and join the forces of good, but he surprised me and stood alongside Mother even though she was trying to kill him.  At least Valley has a shred of reason left to him, even after the brainwashing.

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As the story wraps up and the Reds depart in a plane while Valley heads off into the desert, I thought to myself, “is that it?”  I could be wrong here, but I got the sense that Valley is off to do his own thing now  and we won’t be seeing him again.  If that is indeed true, what was the point?  They took the time to bring this character into the new DC Universe, but didn’t really bother to do anything with him.  Maybe I’m jumping the gun.  We will see, but for now, I was less than impressed.

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The final writing choice worth talking about from this story was the little pep talk that Tim gave Jason.  It’s really weird because Tim talks about how Jason is a good person, how the bad guys are trying to trick Jason into taking a life without feeling anything, how they are trying to turn Jason into a psychopath with their brainwashing.  It’s weird because Jason already IS all of those things.; and the fact of the matter is, both Jason and Tim know it.  I’m not sure why Tim thought that telling Jason he wasn’t something they both know he is, would snap him out of it, but it did.  It’s interesting, because once Jason snaps out of it, he actually seems to take it to heart.  It makes me wonder if this moment will carry through to other books, or if it’s just here for the benefit of this story.

bre16.10  Seriously Drake?  Jason just got done reliving the worst experience of his entire life involving The Joker, and your going to smile at him like that?  It’s creepy.

The other thing that bothered me about this scene was the fact that, while Jason and Tim are having a 3 page long conversation, Azrael is right next to them fending off like 50 guys.  I get that they are having a buddy buddy bonding moment, but perhaps it could have waited till they were out of danger.  At the very end, after so much nonsense, I was surprised to see Jason close out the story with the most meaningful and insightful comment the issue had to offer.  Jason is a real enigma sometimes. He seems like an insensitive callous jerk, but then comes out with a completely endearing and heartfelt observation.

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…but there is definitely something wrong with your face.

Visually, this issue is brought to us by a trio of Artists.  Andrea Mutti handles the flashback scenes with Batman and Robin, along with the Jason Todd hallucination scenes.  Meanwhile, Roger Robinson handles the contemporary scenes with Tim and Jason, along with a small assist from Goran Sudzuka on a couple of pages.  The first thing you will probably notice is how disproportionate, blocky, and unnatural Mutti’s work looks.  Characters seem stiff and phony.  As if we are looking at a bunch of mannequins toggled together from spare parts.  I have no problem dissecting a writer’s work, but for some reason, I hate having to take down an artist.  I take no pleasure in it, but this time I’m going to have to bite the bullet and just say that Mutti’s stuff is pretty bad.  While the rest of the art is better, it’s still no picnic in this installment of Batman&Robin Eternal.  While I was very pleased with the art that Robinson provided for issue #14, it seems to me that he let the ball drop a bit since then.  Stuff is acceptable, but nowhere near as favorable as it was 2 issues ago.  On top of that, the backgrounds in this issue are almost nonexistent.  I can accept that the hallucination scene is void of any real surroundings since it is a dream, but what is the excuse for the rest of the book.  Half the time, characters are standing in a void, and the rest of the time the environments are so limited in details, that they might as well have not even bothered rendering them.  Generally speaking, the art for this issue is not unacceptable, but it is definitely below standard.

Spoiler

bre16.5     Seriously, where are the backgrounds?

Interesting Facts:

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  • Azrael being encased in…whatever that stuff was, totally reminds me of the time that the Adam West Batman got encased in plaster.  Hehehe.

Recommended if…

  • You want to see Azrael smack around a bunch of dudes as if they were nothing more than paper dolls.
  • You want to see Tim deliver the most unexpectedly effective pep talk in history.

Overall:

Sub par illustrations and peculiar writing choices fill this particular installment of Batman&Robin Eternal.  Nonetheless, it’s still kind of an entertaining read.  Filled with plenty of action and some unintentionally humorous moments.  While the attempt to be epic and moving comes off only partially successful, I give them points for trying.  Now, let’s move on to the moment you have all been waiting for….did Batman really shoot that kid’s parents?

SCORE: 4.5 / 10