Batman and Robin Eternal #17 review

BR Eternal 17

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Unlike its predecessor, Batman&Robin Eternal doesn’t wait till the 11th hour to reveal its big secret: Did Batman really kill that kid’s parents?  Don’t worry, the solicitation from last issue wasn’t a false promise meant to string you along.  We really get an answer.  The issue also features several scenes at Spyral HQs with Dick and Helena, but when compared with the Batman stuff, it’s nowhere near as engaging.  For those of you who just came here for the big reveal, it’s in the spoiler tag.  For the rest of you, proceed ahead.

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The majority of this issue is dedicated to Batman dealing with Mother and Orphan.  Secondarily, it spends a chunk of time with Dick and Helena as they attempt to interrogate Cain.  Lastly, a few pages are spent on welcoming the Reds to Spyral HQs along with Harper having a go at Cain.  For me, everything else took a backseat to the Batman stuff.

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Not only did the Batman section reveal the answer to the question we have all been pondering since issue #1, but it also highlighted one of my favorite Batman tenets: his propensity to always  have contingency plans for his contingency plans.  The battle between Batman and Mother essentially boils down to which of the two of them has the greater gift of foresight.  After words are exchanged and explanations given, the fisticuffs begin.  This is where things were a little less than stellar.  While the fight is dynamic, I never really had a sense of concern for Batman.  Partially due to the fact that this is a flashback, so we know he makes it out, but also because everyone and their brother has bested Cain.  It made it so that I was never really concerned with whether or not Batman would come out on top.  It also seems that even the writers know that Cain is no longer a valid threat on his own, which is why they have the villains stoop to new depths to get ahead.  While things end on a cliffhanger of sorts, it’s rather hollow since we know for a fact it can’t and won’t come true.

bre17.8    Yikes.  Remind me never to mess with Helena Bertinelli.

Back in the here and now, Dick and Helena are busy trying to interrogate Cain while he tries to undermine their confidence with mind games.  It’s an odd mix of humorous banter paired with the much less humorous world of torture.  While there is a little bit of actual torture going on, most of it is really just the threat of torture anyway.  So, it’s mind-games all around, and neither side is really very effective.  At least from a storytelling standpoint.  Up until now, we’ve been able to experience Dick’s confusion and frustration right along with him whenever Mother or Cain have taunted him.  Primarily because we were as clueless as he was.  This issue changes that.  While Dick is still in the dark about the lies that Cain is spouting, the Batman flashback is actually telling us the truth of the very lies that Cain is trying to use to unhinge Dick.  It just feels weird to have back-to-back scenes in which one contradicts the efforts the other is trying to make.  This isn’t the only thing that felt off about these two scenes being adjacent to one another.

You see, the information that we are getting about Batman’s past is part of the information that Dick is simultaneously trying to extract from Cain.  Except, Cain isn’t divulging it.  At first, I thought Cain was telling them the story of what transpired, but when we return to the present, Dick and Helena seem at their wits end with how to proceed in order to garner the info they need from Cain.  Meaning, he had not told them.  The flashback was just for us.  It just felt weird to be clued in on what the heroes want to know while they themselves are failing to acquire it.  Why not keep us in the dark so that our experience mirrors theirs.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy they filled us in, I just don’t think it plays out very well in a storytelling sense.

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What are you talking about?  Batman takes people back to the cave all the time.  In fact, Hush was kept in glass prison, very similar in nature to the very one you’re currently residing in.

It also felt weird that Dick and Helena were joking around during the scene.  Perhaps their joviality could be read as an attempt to show Cain that he is such a little fish, that they aren’t even bothering to take him seriously.  In essence, undermining his tough guy demeanor by laughing at him.   This may have been a valid theory, but then Helena makes two jokes at Dick’s expense.  If you’re trying to crack a resilient foe, it would make sense to me to present a unified front, not present him with more “ammo” to use against you and give him even less of a reason to think you are a competent individual.  It just seems counter productive.

Before I get to the interior art, let’s discuss that cover.  If you’ve read a lot of my reviews, you know I don’t usually bring up covers.  But when I do, it’s because the cover is either seriously questionable or completely awesome.  This time around, I am happy to say that it’s the later.  This cover is simply magnificent.  It embodies everything I want my Batman to be.  An imposing figure that looms over the city, senses heightened, and muscles ready to spring him into action at a moments notice should he detect any wrong doing that needs righting.  If this were a poster, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Scot Eaton handles interiors, and while the majority of his work is perfectly acceptable, there are definitely a few questionable renderings here and there.  The editors didn’t do Eaton any favors either.  Almost anyone would have had a hard time following up David Finch.  By pairing Eaton’s interiors with that cover, it just served as an immediate comparison that his art is not top shelf.  Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have said anything too disparaging (and I’m not)…..but after that cover….

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Interesting Facts:

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  • This issue sports an unusually playful title for such a dark story.  “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” is a reference to a 1950 advertisement that would run in theatres to remind patrons that snacks were available in the lobby.  If you want to hear the catchy jingle for yourself, it’s right here.
  • In case you were wondering what kind of torture Helena was referring to, it goes something like this: place a rat filled bucket over a victim’s stomach, as you heat the container with the coals, the rat would chew through its only available escape route….your body.

Recommended if…

  • You want the answer to the big mystery behind Batman&Robin Eternal.
  • You want to see yet another Bat-family member smack the ever-living crap out of Orphan. (I swear, this guy is useless)
  • You love a Batman who has contingency plans for his contingency plans.
  • That cover by David Finch!

Overall:

This issue answers the big question we have all been waiting for, but the explanation ends up being much simpler and far less climactic than I was expecting.  While the answer itself was somewhat underwhelming, the book still has plenty of dynamic action and displays some very enjoyable character traits.  The real culprit that detracted from this book’s appeal was in the editing and storytelling itself.  Paramount to this was how the flashback scenes ruined the immersion and believability of the contemporary ones.

SCORE: 6.5 / 10

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