Going into this issue, I expected a lot since Genevieve Valentine was back in the writer’s seat. Her previous contributions to the Eternal story, Batman&Robin Eternal #7+8, were hands down my favorite section of the entire series. Unfortunately, this story is far from the gem those previous installments were.
To be fair, I think that Valentine had far more creative control in her previous stories. This late in the game, it’s probably time to start focusing on wrapping things up, limiting her ability to tell the story she might want to tell and instead forcing her to tell the story that Tynion and Snyder already mapped out. I might be completely off-base on this, but when you compare the narrative in this story to the previous ones, it just doesn’t have the same feeling. Another thing that keeps the story on the mediocre side is the amount of material that goes against common Batman characterizations, but I’ll get to that after addressing the positives.
Look everyone…it’s Darth Mother.
Last week in the comment section, one of our readers pointed out that leaving a villain’s origin ambiguous can actually be a stronger choice than fleshing them out and used Darth Vader as an example. Now, I’m not sure if my feelings here have been influenced by his comment, but I was getting a total Vader vibe from Mother during this story. Besides the fact that she is wearing these black billowing robes that we have never seen her wear before, she is also callously killing her children for failing her. Come out of hyperspace too close to a planet or lose the Millennium Falcon while in pursuit, you’re dead. Mother does the same thing here. Can’t stabilize that satellite’s orbit…you’re dead. She actually kills someone else as well, but I have no intention of ruining that particular moment for you. It’s simply too awesome to read in a review, you need to see it for yourself.
One of the best scenes in this issue takes place between Harper and Cassandra and involves Harper divulging her anguish over living without a mom. It’s only 3 pages long, put it packs a pretty serious emotional punch.
The biggest problem I had from this story was all the belly aching coming from Dick, Tim, and Jason. They seriously just give up. That is so out of character for this group. Hearing them whine, complain, sulk, and throw in the towel just felt extremely wrong to me. It was like the creative team manufactured an uncharacteristic internal obstacle just for the sake of this story so our heroes had something to overcome. But it gets worse.
Snarky as ever.
Damian has to give them a pep talk to get them back on track?!? Aside from the fact that it was unnecessary since they shouldn’t have needed it to begin with, it reeked as if inspired by a bad sports movie. You know what I mean: “Coach…the other team is too good. How can we possibly beat them?” “Kids…if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.” It all just felt very contrived and cliche.
The other big negative I had with the story was the way Batman was depicted within Damian’s flashback. Batman says that he doesn’t see them as his soldiers and that all he ever wanted was for them to become their own men. However, for the last couple of decades, Batman has referred to his Robins as his soldiers in his war against crime. It feels weird to hear him say that they are not his soldiers when I am so conditioned to hearing him call them that. I’m fine with accepting that it was merely an analogy he used, and that he really didn’t see them as literal soldiers, but what I can’t accept is that he wasn’t trying to mold them into what he wanted. Batman is obstinate, pigheaded, and stubborn. With him, it has always been his way or the highway. It’s the reason Dick left to begin with. Once again, it just doesn’t fit with the established Batman mythos. Batman is a total control freak. Maybe he did want them to grow into good/honorable men in a general sense, but he still wanted them to do it in the specific way he had mapped out for them.
Fernando Blanco handles art for this issue, and I’m not really a big fan of his style. While I could go on and on about what I don’t like, I’ll focus on his face-work for this review. All his faces have a very hard/pinched look to them. But then I noticed this one shot he has of Cassandra. To me, it almost seems like the more abstract Blanco goes, the more realistic it actually looks. I found this odd and interesting all at the same time. It seems to me that when the characters are more well-defined, it brings out the aspect in Blanco’s work that I find undesirable.
- I had not considered it till this issue, but now I’m actually worried that Cassandra might not make it out of this alive. Since the beginning, I just assumed that when this series was over she would take her rightful place in the world of Batman. I’m not so sure anymore.
Odds and Ends:
- They probably should have left that line out, because it sounds like a really good idea. In a world where there is a team that exist to handle world wide threats, why wouldn’t you call them?
- That just sounds weird. It’s not like Batman left Mother to you. Didn’t he think she had been defeated?
- You like when the villain is completely nonchalant when it comes to the lives of their peons.
- You want to see a truly touching moment between Harper and Cassandra.
- You want to see Damian smacking some sense into the other Robins.
After the amazing stories that Genevieve Valentine delivered back in Batman&Robin Eternal #7+8, I was expecting something fantastic, and I just didn’t get it. While this issue isn’t without good sections, several elements feel overly contrived and cliche. On top of that, we get some questionable characterizations when it comes to certain longtime Batfamily members that I just couldn’t let slide. I understand what the creative team was trying to do, but it simply didn’t work for me.
SCORE: 5.5 / 10