Batman and Robin Eternal #23 review

BR Eternal 23

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Talking, talking, talking, and more talking.  This entire issue is essentially the set-up for the finale.  It does a perfectly adequate job of informing us of who the players are, what is at stake, and what has to be done.  I’m sure that when read collectively it will be more entertaining, but standing on its own, it was a little boring.  As I said, this does a good job of putting all the pieces in place for the main event, I just wish it had been a little more intriguing in and of itself.

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The opening to this tale is super solid.  We are presented with a series of phone messages from Harper Row to Cullen, her brother.  It’s not overly specific with the minutia of what has transpired, but it basically serves as a recap of the story so far.  I thought it was a rather clever way to include a synopsis without it sounding like an exposition dump.  We then jump to a bunch of random shots from around the globe of children taking up weapons in the name of Mother.  It’s not what is shown so much as what isn’t that really got my mind racing.  These panels are the calm before the storm and really serve to up the tension.  Often times, what we can imagine is far more gruesome than anything someone could render, so leaving it up to us to fill in the blanks was a great choice in my opinion.

We quickly jump to assembling the team, and explaining the crisis and the plan to combat it.  Mother is using major signal towers from around the world to distribute the mind controlling signal.  The fact that all the towers are actual world wide landmarks was a wonderful choice.  In Valentine’s previous work on Eternal, she included many real world details into her story that added a considerable dose of authenticity.  While I appreciated the grounding that Valentine instilled in the story, the depictions of the landmarks left me a little less than impressed.  But I’ll save that for the art section.

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Midnighter fills the role of transportation, eyes in the sky, and comic relief.

In order to facilitate everything that needs to be done, Grayson calls on the services of Midnighter.  He has the ability to open “Doors”/teleportation portals to anywhere in the world.  Given the ability to portal to anyone for help, and the fact that this threat is quite serious, it left me begging the question: why were these individuals chosen?  Typically, I’m all for ignoring the rest of the DC Universe and only focusing on the Batverse.  But in the last issue, the idea of involving the Justice League was actually considered.  If this had never been broached, I’d have no problem with accepting this team.  But now I’m wondering why The Justice League wasn’t involved.  Even if Grayson had not personally invited them, why wouldn’t they have shown up of their own accord.  Don’t get me wrong.  I prefer my Bat stories focusing on the “normals”.  But if that is what we are supposed to be focusing on, don’t remind me of the “supers”.

Next, the teams have to take out the towers in order to disrupt Mother’s signal.  Midnighter points out that something is blocking his “doors”, so he can’t get the team members right to their destinations.  Essentially, he can get them as close as possible, and then they have to fight their way through the kids to make it the rest of the way.  This is when an editing error presents itself that took me out of the story.  We jump from everyone being teleported to them all instantly being at the top of the towers.  What happened to them fighting their way there? But then the next page shows everyone fighting kids on Midnighter’s monitors.  If everyone was already in position to take out the signal broadcasters, why would they not do just that instead of going down into the crowds and start fighting the kids one on one.  Taking out the signal would nullify the threat.  I think what they meant to do was have page 18 before page 16 and 17.  That way we see them fighting towards the towers and then being in position to disrupt the signal for next issue.  I suppose it’s a minor discrepancy that you can rearrange on your own to make it work.  But why should we have to do that?

The last thing I want to bring up before jumping to the art is Stephanie Brown.  She has a pretty useless role in this story.  She is assigned to guard Scarecrow.  When you take a moment to really think about it, it makes no sense.  Grayson sends Red Robin to collect Steph for guard duty.  A couple scenes later, Grayson sends Red Hood to collect Scarecrow to have him whip up some fear toxin.  It stands to reason that Grayson already intended to use Scarecrow in this manner.  So why they even bothered with the guard duty in the first place is beyond me.  Couldn’t they have just sent Hood to collect Scarecrow from the get go and skip the whole Steph involvement entirely.  I’ll admit that I enjoyed the back and forth between Steph and Scarecrow, but it was still unnecessary.  That is really one of my biggest problems with this whole issue.  There are some entertaining scenes, but it’s all a bunch of busy work that doesn’t really matter.  It’s all about making up some stuff so that people have something to do.

Art for this issue is handled by Christian Duce.  I went into this thinking that he was a fairly decent artist.  Not amazing, but also nothing really gripe worthy.  The first thing that caught an eyefull of criticism was that his Cullen Row looked a little too big to me.  Granted, he is tiny when compared to the super hero types we see him surrounded by, but I still think he is depicted a little too big.  Previous renderings of the character were always more toward the scrawny side, and here, he looks about average.  Then when we get our first shot of kids rioting in the streets of Gotham, I noticed a peculiar discrepancy in the perspective.  As I went along, I was making mental notes.  Things here and there were starting to add up to bigger deductions.  Little did I realize that Duce was about to blow all of these little nitpicks out of the water with a truly terrible two page spread.

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At first glance, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the problem?”  Let me elaborate.

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Bahahahahahah.

This image is so out of scale it’s ridiculous.  If this were actually accurate, she should have been portrayed about the size of her foot.  As it stands, we have a King Kong sized Batgirl about to attack Paris.  It’s seriously laughable, and that’s exactly what I did when I first saw it.  Laugh.  If you are going to include world wide recognizable landmarks, I think some effort should be made to at least try portraying them correctly.  It’s not just The Eiffel Tower that is completely out of whack.  Batwoman is chilling at the top of Burj in Dubai.  This suffers from the same scale issues as the renderings of Batgirl and The Eiffel Tower.  I looked up several of the other structures to check on the finer details, and they all pretty much have something questionable about them.

Look at it this way.  Anyone familiar with these landmarks is going to realize they are depicted incorrectly.  Anyone not familiar, won’t recognize these as world wide landmarks to begin with, so what is the point in trying to reproduce them in order to clue people in on the fact that Mother’s epidemic is world wide through visuals.  Those who don’t recognize the landmarks won’t be informed of where they are since they don’t know them, and those that do are left unimpressed with visuals since they aren’t accurate.

Odds and Ends:

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  • What is Duke Thomas doing all the way up there?  I’m sorry…but it has been indicated multiple times that Duke doesn’t like heights.

Interesting Facts:

  • “Needs must”.  It’s a statement that is used several times throughout this issue.  It’s an old saying from around 500 years ago.  The entire saying goes, “needs must when the devil drives”.  In contemporary times, it has been shortened to “needs must”.  It basically refers to something you don’t want to do, or wouldn’t usually do, but circumstance dictate that you have to do it in order to get the job done.    

Recommended if…

  • You want the lead-up to the finale of Batman&Robin Eternal.
  • You like when a story attempts to ground itself in some kind of reality.

Overall:

This issue was necessary in order to put the pieces in place for the final showdown, but it lacked a true sense of enjoyment in and of itself.  It also boasted a fair share of questionable editing, inaccurate art, and unnecessary scenes.  Would I call it filler?  No.  But it could have definitely been pared back a bit here and there.

SCORE: 5.5 / 10  

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