The BatFamily continue to fight an uphill battle against Mother, while she attempts to convert one of their own. We all know that the BatFamily will win in the end (that’s just how comics work)….but at what cost?
This is some stuff right out of Portal! If you don’t know what I am talking about…shame on you!
(It’s a video game from 2007 focusing heavily on puzzle solving. Now go play it!)
The story starts off showing the entire cast battling around the world against a bunch of zombie kids. While everyone else only gets one panel, Tim and Jason get full pages to display their awesomeness. In the case of Tim, it really is pretty awesome. Jason tries, but compared with Tim, his attempt looks rather mundane. It’s even funnier when he seeks validation from Midnighter and gets shot down. If you aren’t familiar with Midnighter, the man dispatches people in some of the most gruesome and effective ways imaginable, so the fact that Jason is even trying to give the guy pointers on how to be efficient in combat is pretty hilarious. I really loved all the dialogue that went through this scene. It got that real Robin “fight and joke” quality to it that livens things up. The only thing that I didn’t care for was a small editing error: in the previous issue, Red Robin was already shown swinging from the top of that tower, which means that the fancy trick he used to get up there wasn’t necessary since that’s where he already was. But whatever. It’s still cool.
Next comes Mother, and she is as impressive as ever. I know that some people have referred to Mother as generic, but I think she is totally awesome. Whenever she was on the page, I was riveted by the way she was manipulating Harper. Every time Harper had some counter, Mother used it against Harper and swung the conversation back in her own favor. I think Steve Orlando did a masterful job at crafting some truly subversive and underhanded dialogue for Mother to deliver. If you aren’t familiar with Orlando, he is the writer for Midnighter, and has been killing it in those pages as well. It’s probably one of the better comics you aren’t reading right now. But I digress.
It’s also nice because we finally get a clue as to why Mother is doing all this. Up till now, I didn’t understand how turning all the world’s children into assassins would benefit her. If she controlled everything, who would she even need to assassinate. Turns out, I have been focusing too much on the “means” and not enough on the “ends”. In a weird sort of way, Mother is attempting to eliminate tragedy through tragedy. She wants to make everyone strong. And when that is the case, no one can be dominated. A lot of this story has been about comparing Mother to Batman, and how similar their methods can be at times. It’s almost as if she is trying to achieve the same goals that Batman strives for, but instead of actively stopping violence one incident at a time, she is creating a world where there won’t be any violence through one huge act of it.
The only question that still keeps coming up for me is: Why Harper? What is so special about her? Why is it so pivotal to Mother that she be recruited. I get why the character is being focused on from a real world perspective (she is one of Scott Snyder’s babies), but I simply don’t understand the motivation behind the comic book world interest in her. I really hope this is given some kind of legitimate answer. If not, it’s a huge plot hole in my opinion.
Azrael! If the cover had not ruined the surprise, I would have been genuinely shocked to see Azrael again. After the way he and Tim/Jason parted ways, I really thought his role in this series was done. The biggest thing that sprung to mind after reading the Grayson/Azrael scene was: Is this really the best time for a Hero vs Hero fight? I mean…the word is about to end here. So what if Azrael wants to kill Mother and Grayson is against killing. Just let the man do his thing and worry about the moral implications of it later. After all, you guys know that Jason and Midnighter have killed people and yet you’re all ok with them. While I could see Batman digging in and not giving ground on this dilemma, Grayson has been working with killers for awhile now. He might be a little more accepting of such tactics than his mentor. Besides, when the chips are down and the stakes are this high, sometimes you just have to look the other way.
My thoughts exactly.
Mother ends up sending out her new Orphans to protect the towers and take out the interfering heroes. I know this was supposed to be an “oh no” moment, but I couldn’t really muster any genuine concern. You see, through the course of this story, David Cain has essentially had his butt handed to him by every character he has fought with. Naturally, I assumed that these carbon copies were even more useless than David since they were manufactured over less time than he had been. My suspicions were confirmed not even one page later when Stephanie Brown “doors” to Tokyo and proceeds to beat the crap out of one of the Orphans. If a novice like her can beat an Orphan, then any shred of apprehension I might have had for the rest of the team went flying right out the window. Removing any sense of danger is not the kind of thing you want to do during the climax of a story that has been building for 24 issues. It’s death on the page. What makes matters even worse is that Midnighter takes over watching Scarecrow to send Spoiler in. Seriously!?!?!? I simply can’t fathom how he thought sending her in over himself would raise the odds in their favor. It’s completely mind-boggling.
Art for this issue is handled by Alvaro Martinez and it’s super solid (except for a couple of minor detail slips here and there). The environments look stunning, the characters actually look like themselves and are highly emotive, the action is fluid and dynamic, and I really loved his page layouts. Martinez was also responsible for Batman&Robin Eternal #7+8, to which I spoke at great lengths about his skills. I’m repeating myself here, but I say again, “Give this man more work!”
Odds and Ends:
- Calvin Rose!?!?! Now maybe he has been hiding out in some comic that I am not aware of, but the last time I saw him was in the finale of Batman Eternal. Considering that this is the finale of Batman&Robin Eternal, I guess it’s now his job to make cameos in the finales of the Eternal series.
- Half-way through the story, a jet comes screaming overhead and crashes into Mother’s arctic stronghold. Seconds later, a pod jettisons from the wreckage and Azreal emerges. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I though you were supposed to use escape pods before crashing….not after.
- For those of you who didn’t notice, Mother’s necklace is some kind of control unit. She presses one of the jewels, and the air strike launches. Later, it looks like she is talking into a different one as some kind of comm unit. I thought it was a cool way to integrate some hidden tech, and it has me wondering if Harper might be able to utilize it later…since she is some kind of tech wizard.
- I’m not sure why Harper acts all surprised when Mother reveals that she made more Orphans. Mother already exposed that to Harper back in issue #22. I’m going to chalk this one up to the editing team again, right along with that Red Robin goof.
- At no point during this entire epic has Mother ever been displayed as a true combatant. Other than indecision, I’m not sure what is stopping Harper from ending all this right now.
- With the columns and the way the structure is built into the cliff face, the front door to Mother’s arctic base reminds me of Al-Khazneh in Petra, Jordan. If this image seems oddly familiar to some of you even though you’ve never been to Jordan, it could be that you are remembering it from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
- You like Mother and her silver tongue.
- You like well written dialogue. Steve Orlando delivers the full range, from downright funny to hauntingly icy.
- You enjoy Alvaro Martinez’s art. If you’re not familiar, trust me, it’s beautiful.
While the last couple of issues were a little shaky, this story delivers some pretty smooth sailing and points us directly at the finish line with plenty of wind in the sails. Featuring plenty of interesting action set pieces, riveting dialogue, and beautiful art. This is exactly what I needed to whet my appetite for the grand finale. Only two issues to go!
SCORE: 8 / 10