Batman&Robin Eternal has come to it’s ultimate end, and while nothing here is unenjoyable, it’s also nothing more than mediocre. For a single issues, it actually has a lot going for it. Plenty of action, further investigation into the thematic nature of the story, and a couple of genuinely unexpected surprises. Unfortunately, it also feels like a complete paint by number experience, making it as derivative as can be. While I’d usually be less critical of a story line following strict formulaic guidelines, this isn’t just any issue in the middle of a larger run. This is the climax of a story that has been unfolding over the last 6 months, 26 issues, and roughly $80. I expect a little more than standard fanfare at this point….and we really don’t get it.
*please be aware, I’m going full spoilers for this review*
The story starts off with a nice scene between Harper and her late mother. It’s quite endearing and really helps you grasp what a wonderful person Miranda really was. At the same time, it had me wondering why she would agree to help her husband steal copper piping out of a derelict building (as seen in a previous issue). Seeing where she works, it doesn’t seem that the family had struck rock bottom enough to need a measure as desperate as foraging for scrap metal. While not really a direct criticism of this issue, the past of the character overshadowed a scene that should have been nothing more than a glimpse behind character motivation. Instead, it became an exercise in confusion.
When we hop back to the present, the first thing we see is this message from Dick….and he isn’t wrong. The team had this in the bag at the end of last issue. This story is basically just the clean up. Granted, Mother has a few surprises up her sleeve, but they are easily countered every step of the way by our heroes. It really makes for a lackluster conclusion….knowing that our master villain is beat before the finale even starts. Mother tries to play like she has contingency plans in place, but to me, it read more like the desperation of someone in their final death-throws rather than someone who actually had their act together. (Although, there is a panel of dialogue later on about sending her children to slit their throats in the dead off the night while they slept. That was actually rather unsettling.)
When Harper finally jumps into action, I was glad to see that the writers came up with some plausible excuse for her seeming passivity. The following scene involved Mother on the receiving end of a one-sided beat-down, both verbally and physically, where Harper really sticks it to her.
While Harper got in some good hits, I think it was probably the verbal reprimands that had Mother reeling the most. It’s also an angle that I didn’t see coming. I’d gotten so used to the name “Mother”, that the true meaning of the word had become lost to me. I simply saw it as a name, and wasn’t considering the symbolic implications. Having Harper juxtapose the differences between Mother and a real mother was a standout moment for me.
In a panic, Mother calls her remaining Orphans to her while Dick simultaneous instructs the Bat-Family to “door” to his location. Seeing as how so many of these fools have been easily smacked down throughout the entire run of this series, any hint of threat immediately vanished as it was clear that the Orphans were about to be unceremoniously dismantled. Now comes my least favorite part of the issue….and maybe the entire series….
Having no other alternative at this point, Mother finally reveals that she has actually had Master level ninja skills this entire time!?!?!? Say What?!?!?!?!?!? Keep in mind, this character has never done anything but talk. She has been shown as entirely cerebral, resorting to the physical only when absolutely necessary and only in the most common of ways. There have been previous instances where such abilities would have been invaluable for her to use, but she never resorts to them. Are you telling me that she decided to forgo the advantage of displaying them at previous junctures just so she could keep them secret and make it extra shocking for this reveal. That’s ridiculous! A couple pages before this, she was even getting tagged repeatedly by Harper. If she had these abilities, why would she have allowed Harper to beat the crap out of her? It simply makes no sense. But wait….it gets worse!
She ends up taking on all four Robins at the same time….and actually stands her ground! That is completely ludicrous! Look, even if I can find a way to accept that she kept her skills a secret, there is no way in all the world that you’re going to have me believing that she could handle all of the Robins at once. She absolutely went form being Emperor Palpatine from Return of the Jedi to being Emperor Palpatine from Revenge of the Sith. Sorry for all you non-Star Wars people out there, but trust me, it’s an apt comparison.
As the fight progresses, much in the way that Harper got in some verbal jabs, Dick gets to do the same. Eventually, they actually do manage to disarm her, and she has to resort to her final attempt at victory: Destroy the entire base by dropping it into lava…. Once again, any threat is rendered moot when you realize that the team could “door” out at any moment, but let us play this out nonetheless.
As the base begins to break up all around them and fissures form in the floor, the Robins are separated from Mother. Enter Cassandra Cain. I guess it was decided that every major character from this story line needed their own personal showdown with Mother. By this point, it’s getting kind of old. How many times does she need to get the crap smacked out of her before we wrap this thing up? One more time I guess….
**Major spoiler forthcoming**
Enter David Cain. Yep, this was one of the real shocks. The man isn’t dead! Got his throat slit from ear to ear several issues ago, but somehow managed to stave off bleeding to death for long enough to have a final showdown with Mother. To be honest, I actually kind of liked it. While it doesn’t make any sense, if you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll know that I was rooting for David to challenge Mother all the way back when she tried to blow him up with a Nuke. It’s nice to see him not go out as a lap dog, but as someone who has taken control of his destiny.
At this point, the story jumps ahead to one month after the return of Batman. And in the exact same way that all the major characters get to have a final showdown with Mother, each one in turn also gets to have an epilogue with Batman. I haven’t seen such an extensive denouma since Return of the King. While you’d expect this to be the section to drive home some kind of profound significance, I found it rather lacking. They all boil down to a discussion on where their place in the universe is. Batman agrees to train Cassandra, Harper talks about her mother and the diverging paths set before her, and the Robins reaffirm their commitment to fighting the good fight as they leap off a rooftop into the night to fight some unseen evil. (I’ve probably seen this kind of ending hundreds of times. Something new would be nice for a change.)
While I didn’t find any of these ending particularly strong, Harper’s had the least gravitas for me. I simply don’t feel like she went on a journey that generated any kind of meaningful evolution in the character. Sure, she was faced with the option of becoming evil and chose not to succumb to it, but that isn’t evolution. That is staying the same. She is a good person that stayed a good person. Maybe she is stronger for her trials, but no change occurred. The character we met at the beginning is the same one we see here at the end. To drive home just how little she has changed, part of her closing speech from this story (pictured above) is strikingly similar to a section of dialogue she delivered from Batman Eternal. I can see how the rest of the cast couldn’t really be altered extensively. They have a status quo they need to return to so future writers have a familiar springboard to start stories off of. But Harper is a new character that really hasn’t been around long enough to have a concrete blueprint that one needs to adhere to. This is the window in which you get to play with her as a character. So I though this was a seriously missed opportunity to give us something fresh. Instead, the character is already stagnant.
Odds and Ends:
I’ve got nothing pertinent to say about this, other than the fact that I got a laugh out of it.
Got a little captain in you?
- You like over-the-top action sequences with little to no regard for character competency.
- You want to know how Batman&Robin Eternal ends.
- You like formulaic material.
While Batman&Robin Eternal proposed many interesting ideas and had plenty of potential, it ultimately fell to the level of generic storytelling at its finest. At times, the story beats were actually so cliche that you’d swear the creative team was following a checklist of everything they needed to include. When you add to that a general lack of concern for any of the cast, not only is this ending uninspired, but ultimately uninvolving as well.
SCORE: 5 / 10