Cameo by Batman!
Not to be crude, but when last viewed, Cassandra was screwed, Mother came unglued, and our heroes barely subdued Mother's brood (she's so rude!), but the story concludes and the villain's subdued, and with allies accrued, Batman's a popular dude! All this includes a confidence that's renewed and I'm in the mood for the grand finale of DC's second weekly Batman comic, Batman & Robin Eternal. Harper makes her (pretty predictable) decision on Mother's offer, Azrael actually does something that contributes to the plot, the Robins reunite to show the melevolent matriarch she doesn't know shit about Robins, Cassandra becomes an orphan, and Batman returns (not to be mistaken for the movie Batman Returns directed by Tim Burton)! There's a lot to say, so let's get started!
What happened to the implication that Harper's mother was important person in Gotham, by the way?
Obviously, Harper Row, the teen superhero also known as Bluebird, has been a huge part of this weekly series. Some would argue, as it was a weekly dedicated to celebrating Robin, too much of it. After all, Harper, a fairly new character, has never once been a Robin, has never really been Batman's partner, and is certainly not who the book should have been about if it was truly a celebration of Robin. I agree with this assesment, but I also rather enjoy Harper, and I feel like she gets a bum rap in the Batman fandom because they feel she's stolen the thunder of several characters, not the least being Damian Wayne, but also Stephanie Brown, who in the old continuity was besties with Cassandra Cain. This continuity has favored Harper in terms of both representation and relationship with Cassie. Maybe it's because I wasn't that huge a Stephanie Brown fan to begin with (in fact, I mostly hated her), and even though I'm a Cass fan, never really thought much of their friendship, that I rather enjoy the dyanamic between Harper and Cassie, and much prefer it to Stephanie and Cassie.
"You're mai waifu." "W-w-w..." "Yes, Cass?" "Fuckin' weeb."
So what does Batman & Eternal do with Harper, besides monopolize? Well, we discovered that her mother was killed by Cassandra under the orders of Mother as a backup to Batman betraying her confidence. Casssandra immediately regretted this action and couldn't kill anyone else (this was her first kill). We learned that Harper's father ran off and Batman had to convince him to give even the most meager of shits about his children. We also learned that Mother had chosen Harper to be Batman's "perfect Robin" (but let's be fair, she's crazy). So when faced with Batman's terrible blunder that cost her mother's life, Harper seems like she may choose to side with Mother and kill Cass, right? Well, no, if Mother had actually paid attention to who Harper actually was rather than her circumstances, she'd have known as the reader did, that when it came down to it, she's a good seed. Watching Harper pummel Mother's sanctamoneous face was indeed satisfying, if a little overdone.
"Mommy, wow! I'm a big kid now!"
Somehow i get the feeling that even the writers knew Harper overload was starting to irritate the fanbase, because in the final pages, she gives the returned Batman the news that she'll be attending college, and might be too busy to play dressup and fight bad guys for a while (though we'll probably see her in 'Tec, given the descriptions I've read of Tynion's plans). It's a decent character arc for Harper, to really put the convictions of her and the things her mother taught her to the test even to show sympathy and friendship to one who robbed her of that mother. I'm not sure it needed so much space, but I enjoy Harper as a character. She''s eager to help Batman, despite himself, admiring him and what he does, but acknowledging his imperfections and respecting him regardless. She's determined, sassy, maybe a bit moody, but not withdrawn or overly sullen. And I wouldn't mind seeing more of her.
"Just, uh... avoid going to /co/ on 4chan or the CBR forums."
Then we have Cassandra Cain. For those of you unfamiliar with the character, in the previous continuity, she was introduced in the No Man's Land storyline as a gopher for Oracle (Barbara Gordon) who eventually became the new Batgirl, who she stayed for over a decade, with her own comic series. She was MY Batgirl, the Batgirl I grew up reading about, a master of martial arts trained by her assassin father, but forsaking killing and joining Batman's family. Her circumstances in this weekly are only a little bit different, the same basic beats, with a little different tuning, and I'm really pleased to see her. A lot of people are annoyed that she's basically been completely rebooted to how she was at her debut, however. While I'd much rather her be Batgirl again at some point, and taking her father's identity as "Orphan" at the end was a little eyerolling, she's essentially the same person, socially awkward, but somehow very perceptive of social interaction between other people, and hungry for interaction, even if she's not very good at it. Yeah, calling her Orphan is kind of lame, but it's no worse than her "Black Bat" identity (when she gave the mantle of Batgirl to Steph). She's already a better character than Stephanie, but that's like old times, too!
If Steph improves as a character, I wouldn't mind a One True Trio.
There's a few pages in this issue that bring up an interesting point. Dick, Jason, Tim, and Damian all take on Mother in combat, and she's surprisingly pretty good at holding them off. She gives her usual spiel about how the weak and forgotten children of the world who've been abused and/or discarded could use her guidance to become more, and says that they (the Robins) are likewise wasting their potential. Dick counters that Batman saw that they could become better than him in that their lives didn't have to be defined by their traumas the way Batman's is, and that she never really understood Batman or Robin. This is, I think, the lynchpin of the entire main theme of this series, and it's a very good, well made point as it stands, but is also sadly buried for much of the series, because the weekly really tries to juggle too many balls in the air.
"And the writers don't understand pacing."
"You don't understand Batman. You don't understand Robin."
The writers have, at least in the abstract, shown that they understand the importance of Robin, and in some cases, even the essence of individual Robins. However, despite this, Batman & Robin Eternal fails as a celebration of the dynamic of "Batman and Robin" for the sheer lack of actual Batman and Robin panel time and an obsession with Harper Row. Like I said, I love the Harper stuff. I love the Cassandra stuff. But if it's to come at the cost of the very stated point of the series, it does make a lot of what this finale tries to accomplish seem a little limp, an afterthought. The worse thing about this weekly is that while it mostly succeeded at individual elements, it didn't quite bring them together even as well as the previous weekly. Heck, the currently serving, acting Robin was barely even in it, and say what you will about Damian, he's ROBIN.
So the biggest problem with this weekly has been either a lack of focus or perhaps a misfocus, even if we got a lot of good material out of that. Honestly, some of the least interesting parts of the series were the parts with two of the Robins, Tim and Jason. I think it was because the writers wanted to reintroduce Azrael in this, too. Between Harper and Cassandra and Azrael, it just seems like the writers are pandering rather than developing at times, and so you keep waiting for the plot to move forward while more of the playable characters become available on the character menu.
Many elements of this series were varied. The storytelling was varied, the pacing was varied (mostly iffy), the artwork was varied, and the focus was varied. And while this was an exciting, fitting conclusion, overall, Batman & Robin Eternal was just kind of average. If I were to collect the trades, it would be mostly for the Harper and Cassie interactions. I think DC, especially this stable of writers, could have done a better job celebrating Robin. Hopefully, Tynion will improve in his Detective Comics run.
Yeah... but make room for me. Also, rub each other.
- Penguin Truth
Story: James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder
Script: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Scot Eaton, Carlo Pagulayan, Igor Vitorino, Geraldo Borges
Inks: Wayne Faucher, Jason Paz, Marc Deering, Geraldo Borges
Coloring: Allen Passalaqua and Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering By: Marilyn Patrizio
Cover: Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey
Editor: Chris Conroy
Asst. Editor: Dave Wielgosz
Group Editor: Mark Doyle
Batman Created By Bob K--wait...