Batman and Robin Eternal #11. James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder- Story, Ed Brisson- Script, Fernando Blanco with Christian Duce- Artists, John Rauch- Colors.
I think we’ve all heard the cliché of a “hard-hitting story.” I would posit that with Batman and Robin Eternal #11 there are a number of hard hits. This issue reveals a lot about Cassandra Cain and while she’s not got the same backstory of her pre-Flashpoint counterpart, she certainly has ended up in a very similar place with some of the same demons. We also learn about her father David, and the mysterious Orphan, as well as the role of last issue’s last page surprise- The Sculptor. If that’s not enough, we are again teased with the possibility of Batman’s wrong doing in the past. Yup, that’s a lot. Ow. It hits hard.
Despite the amount revealed in this issue, it certainly has a smaller scope and it gets right into the center of the characters. There’s even a desperation that Dick exhibits in the wrap up that reveals a lot about him and the depth of his relationship with Batman.
The Present- Dick, Harper and the Sculptor on Mudge Island, B.C.-
It doesn’t take long for Dick to determine that the Sculptor is a telepath and that she’s read Harper’s mind. The Sculptor confirms this and is quite free about revealing her own secret- she works for Mother and she’s concerned that Mother is out to kill all her “children.” The Scuptor has a terrifying story to tell Dick and Harper to help them find David Cain, Cassandra’s father. It involves a mind meld. Harper ends up “seeing” the past events in her head. And what she sees contains a number of those hard hits.
The Past- Harper and Sculptor watching Cassandra and Orphan-
Cassandra turns out to be a special project of Orphan’s that Mother doesn’t know about. He’s trained her in the old ways, eschewing the Scarecrow’s fear toxin as a means of desensitizing the subject to violence and death and exposing him or her to the real thing. It’s brutal, chalk up another hard hit. It becomes apparent that Cassandra has become Orphan’s perfect pupil and is excelling at doling out the punishment to every opponent Orphan throws at her.
Spoiler– Orphan is…
…David Cain, Cassandra’s father. And it turns out that he was Mother’s favorite.
The Wrap Up-
The past comes right into the present as the elements of this issue come together. As Harper is viewing the past with the Sculptor, she comes upon Batman and Mother having their conversation we saw last issue. Batman is willing to hear Mother’s proposition for developing the perfect heir to the Bat. As Harper is speaking about what she’s seeing, Dick seizes her upon hearing Batman’s name. Harper is jerked out of her trance and explains as best she could. Dick demands that the Sculptor take him in next to see what he interrupted despite knowing that with his Spyral hypnos, he could very well be giving them both a death sentence.
This moment is particularly telling. Dick’s urgency upon hearing Batman’s name really indicates how important Batman is to him. It ties directly into the main theme of this series- the relationship between Batman and Dick, the other Robins and the very concept of Robin. One final hit. This issue is excellent, 4 ½ please.