Batman and Robin Eternal #1. James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder- Story, James Tynion IV- Script, Tony Daniel- Pencils, Sandu Florea- Inks, Tomeu Morey- Colors.
If you read Batman Eternal last year, then you probably have some expectations about Batman and Robin Eternal. Based on this first issue I think it’s safe to say that those expectations will be met. Mystery and the larger Bat-Family are both in play again in addition to a healthy dose of misdirection. The spy genre loves that.
The issue opens in the past- Cairo, Egypt in what appears to be an Egyptian Batman origin. it’s gone as quickly as it’s there and the story transitions to Grayson in the present and Batman(Bruce) and Robin(Dick) in the more recent past. At this point it becomes clear that this story will take place in three different time periods- present, recent past and past. The recent past vignette is wonderfully rendered by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea. Batman even appears leaner and younger than normal as he and Robin sail across the rooftops.
The scenes shifts quickly to the present as Dick Grayson is chasing a lead for Spyral, the spy organization. His backup is an Oracle type, complete with red hair parked in a nearby van. He calls in the former Robins, Jason Todd and Tim Drake for a last minute assist. Bluebird aka Harper Row appears in the next sequence as she’s been cornered by current Bat-Robot Jim Gordon. She uses her skill to evade him and make it back home to her brother, Cullen. The scene switches back to Dick while he does his best Clark Kent undercover impersonation at Gotham State University for the reopening of a building in which he and Bruce had caused mayhem in the recent past. It starts to get weird as Dick recalls that recent past and an early case involving the Scarecrow. As Dick is lost in thought he is approached by a group of kids that break him from his reverie and become threatening almost instantly. There are cries of “Mother” and “Orphan” to intrigue the reader as to the moniker of the person or persons behind the sudden madness. Not surprisingly, Dick escapes the kids and makes his way to the van only to discover that his back up is part of the madness.
Dick manages to escape but unable to contact any members of the Bat-Family. He is surprised when he is taken down by a familiar face to readers- Cassandra Cain. She answers none of his questions except the response of “Mother.” She also gives him a flash drive. He goes back to the cave and is shocked and at what he finds. The book ends in the past back in Cairo revealing the triggerman in the Egyptian Batman origin- Batman, himself.
The focus on Dick Grayson may be the biggest positive for this book, he’s such a relatable character. The use of the larger Bat-Family is a treat because it humanizes the Dark Knight. The mystery itself is presented in an intriguing way, things can’t be what they seem, despite Batman’s clear culpability in the confession he saved on the flash drive. As Batman Eternal told a story that explained why there will always be a Batman, Batman and Robin Eternal seems poised to tell a story that explains why Batman needs a Robin.
There are a lot of characters that an inexperienced reader might have trouble keeping up with. A newcomer to the larger Bat-Family could easily get bogged down in figuring out the sidekicks and some of the backstory that is hinted at throughout the issue, especially with Harper Row. Really, this is all minor.
A great start to this weekly series. Batman and Robin Eternal #1 gives all indications that this will be a must read series like its predecessor, Batman Eternal, and it will utilize the strengths of the weekly format featuring cliffhanger endings and a strong ensemble cast.