Batman and Robin Eternal #20. James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder- Story, Tim Seeley- Script, Roge Antonio & Geraldo Borges- Artists, Allen Passalaqua- Colors.
About two years ago, Dick Grayson died in the pages of Forever Evil. His death didn’t last the end of the issue, as it was a gambit run by Lex Luthor in which he brought him back to life almost immediately killing him. However, it did turn out to be a major turning point in the life of Dick Grayson. To the population of the DC Universe, he died and his identity as Nightwing and the original Robin was exposed. So Dick, every able to change and remain pertinent did just that as he joined Spyral and became a secret agent. Sidekick, Super-Hero, team leader to secret agent- so what comes next? This issue of Batman and Robin Eternal suggests a possible future for Grayson and his exit strategy from Spyral, oddly enough engineered by Helena Bertinelli his boss and current antagonist in Grayson.
Like last issue, we are in the present and everyone is gathered together at St. Hadrian’s School for Girls and the action picks up right where it left off. The pace is a bit frenetic, but that’s good, because the stakes are pretty high for our group as nearly all the teen-assassins are under Mother’s control and on the way to overrunning the place. Additionally, Orphan and Poppy Ashemore, Mother’s mole in Spyral have their own game going.
Tim and Dr. Netz make it down to the generators though not without some difficulty. Dick, Helena, and Jason watch Harper under control of the Fear Gas and armed with the knowledge that Cassandra was responsible for her mother’s death try to kill Cassandra. It all starts to go sideways for the team, despite the fact that Tim and Dr. Netz are able to shut down the power to the school. This frees the students from Mother’s control, but it turns out that it’s only part of the problem. Poppy and Orphan have Dick and Helena cornered respectively. They make their moves and through some sort of techno-palm-tattoo are able to get the Somnus codes from their Hypno implants.
After Orphan and Poppy get away with Cass and Harper Helena confesses the reason Spyral had a global Hypno project. Helena figured- well, best not to spoil it…. But it certainly opens up the door for Dick to go forward or backwards in his career path. Late to the party, Damian appears on the last page scaring the St. Hadrian students. I suppose it’s really his friend that scares the girls, though.
Coming off last issue knowing what was at stake, it was really good that this issue was quickly paced. It helped intensify the anxiety of the characters in the issue. Losing Harper and Cass to Orphan was an interesting development. It lets the reader know that Mother’s plan includes them for something most likely dastardly. The end between Dick and Helena was a nice break for the two. It really showed that there is something greater at work between the two and Dick’s entire time at Spyral. There’s no shortage of excitement and the threat of Mother’s plan continues to be significantly large to warrant the Bat-family’s full attention.
Without giving away too much, I found the Somnus device to be a bit of a deus ex machina for Dick. While something along these lines was of course discussed after the events of Forever Evil, it seemed like Grayson was chugging along at such a high quality that there would be no need to do something along these lines. It’s possible that this was something in the plans all along, but it seems a bit odd for Dick Grayson. Out of all the iconic characters in comics, he’s the one that has never gone backwards, only forward. Even in the New 52 relauch nearly 5 years ago, Dick didn’t go backwards. While they seem to be in the same family as Spyral’s Hypnos, the techo-palm-tatoos were just weird. I’m still not sure what they are supposed to be.
Another satisfying issue of Batman and Robin Eternal. With only a few issues left, it is nice to see surprises and excitement still coming strong. It would be very easy for this series to seem fatiguing at this point, “let’s get it over with already!” We are not there yet though. There are a number of pieces to the puzzle yet to be discovered.