Batman and Robin Eternal #21. James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder- Story, James Tynion IV- Script, Tony S. Daniel- Pencils, Sandu Florea- Inks, Tomeu Morey- Colors.
Characters like Batman, Superman and Dick Grayson who have been around for 70 years or more have all gone through many incarnations. But with that, with all the variation, there remains a through line that remains true to the heart of the character. It’s not the same with every character, and it’s not the same with every iteration. Some seem to maintain that through line consistently, others hit it in varying degrees. For me the Batman that feels the most right is comics of the early ‘70’s. O’Neil, Adams, Novick, Brown, Wein- all managed to produce that original dark avenger of the night that first appeared in Detective Comics #27. But with that, they also depicted a man who was whole. Alfred had made sure of that. That is Alfred’s role. He raised Bruce and continues to be that father figure. While it’s true that Batman is the real person and Bruce Wayne the mask, it doesn’t change this. That’s who Alfred raised. No one could go through that and not be changed. No one really knows that like Alfred. To make Bruce a borderline personality diminishes Alfred’s role and his contribution. Bruce, despite the trauma of the death of his parents, grew up to be a whole individual. Not mentally fractured, but rather a man who seriously dressed up as a bat to go out at night and make sure what happened to him NEVER happened to anyone else. Just like Adam Wes on the Batman ’66 TV show. That’s the other through line. If you were a kid and saw that show, it still resonates as Batman. This issue of Batman and Robin Eternal gives the reader that whole Batman. There’s never an inkling that he’s damaged.
This issue makes a lot of things clear- What Batman Knew? How did Mother become Mother? Is she out of the picture? How handsome is Dick Grayson?
What Batman Knew-
Batman got back to Gotham and discovered a Cassandra Cain who was repentant for her actions and who had broken free of Mother’s control. He saw Cassandra deliver Miranda Row’s body for a proper burial as her last act. He envisioned taking in Harper and Cullen Row. But the scenario always ended in Harper discovering the Batcave and him feeling responsible for putting her on the path to being his successor. He looked at school counselor assessments and transcripts and he agreed with Mother’s assessment of Harper as a fitting legacy to the Bat. It was too much. It made him too much like Mother to do it. So he “ensured” that Marcus Row would be as good a Dad as he was capable of being. He also knew that Dick Grayson was trustworthy, and Superman is always a good back-up.
How Did Mother Become Mother?-
In a fictitious European Country during the Cold War, a young girl is indentured to work off her parents’ debts. She ends up as a barmaid. The Russians invade. The country welcomes them. But in the paranoia of the Cold War, a choking soldier is mistaken for a poison victim. The Russian soldiers lay waste to the bar and the town. The young girl watches her parents die at the soldiers’ hands. While Bruce had an Alfred, this girl had no one. She snapped immediately and became a cold hearted killer. It didn’t take long.
In her dementia, she saw her loss as freedom, perhaps because she was indentured. And so this girl saw trauma as the key to adulthood and freedom. I should release anyone. And those she chose would become her children.
How Handsome Dick Grayson is-
Dick finds he person who took in the girl who would become Mother. Mother repaid her kindness with the murder of the girl’s parents. She now runs a bread and breakfast somewhere in Europe. Apparently, Dick looks better than Johnny Depp. And she’s mistaken him for Bruce Wayne.
This issue can be enjoyed by any fan of good comics. It’s that accessible. Maybe the best issue of the series so far. Tony Daniel’s art is particularly welcome in that it is familiar and he’s been associated with Batman for nearly ten years if not more. It fits very well. Just like New Teen Titans #38 featuring “Who Is Donna Troy?” This issue can be enjoyed out of context of Batman and Robin Eternal. But it doesn’t hurt to get the other 20 issues. 41/2.