How many Batman books is too many Batman books? Depending on who you ask there ain’t no such thing! We try to stay up on what’s going on at DC, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Batman and Robin Eternal 18, Batgirl 48, and Batman Europa 4.
Batman and Robin Eternal 18
Spencer: So, Batman and Robin Eternal 18 finally confirms what most readers figured out four or five issues ago — Cassandra Cain killed Harper Row’s mother. It’s a fantastic twist unfortunately hampered by how long the Eternal bullpen danced around it before finally committing to the reveal. I think the bullpen — with Ed Brisson taking scripting duties this week — realized that, hence dropping the information a bit unceremoniously in the middle of the issue instead of milking it for a cliffhanger. Fortunately, this approach works, allowing the rest of the issue to explore not only Harper’s reaction to the news, but the circumstances behind the kill.
Last week Michael criticized the writing bullpen’s half-hearted attempt at convincing readers that Batman had committed murder, but this week Brisson finds a much more compelling way to test the audience’s faith in the Dark Knight by allowing us to question the way he handled his “responsibilities” to Harper. If nothing else, this certainly makes Harper’s earliest appearances — and especially the way Batman pushed her away in them — fascinating to revisit. Batman and Robin Eternal 18 isn’t exactly the most skillful issue of the series, yet it still manages to set up not one, not two, but three distinct and interesting threads for the next issue to tackle (Ichthys infecting the Hadrian kids, Cassandra and Batman’s role in Harper’s backstory, and Harper’s reaction to this news). Here’s hoping the series’ final six issues can cash in on that momentum and deliver a killer conclusion.
(Also, let’s start a poll. Who’s got the worst father: Cassandra, Harper, or Spoiler? These poor Gotham girls’ve got it rough.)
Mark: This is a fun issue, with Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher giving a little love to Batwing, the reunion of Batgirl and Black Canary, and the reveal of Bab’s nightmare man/source of her memory loss to be none other than Greg (!!! It’s a very Scooby Doo moment).
But the thing that struck me most in the entire issue is the panel of Batgirl and Batwing crashing through the roof of Super Arcadium in order to foil Player 1 and Player 2.
Obviously this is just a comic book, and such entrances are forgiven purely because they are dramatic and look cool, but for some reason my mind keeps wandering to why the Bats couldn’t use a less destructive means of entering. And who exactly pays for all of the broken sky lights and roofs in Gotham? Is it just considered acceptable collateral damage by the Bat Family, the price of preventing crime? Can the business owners file an insurance claim? Is Batgirl considered an Act of God, legally speaking? Or does Bruce Wayne have a fund dedicated to repairing broken windows in Gotham, under the guise of a James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling-like Broken Windows Theory?
It’s basically a war zone, so re-construction projects must be ongoing. So, if nothing else, even in bad times architects, engineers, and construction crews are gainfully employed. But at what opportunity cost? The mind reels at the possibilities of a long-term economic study of Gotham.
Batman Europa 4
Drew: We’re often suspicious of symbols in stories that seem too obvious — they pull us out of the narrative, forcing us to consider how contrived the symbolism is. Oddly, we tend to ignore that symbolism when it occurs in our real lives with the same intentionality. I’ve never heard anyone remark how odd it is that our President lives in neoclassical house, or that every gothic cathedral in the united states was built centuries after the gothic period ended. Indeed, the power of architecture is very much tied up in the history of classical Greek and Roman cultures, as well as that of the Catholic church. No place displays the symbolic power of those architectures more potently than Rome, yet even there, it doesn’t feel contrived; that’s just the way Rome looks. Setting the final chapter of Batman Europa in rome, then, allows writers Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello to cash in on that symbolism without smacking of contrivance.
Or, at least, the contrivance is clever enough to justify itself. The reveal of who was behind the Colossus virus isn’t nearly as important as the antidote: Batman and Joker are each other’s cure. Their mutually assured life or death highlights the eternal nature of their struggle, underscored by the reminder that this battle is taking place in the eternal city. Casali and Azzarello dramatize Batman’s decision to live (and let Joker live), but the point is less about this particular instance, and more about the abstract idea of Batman and Joker, and whether one can live without the other. The result is the kind of timeless parable that makes for an ideal trade collection — a neoclassic Batman story.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?