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 21 and Grayson 17.
Batman and Robin Eternal 21
Spencer: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder bring us the origin of Mother in Batman and Robin Eternal 21, and by peeling back the layers of this character, continue to paint her as a compelling dark mirror to Batman. It’s notable that, while many of the small details may differ, the two characters essentially have the same origin: they both saw their parents gunned down in front of them as young children, but while Bruce Wayne became the Batman to ensure that no other children would face the same fate, Mother instead embraced the freedom she found in her pain and vowed to use tragedy to shape as many children as possible into “perfect” soldiers like herself.
Why did the two react so differently to similar circumstances? It’s hard to say, although I’d love to hear some of our readers’ thoughts. Perhaps Mother was more eager to escape parents who essentially sold her into slavery while Bruce loved his with all his soul, but on the other hand, perhaps these reactions were simply in their nature all along. Either way, it’s more clear than ever why Bruce was so horrified by Mother’s brand of madness, and that plays directly into his treatment of Harper Row.
It’s a shame Eternal spent so much time teasing Batman killing a child’s parents or one of the Robins being custom made for him by Mother, because the possibility of Batman having failed Harper in the wake of her mother’s murder is a much more compelling mystery, and one with a far more legitimate chance of damaging Batman’s reputation. Bruce’s solution again shows how deeply Mother affected him, but what I appreciate the most is how Tynion ultimately leaves the effectiveness of Bruce’s decision up to the reader. Did he make the right choice? As readers, we should have enough information about Harper’s past and her eventual decision to become Bluebird to come to a conclusion one way or another.
This issue also marks the return of Tony S. Daniel on art after a lengthy absence. I’ll admit that I’m a bit frustrated at the prominence Eternal has given Daniel despite his minimal contributions to the series; the insistence on finding artists with similar aesthetics has robbed the series of some of the artistic variety that was one of the previous volume of Eternal‘s greatest assets. Still, his work this week reminds me why I was so excited to see Daniel attached to this series to begin with; he’s easily one of the best “house style” artists DC has in their roster right now, and it’s astounding how much his work has improved just over the past few years alone.
If Daniel has a weakness is might just be his facial expressions, which can on occasion be a bit wooden and overly grim, but Tynion provides a script perfectly suited to work within those parameters — it’s filled with characters in pain or mourning or filled with steely resolve, and those are emotions Daniel excels at depicting. Still, my greatest surprise this week may just be how Daniel chose to illustrate Robin himself.
Even if his other characters are very grim, sharp, and adult, there’s never any doubt that Dick’s a child, and that he’s a child having fun to boot. That’s the key to Dick Grayson’s charm, so kudos to Daniel for capturing that even in an issue where Robin ended up being a rather small presence.
Mark: As Grayson gets ready to wrap and Dick returns to his job as Nightwing, let’s reflect on what worked in the series and what didn’t. For my money, these later arcs (Grayson framed for murder! Grayson working against Spyral!) never consistently captured the fun and excitement of the initial issues. Partly because, as the world expanded and allegiances were in flux, the added supporting cast started requiring a significant number of pages — pages that used to be dedicated to allowing Grayson be Grayson. That’s all anyone really wants to see.
So, once again, the best part of Grayson 17 is seeing Grayson be a super cool spy and interact with Agent 1. The worst parts involve Grifter and company and the increasingly (needlessly!) convoluted plot surrounding Spyral. Sure, if you’re a Wildstorm fan it’s always nice to see Wildstorm characters show up in non-trivial roles, but the amount of time devoted to furthering a spy plot that it doesn’t seem like anyone is invested in feels like a drag. Especially with the clocking ticking on Grayson the super spy.
You can charitably say that Tim Seeley and Tom King are parodying the stereotypical twists and turns common in the spy genre, but the plot thrust feels so subdued compared to their other parodic takes that I don’t think it’s the case. When Grayson 17 gets to do what Grayson does best, it’s a blast. Hopefully, the remaining issues get out of their own way so Dick Grayson: International Man of Awesome can end on the same high note it began.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?