I haven’t written up a Batman & Robin Eternal issue before this one, but I HAVE been reading them, and I just feel like I need to talk through this a little bit, maybe that will help make more sense of things… This book has varied greatly in quality from issue to issue, and I am not really sure yet if this book is great or just mediocre.
We open the issue with Jason and Tim confronted by Azrael, who is a welcome sight for me- I love Azrael, and I think that his appearance in this book is quite visually stunning. Bane is around for a moment, wearing his Venom delivery system mask, even though he claims to be off the juice- another moment where I ask myself “where is the editorial team in moments like this???”. We also see Jason busting out the HIGHLY uncommon alternate spelling with a Z in “Skillz” while speaking- just to drive home his geeky L33T-speak by saying Tim has “Nerd Skillz” (just a bit of behind the scenes- I actually typed “Skills” instead of “Skillz” BOTH times I meant to type the Z in, it is just THAT awkward to execute).
Azrael then cuts Bane’s non-Venom pipes pumping him full of- what, kale juice? His own homemade Ecto Cooler? It is obviously meant to be Venom, even though beardy maskless Bane said he was clean and sober JUST LAST ISSUE. The moment when Azrael laid hands on Bane’s head and made him “see the light” was something that was a bit odd to me, but it made sense since he claims to be sent by God himself.
Then comes the scene that baffles me the most- apparently Jason is useless without guns, even though he has wicked sharp forearm knives that shoot out on call, when he runs out of bullets, Tim has to switch places with him at some secret church computer terminal to do some floppy-disc, 90’s-era B-movie level hacking, which is dictated to Jason by Tim… Because, GET THIS- Jason cannot fight without guns, but Tim can LITERALLY teach Jason how to hack (and more to the point physically navigate) a computer, ALL while fighting off hordes of crazy Jordie Laforge-cosplaying monks with laser pendants.
Then we get flashbacks of Dick and Batman in Prague’s Batcave arguing with one another while bleeding, which felt a bit off. Then we get Bruce meeting Mother, and them talking more, but we get no closer to any real action between them, or any more details regarding the reveal from issue one. Then we flash FORWARD back to the current timeline where Tim has Azrael do his “laying on of hands” trick and shoot his face full of LSD, or whatever it is that he uses to make people “see God”. That page was the best part of the whole issue, in my opinion- the artwork reminded me of the trippy, outer space vibe I got from Southern Cross from Image.
Another bothersome moment was just before Tim got his drug trip laid on him, he knocks Azrael (now officially revealed to be Jean-Paul Valley; not that it does much good, he is a man without a past based on their frantic tag-team google search from earlier in the issue) in the head and takes his helmet off. Without his helmet- we see Jean-Paul rocking a manbun, and having the sides of his head shaved; this is no major crime, so I let it pass, sometimes you have to look trendy when you’re on a secluded island of some major criminal cult thing, and you just cant help yourself. No, what bothered me is that on the next page, after laying his hand on Tim, and while still grasping Tim’s whole face in his hand- Jason (you remember Jason, right? The guy who is LITERALLY incapable of defending himself without a gun) gives Azrael a one-punch knockout. BUT, not before we see Jean-Paul’s maskless face look like some gawky teenager being yelled at by his dad for not taking out the trash.
Then, the Shark Repellent makes another appearance, and Bluebird making old jokes at Dick Grayson (which is a nice change of pace from only ever referencing his butt, I will admit) and then we see Dick and Bluebird making their way into some crazy island house in British Columbia, on an island called Mudge Island (which sounds made up, if you ask me) where we get some pretty big bombs dropped as to the identity of just which sidekick Batman had Mother craft for him.
This issue just felt like a bit of a mess, and it really jumped all over the place. I liked the way the book looked, but I just feel like sometimes the writing teams forget just how to handle these different characters. Tim and Jason feel like they are absolutely two different characters from who they actually are, and even Dick Grayson feels a bit flat. I don’t know if it’s just the way that Batman is behaving because of his situation with Mother, or if HE is being purposely misrepresented as kind of an All-Star Batman & Robin level jerk on purpose.
After ten issues I feel like I am no closer to getting answers from the reveal in issue one than I was the moment I read it- and I feel like there are more and more questions being asked- chief among them being “where is the editorial staff on these books?”. With books from Marvel having multiple grammatical errors, and the supposed “iron will” of editors being able to block entire STORIES from getting published (to the point creators walk off books) why is there not an editor who has the sole purpose of making this book flow properly and feel like a logically written and cohesive story told by the same people, not a disjointed and jumbled mess that is slapped together and tossed into the printers each week?
Maybe I am being too critical, and not giving this book it’s due- and maybe I am not being hard enough, only time will tell. With this book ending after issue 30 (or so I gathered from the March DC solicits for those issues talking about the end of the book) we are through the first act already- and if there is a long enough intermission for this coco banana bonkers ballet, I may slip out for a smoke and not come back…