Written by: Ed Brisson
Art by: Javier Pina, Goran Sudzuka, John Rauch and Corey Breen
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: December 23, 2015
Another week, another Batman and Robin Eternal. Those words don't really show the struggle I'm beginning to have with this weekly book, but read them again in a tired and drained voice and you will begin to understand how I feel. I don't want to get too grandiose, but reviewing this book is beginning to become a Sisyphus situation...each Wednesday, the rock is at the bottom of the hill and the struggle begins again. Only two things can deliver me (and judging from the comments, "us") from this pain...a good issue or the end of the series. I really hope we get the sooner before the later, but I've stopped counting on that. This all leads to this week's issue by Ed Brisson. His issue last week was a marked improvement over what we have been getting for months, but I still couldn't say it was good. At least it was heading in the right direction and I'm grasping for any signs of better days. Did he continue the improvement and actually make this week's rock a pleasure to push up that damn hill? Let's find out...
The issue begins where we left off last week, Dick fighting the Sculptor to show him Batman's connection with Mother. Just like last week, however, the Sculptor is going to reveal to everyone more of what nobody asked for. Great!
We get a Sculptor origin story and while I didn't care if we ever got that, I actually enjoyed it enough. There is nothing shocking here...Mother targeted her because of her telepath ability and David Cain (at this time, still a little boy) killed her parents. Mother, Orphan and the Sculptor...the beginning of a really screwed up family.
Through more flashbacks we are told that David enjoyed giving children their own tragic origin stories and the Sculptor tried to make it a little bit easier for them, though it all comes off a bit too revisionist history for me. We then watch as Mother dishes out and then withholds love all while her "children" are being trained to be the best of the best.
Up to this point, this issue felt like more of the same. I really don't think anyone needs more evidence that Mother is bad...Batman told us this eleven issues ago and nothing has swayed me from that opinion yet. Also, why has Orphan always had those hoses that we can only assume pump Fear Toxin? It bothered me last issue and it's back again this week to make me angry again. At the point that they are showing him, Mother is still using the old method before changing to the Fear Toxin and David was against it when it was first introduced. Maybe this sounds like nitpicking, but it bothers me.
The been there done that feeling fades a little when Sculptor finally moves the story forward by telling Dick that if he stops Mother, he stops all these children's pain and gives him the information to do it. Of course, it's implanted in Dick's head and we don't actually see it ourselves which pissed me off, but I'm happy for the little things right now. Of course, Dick is not going to do anything until he is shown Batman's involvement in all of this. I'm with you, Dick.
What we get is Mother bad mouthing Dick until Batman agrees that he needs a new partner. He agrees to the whole thing and then kicks it up a notch by agreeing to help in the whole "birthing" process. The Dark knight is not one of those "I'm going to go to the bar, call me when it's done" kind of guys. Good for you Batman. Wait, I forgot what all this means...you are horrible, Batman!
I know that everyone has had their panties in a knot since that first issue reveal of Batman with a gun and I cried bullshit then and I'm doing the same now. If all of this works out just as we are seeing it, I'll admit I'm wrong, but when Dick experiences what appears to be another fear toxin induced Batman vision, it surely feels like all this is not what it seems. Is this the new process that Mother is using? Is Sculptor just messing with Dick about everything, including who she really is? While we don't get any real answers yet, I did like the twisting and turning the mystery is suddenly taking.
The vision snaps Dick out of never land and it's off with Harper to go save Cassandra and the other children. If you were hoping that the Sculptor would join them, you're out of luck...I guess. She says she isn't going, her forehead flashes and everything disappears...Sculptor, the mansion, everything. Dick and Harper are left outdoors and I was left wondering what the hell was going on.
The issue ends with a bloody and gruesome cliffhanger that answers one question, but opens up a whole other can of worms. Next issue will mark the halfway point of this series and while I am still not fully on board, this issue along with last week's has gotten everything a little more back on course.
After all those issues of jumping back and forth, Ed Brisson settled in with just Dick and Harper and we got more story out of it. While I wasn't completely thrilled with Cassandra's origin being fully laid out last week, the Sculptor's own origin was a bit better. It also made Cassandra's better in the process because after this issue, I'm not sure what or what not to believe. What does bother me, however, is that we really get nothing about Harper. When they met the Sculptor in the cliffhanger of issue #10, the she teased us by calling Harper a "runaway" and made it seem like we would get some juicy information, but we got nothing. It was just another story thread left unresolved...hopefully just for now.
The art in this issue was pretty standard fare. Javier Pina and Goran Sudzuka do an adequate job and while the art never gets in the way of the story, I can't say it enhances it in any way either. It's just kind of there, minding it's own business, trying not to draw too much attention to itself. What I'm saying is that it's the equivalent of me at a party. Now I'm sad. Damn you, art.
Bits and Pieces:
While this issue didn't do enough to change my overall opinion of this series, I enjoyed it enough not to get angry while reading it. Ed Brisson doesn't give fans the answers we crave, but he twists things enough to make us look at the book in a different, more exciting way. The art is standard fare with nothing to wow the reader, but nothing to offend him either. I have enjoyed Brisson's two issues and while it's going to take a bit more for me to recommend this book again, it's heading in the right direction.