Think of the Children
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea, Tomeu Morey and Dave Sharp
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: February 24, 2016
The Eternal train keeps chugging along and while this series has been a continuous back and forth between present and past, we have been spending almost all of out time in the here and now lately. While the story has been getting better overall, it is still plagued with the inconsistencies and forced revelations that have driven me nuts for almost five months now, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm still holding out hope that it will finish strong. This issue is what I would consider the beginning of the stretch run and with Tynion and Daniel on board, we go back in the past to tie up a couple loose ends...kind of. Well, was it any good? Let's find out...
The issue opens with a very grim scene...a young Harper Row is holding the dead body of her Mother in her arms as a voice gives us some tell us, not show us narration. I usually scoff at such a thing, but it's really good and it's Batman. If anybody knows what Harper is going through, it's Batman and we finally get to see that he holds himself responsible for the tragedy.
Okay, I have been waiting for this since Harper Row was introduced by Scott Snyder years ago. For Harper fans like myself, this scene, the narration and this whole issue sheds a bright light on Harper and Batman's relationship. In particular, it's a great followup to Batman #18.
We then shift to a full page of action packed goodness showing Batman and Robin getting back to business in Gotham. While they fight the likes of Deadshot and the Penguin, Batman continues the narration and now he is asking himself some pretty tough questions. The big things I took away from all this is that I want a retro Batman and Robin book come Rebirth (please announce it now) and Mother is indeed dead. Batman told me and he only lies to Robins, right?
These questions are eating at Batman and he tells Dick he has to go back to Europe to wrap things up. Tynion does a really good job keeping continuity by having Dick wonder what the heck needs wrapping up, but the best part of the scene is the excitement Dick shows that Batman is leaving him in charge of watching over Gotham. While I chuckled to myself that Batman goes along with it even as he mentions Superman would be keeping an eye on everything as well, having Clark mentioned threw me off a bit in the way it always does in a story like this. I got over it quick enough, though, as Bruce headed off on his European vacation.
While Eastern Europe is beautiful this time of year, we see that Bruce is on a business trip when he finds someone who can begin to answer how Mother could be so damn evil. Yep, out of nowhere, we get a Mother origin story and it's as good as it was unexpected.
I will not spoil anything at all here. I will tell you that Mother had a shitty life that Batman can only sort of compare himself to and it does do a great job explaining why she chose her path in life...kind of. The story is really starting to turn into a study on people's reaction to tragedy with Mother, Harper and Batman being exhibits A, B and C. The scene ends with something that would usually blow my mind, but how things have gone down in this series, I'm going to take a wait and see approach. This is too big to not explain, but I want to see if it's explained satisfactorily.
The rest of the issue shows Batman struggling with what to do with Harper (and Cullen...I'm so glad he isn't left out as usual). While I think Batman should have taken them in, I understand his reasoning and he does go out of his way to give the kids a decent start. Again, what goes on ties nicely into the events of Batman #18 and the issue ends with Batman doing something that we haven't seen much, especially in this series...letting things work out on their own. Tynion does a great job showing how hard it is for Batman to not be prepared for everything.
This is my favorite issue of Eternal in a hell of a long time. While the story doesn't go forward by leaps and bounds, it fills in a whole lot of cracks and sets up things for the remaining issues and beyond. If you are a Harper Row fan, you should love this issue and if you have been slogging through Eternal every week, this issue feels like a bit of a reward. I'll say it now, if the remaining teams can keep up this quality, this series might be saved afterall.
Part of the reason this issue kicks ass is Tony Daniel's art. Boy, I wish he would have been on more issues because everything looks so good. Really, this section of my Eternal reviews has been filled with talk of odd looking faces, characters changing ages and looks within an issue, but not this week. This is the best looking issue of the entire series.
Bits and Pieces:
This is one of the better issues of Eternal and it's not just because we get the heaviest dose of Batman this series has seen yet, but for what it does for the other characters as well. While Mother is far from a sympathetic character, we see what drove her down her dark path and realize that she isn't as different from Batman as we might have believed. The highlight for me, however, was seeing what Batman did (and didn't do) to give Harper her own life and it made so much sense explaining her entire history. Tony Daniel's great art was an awesome icing on the cake and while the overall story didn't move forward much, I enjoyed reading this issue. I can't remember the last time I said that.