With the success of the weekly “Batman Eternal” comic, a follow-up was almost inevitable. “Batman and Robin Eternal” #1 hit stores this week and, while it’s easy to draw some basic similarities between it and its predecessor, James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea do their best to show us the differences between then and now.
The biggest shift between “Batman Eternal” and “Batman and Robin Eternal” #1 is reflected in the title of the comic. With Bruce Wayne’s memories gone and the character no longer Batman, it’s a flock of birds who take the stage: the first three Robins (Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake) as well as a Bluebird (Harper Row). Following Dick’s recent interaction with Jason and Tim in “Grayson” #12, that issue falls much more into context here, with the trio teaming up on one of Dick’s missions for Spyral. It’s a pleasant opening, one that quickly reestablishes the roles of all four characters as well as shows us the new Batman, a reminder of Bruce’s current status. The exposition is rapid but effective and never feels like the reader’s being lectured.
Just as “Batman Eternal” was a series that proved to be a game-changer, so “Batman and Robin Eternal” #1 promises to do the same. There’s a character from pre-“Flashpoint” DC Comics who makes a long-awaited return to the Batman family here, even as painful truths about the potential nature of the Robins are revealed. While the end-of-issue reveal may well be a fake-out (similar to Jim Gordon’s deadly mistake at the start of “Batman Eternal”), it’s still promising to jumpstart a new series of revelations with a deadly villain known only as Mother, her assistant Orphan and the promise that even one’s closest allies can be flipped over to serving Mother at a moment’s notice. Tynion and Snyder’s story works well to kick off the series; there’s enough plot for readers to sink their teeth into, the characterization is strong and this opening chapter is full of so many possibilities it feels like anything can happen as the series moves forward. It’s a good, strong place in which to set that initial marker of quality.
Daniel and Florea kick off the book’s visuals, and that’s a smart choice considering how much Daniel has been connected with these characters in recent years. The art is big, brash and eye-catching. Panels are often crammed with detail, but it’s to Daniel’s credit that he also knows when to let the page breathe. When Dick takes off using one of Tim’s spare grappling guns, the void between the two buildings looks great as Dick soars through the air; we still get the architecture of the structures, but the focus is ultimately on Dick and the coils of cord that whip through the air.
There are some strong facial expressions in the art, too. I love Harper’s pout when Batman uncovers her, the perfect counterpoint to the “crap” comment. Similarly, the uncomfortable looks on Batman and Robin’s faces when they realize what the Scarecrow is up to in the flashback sets up a good sense of foreboding; it’s the perfect mini-cliffhanger before turning the page and seeing the silhouettes of Scarecrow’s army with all of their heads in a row. That said, there is the occasional moment where the art feels like it’s not quite hitting the mark. When Dick is confronted by the new army of students in the two pages following the flashbacks, not only does Daniel miss an opportunity to use that same (and effective) lineup as an echo back to the earlier incident, but — by focusing on legs and not showing their heads — the scenes comes across as a jumble. This new army of children could be a very creepy moment, but the modern-day iteration just doesn’t quite scare the way it could.
All in all, though, “Batman and Robin Eternal” #1 is off to a good start. The re-introduction of an old face teases us with just enough information to make old fans cheer and new fans intrigued, and the notion that anyone and everyone can be an enemy provides an instant sense of danger to the proceedings. Lightning doesn’t often strike twice but, so far, this new weekly series seems to be doing its best to keep the “Batman Eternal”-level of quality alive and well. “Batman and Robin Eternal” #1 is off to a strong start thanks to Tynion, Snyder, Daniel and Florea, and readers will be glad they only have to wait one week for the next issue.