“Batman and Robin Eternal” #13 is the halfway point for this weekly series, and the book has made some real progress. Here, it feels like James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder and Marcio Takara conclude Cassandra Cain’s origin story, even as more dangers and mysteries still lurk ahead.
Tynion takes the scripting helm this week, which makes sense; as one of the two architects of the series, he takes responsibility for the shift into the second half of the story. We get to see more of Cassandra’s early life as she interacts with Mother, David Cain and the Sculptor, all of whom provide formative but different influences. Most importantly, Batman gives Cassandra her own mission shortly before his recent tangle with the Joker, one that kicked “Batman and Robin Eternal” into motion. Tynion also gives us a good explanation for the chilling image that wrapped up last week’s issue; it firmly places Cassandra on the side of good, even as the grim nature of what we saw is not underplayed.
The one character who’s still a little bit of an enigma is David Cain; at the moment, all we’re really getting from him is a combination of “evil for evil’s sake” and being Mother’s lapdog. Presumably, he’ll be a recurring foe down the line as Cassandra Cain’s story continues, and hopefully we’ll get a bit more about him, but — for the moment — there’s not much fear connected to the character whenever he shows up.
Takara and Dean White do a good job with the art. They handle the gruesome nature of the massacre in a way that doesn’t disguise the sheer amount of death that’s occurred, even as they use shadow to keep it from being revolting. (If anything, Cassandra’s injuries from trying to slow her plunge into the pit in that same scene end up being the most graphic moment.) I love some of the little touches here, like the old-school photograph edges on the panels that are flashbacks to Cassandra’s time at the Nursery. The two depictions of Mother here are also good; they’re both distinctly the same person, but look at how caring and welcoming she is when dealing with the children in the flashback, versus her menacing and gleeful turn over an impending death in the present day. Mother has been best when used sparingly, because it makes the little moments — like this hold — that much more of a punch.
There’s still a lot to unravel in the second half of “Batman and Robin Eternal,” but this feels like a satisfying way to close out both the first half of the series. While a little more narrower in focus than “Batman Eternal,” we’re still getting enough bang for our buck in “Batman and Robin Eternal.” I’ll be back with the New Year.