Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 4/2/16
Not a very big week for comics, I’m afraid — unless you count the launch of the Gamer Girl & Vixen Kickstarter today! Gamer Girl & Vixen is my own, self-published comic, and we’re trying to raise money to put out a 100-page graphic novel this year! Click the link and come check out the project. We’re even letting everyone read the first issue for free to see if you’ll like it or not! Any henchies interested in pre-ordering my comic are much appreciated!
In the regular comics world, this was a quiet week with few titles released. But that makes it perfect for the final issue of Batman and Robin Eternal! I’ve been slacking on covering this series, especially since it turned out to be pretty darn good. Batman and Robin Eternal #26 gets Comic Book of the Week!
Join me after the jump for my take on the entire 26-issue series. I rather enjoyed myself.
Comic Reviews: Batman and Robin Eternal #26 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6.
Batman and Robin Eternal #26
Writers: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Artists: Scot Eaton, Carlo Pagulayan, Igor Vitorino, Geraldo Borges
I loved Batman and Robin Eternal. That’s a little shocking, considering I hated Batman Eternal for a laundry list of reasons, yet still endured reading and reviewing every single issue. But I’m a sucker for all things Robin, so I set about reading the new weekly series…and I enjoyed it a great deal! Unfortunately, for reasons that elude me, I fell behind on my reviews and let the issues just pile up on my desk. My bad, everybody. I’ve got no excuse.
But here we are at the end, and I wanted to check back in to let you all know that it was actually really good! Batman and Robin Eternal told one long, cohesive story with a strong plot. It made great use of all its characters. There were no weird, illogical missteps. And it was most definitely about the characters, not the plot.
And this week’s final issue is actually a very nice conclusion! SUPER SPOILERS to follow.
First, let’s get everybody up to speed: Batman and Robin Eternal told the story of the Robins battling a villain named Mother, who took orphan children and turned them into sellable people. Want the perfect trophy wife? Go to Mother. Want some child soldiers? Go to Mother. Bruce Wayne got wind of her activities early in his career, when Dick Grayson was still Robin. He traveled to Europe to investigate and decided to go undercover as Bruce Wayne to learn more about her mysterious operations.
Mother eventually figured out that he was Batman, and she offered to make him a perfect Robin, rather than the somewhat amateur Dick Grayson. Batman decided to play along to find out more (while keeping Dick in the dark). He discovered that Mother used extreme trauma to turn children into blank slates, from which she could mold them into whatever she wanted. Similar to Batman’s trauma, and how he used that to turn himself into Batman.
So Mother sets up an encounter in Cairo where Batman will recreate his childhood trauma for a new child, and then mother will take that child and turn them into a new Robin. Batman has to shoot two parents in front of their child, but since he’s Batman, he fakes it in order to turn the tables on Mother — but it was all a test! The boy and his parents all work for Mother, and she wanted to see if Batman can be trusted. He obviously can’t.
Batman didn’t know it was all a set-up, and he also didn’t know that the mission to find him a new Robin is still underway in Gotham City, while he’s stuck in Cairo. Since Batman can’t be trusted, Mother orders her assassin to go through with the original plans to create a new, traumatized orphan.
And who did Mother target to be her perfect Robin? Harper Row!
So that is Harper Row’s secret origin. Batman went too far undercover, and he couldn’t stop Mother from targeting Harper to be a replacement Robin. But the assassin sent to kill Harper’s parents lost her nerve. She killed Harper’s mom, but couldn’t bring herself to chase down and kill her father.
Once Mother was defeated, Batman decided not to induct Harper or her brother into his crusade. He decided that she should try to live a normal life with her surviving father, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now in the present day, Mother has returned, with a plan to turn all children in the world into her mindless assassins. Dick Grayson, the Robins and the rest of their allies all team up to assault Mother’s compound, shut down her mind control signal and save Harper Row. In Batman and Robin Eternal #26, they do just that. They defeat Mother for good (which Batman wasn’t able to do), free all the children of the world and have a happy ending. And in the end, Harper decides to hang up her Bluebird costume to go to college.
Also, for those interested, we also get a new origin for Cassandra Cain. Her father, David Cain, was Mother’s prize pupil, an assassin codenamed Orphan. Back at the beginning of her work, Mother would use actual life trauma to shape her students, and often used Orphan for her crimes. But then she teamed up with the Scarecrow to use his gas to induce trauma, rather than go through all the trouble of making it personal. David Cain didn’t like this new direction, so he went behind Mother’s back and fathered a child, Cassandra, whom he raised to ‘speak’ body language, like her classic pre-reboot origin. He subjected Cassandra to trauma the old fashioned way, then presented her to Mother when she was ready — only for Mother to largely reject the girl because Orphan went behind her back. Still, Mother put Cassandra to good use, and Cassandra was the assassin who killed Harper’s mother! But Cassandra wasn’t cut out to be an assassin, so she broke away from Mother and her father and joined Batman.
Now, going forward, she will be a member of the Bat-Family, using the codename Orphan.
Also, Azrael was in it too!
Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I loved Batman and Robin Eternal because it was a great, ever-growing story that put the focus on the very concept of Batman taking a sidekick. Why does he do it? What’s the point? What the heck is going on? I was racking my brain on the best way to describe the thesis of this comic, only for noted Batmanologist Chris Sims to nail it over at Comics Alliance:
“Batman exists not to create Batman. He exists to create Robin.”
That’s such a brilliant statement. I am always in awe at how well Sims understands Batman and Robin, to degrees I only wish I could reach. I may want to consider myself a Robin Scholar, but he’s grades above me.
Still, this understanding is the basis for Batman and Robin Eternal: all of these characters are better heroes and better people because Batman was in their lives. No matter how grim and closed off he can be, Batman is proud of every single one of them. He takes on a Robin in order to help them become better people than he could ever hope to be, and through training them, Batman does become a better person. It’s a great thesis for a story like this, and I loved every little moment where the importance of Robin was pushed to the forefront. This was a comic for Robin fans.
It’s good as a regular comic book story, too. The art was pretty crappy through the middle slog, but DC was clearly saving their best for the climax. Everything comes together, both story and art, for a resounding climax. Every character gets their fair share and their moment to shine. Everyone gets a chance to put their mark on their place in the Bat-Family. There were no great retcons that ruined anybody. There were no big surprises written purely to anger fans. This was one big, awesome love letter to just how great and important Robin can be.
My only regret is that it didn’t end with Harper Row becoming the new Robin. Short of sending her to college and introducing Cassandra Cain, the status is pretty much quo by the end. I suppose I can live with that.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Erica Henderson
So I kind of took a break from reviewing Unbeatable Squirrel Girl while it was in the middle of this amazing, but also amazingly complex, time travel story. I kept reading, but it was getting really, really wild, and I wasn’t sure I could properly recap it all. But that’s over and we’re back, baby!
Squirrel Girl and her roommate Nancy are hanging out at home discussing costumes when Howard the Duck climbs up their fire escape and kidnaps Nancy’s pet cat. Squirrel Girl gives chase and finds out that Howard was hired to locate a missing cat, but since all cats look the same to him, he just grabbed the first one he saw. Squirrel Girl agrees to help him out.
They are soon joined by Kraven the Hunter, who promptly kidnaps Howard the Duck. Squirrel Girl tracks him back to the Upstate New York mansion of Ms. Shannon Sugarbaker. As a bored rich person, she wants to hunt the most dangerous game: man. But since that’s illegal, she’s going to settle for hunting anthropomorphic animals. She’s already kidnapped Beast of the X-Men, Rocket Raccoon, the aforementioned missing cat, and now she adds Howard the Duck, Squirrel Girl and Kraven the Hunter to her hunt!
Comic Rating: 9/10 – Great.
Yep, still the funniest comic on the stands. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl hasn’t lost an inch of its cracklingly good wit. Almost every line or dialogue exchange is just so much fun! Sometimes they’re straight jokes, sometimes they’re bits, and sometimes they’re just the characters acting like normal people, and it’s all gold. I love reading this comic. Every new page is so much fun, and it always goes in directions I could never predict.
One thing I especially like about this comic is that Squirrel Girl is probably also the nicest superhero in comics. She doesn’t go straight to the punching. Violence is never the first recourse. She’s all about being a people person, such as her scenes with Kraven the Hunter.
I love that! I love that Doreen talks to her villains and treats them like real people first and foremost. It’s a wonderfully adorable and perfect way to tackle this character and this comic. North is writing something special here. The story seems like it will be fun. It’s that very special, out there sort of thing that North excels at creating. And there’s going to be a crossover with Howard the Duck! I keep meaning to read that comic.
The comics I review in my Hench-Sized reviews are just the usual comics I pick up from my local shop any given week, along with a few impulse buys I might try on a whim. So if there are any comics or series you’d like me to review each week, let me know in the comments!
Posted on April 2, 2016, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged Batman and Robin, Batman and Robin Eternal, Damian Wayne, Dick Grayson, Harper Row, Howard the Duck, Jason Todd, Squirrel Girl, Tim Drake, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.