Thursday, January 21, 2016

Batman and Robin Eternal #6 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

OK, now we're getting somewhere.

In a flashback, Bruce learns of the existence of Mother at a party, when a social peer, Maxwell, tells him that he bought his wife, Alicia, from the Czech Republic for $40 million.  (Yup.  You read that correctly.)  Mother apparently manufactured perfect brides from orphaned children.  Unbeknownst to Maxwell, she herself orphaned the children "so she [could] take them at their greatest moment of trauma and shape them into playthings for the rich and powerful."  Alicia herself was a girl from London named Gwyneth who saw her parents killed in front of her by a man in a white hood; she disappeared without a trace, later emerging as Alicia.  Unfortunately, Maxwell and Alicia are later killed after a man that seems to be Orphan observed Maxwell telling Bruce this secret.  Beyond just worrying about Mother, Bruce also worries that he's doing the same thing that she did to Dick.  In the present, Dick wonders aloud when Bruce excluded him when it came to Mother; the flashback implies that it was when Bruce worried that Dick himself would be able to make the connection between what Bruce did to him and what Mother was doing to her people.

This prolonged sequence flows beautifully and really advances what we know about Mother.  In fact, we get a glimpse of her for the first time here, as we see her and two other people standing over Gwyneth's body in a flashback.  The only unknown is how it connects to the implication that Bruce seemingly created Orphan, as we saw in issue #1.  Bruce seemed totally unaware of Mother here, but, if Orphan was the one that helped turn Gwyneth into Alicia, he was clearly already in action by that night.

The plot also thickens when it comes to Bruce's connection to Cass.  Dick and Jason discover the training center that Orphan hid under St. Elijah's, where Cass would've been the night that Bruce and Dick almost caught Scarecrow with Orphan (before he escaped to Prague).  Given that Dick knows that Bruce gave Cass the thumb drive, Dick wonders if Bruce knew that the training center was there that night.  Again, everything keeps returning to this question of when Bruce knew about Mother and her operation.  This issue implies that he was ignorant of them until that night when Maxwell told him about Alicia (a few days after the failed Scarecrow confrontation), but his potential connections to Cass and Orphan imply that he knew much sooner.

In the end, Dick decides to head to Prague.  In the past, he thought that he and Bruce went to Prague only to follow Scarecrow, but he now realizes that he needs to discover the case that Bruce really went there to investigate.  Moreover, Jason -- the voice of reason in this issue, as scary as that is -- encourages Dick to bring Cass and Harper.  Dick initially wants to leave them in the dark so that they can't get hurt, but Jason reminds him that it was Bruce cutting out Dick that got them into this mess in the first place.  (Earlier, he even lectured Dick about the need to trust each other, after his attempt to dig into Tim's background.  Our boy, Jason:  holding the family together.  I couldn't be prouder.  Of course, we know Red Robin is an agent of Mother, so he's technically wrong.  But, I don't care.)

Honestly, six issues into this series and I'm a happy camper.  In the first series, the plot holes were obvious by the end of the first issue, and the situation only deteriorated from there.  Here, we have a legitimate mystery on our hands, one that Snyder and Tynion are doing a great job of advancing slowly so that we can wrap our minds around it.  In the meantime, Seeley and Tynion (in this issue) have given us some great moments of characterization, making the family feel like a family again for the first time in a long time.  Plus, we're getting to see Bruce in action as a detective, an unexpected bonus given his present state.  At the start, I found myself happy just because this series didn't suck like "Batman Eternal" did.  Now, I find myself happy because we could be reading one of the best and most epic Batman stories of all time.

**** (four of five stars)

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