Batman and Robin Eternal #1
Story by James Tynion and Scott Snyder
Script by James Tynion
Pencils by Tony Daniel
Inks by Sandu Florea
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
The relationship between Batman and his various Robins has always been a problematic one. There is something off about a wealthy, not-right-in-the head man, who saw his parents gunned down in front of his face choosing to train a young boy to be a soldier against criminals and supervillains. But there is also something nostalgic and heartwarming about Batman and a young Robin teaming up to take down the bad guys that fans of all eras can connect to from Adam West and Burt Ward in the campy 1966 Batman TV show to Batman and the intelligent Tim Drake in the 1990s cartoons and comics and even more recently with the father/son squabbles between Batman and Damian Wayne. After a mysterious, darkly atmospheric opening page from artists Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea, Batman and Robin Eternal #1 leads off with this feeling as Batman and a young Dick Grayson Robin leap into action in a vertical spread bathed in light with upbeat narrative captions from scripter James Tynion. However, as the issue progresses, the level of danger increases, and the relationship between Batman and his Robins starts to reveal something readers won’t expect about both Batman and Dick Grayson, who is no longer the smiling, impressionable Robin nor the high flying adventurer Nightwing, but a super spy for the shady organization Spyral.
Coming off a writing/drawing stint on the action heavy Deathstroke, artist Tony Daniel is the equivalent of The Raid‘s Gareth Evans in DC’s artistic stable. His action sequences are page shattering as he switches angles with ease to let readers feel the visceral thrills of a motorcyle chase or Red Hood crashing through a window or Dick Grayson getting outmatched in hand to hand combat by the long absent, but never forgotten Cassandra Cain. However, as evidenced by his creation of the life-scarring Dollmaker (who has appeared in both Gotham and Arrow), Daniel is skilled at adding some creepiness around the edges of his kung fu/gun toting/extreme hacking sequences. The terror comes in one simple close-up of a young boy’s eyes that are colored in an unnatural brown tone by Tomeu Morey as a pleasant, wistful flashback of Dick’s time as Robin turns into a scene from a possession horror film. The possession genre informs the plot from here on out as Tynion and Snyder reveal that this isn’t just your usual Bat-family conspiracy mystery team-up.
James Tynion’s script matches the energy of Daniel’s pencils beginning with his reintroduction of the various Robins in the cold open. Dick is witty, charming, and on-task while Jason Todd comes in guns literally a-blazing. He is still out to prove himself as the bad boy with the well-timed zinger, “The new Batman is a dick. No offense to Dicks.” And Tim Drake is still the teenage genius, who is multiple moves ahead of his peers and not afraid to flaunt his intelligence. The main arc of Batman and Robin Eternal #1 focuses on Dick Grayson being confronted with a chilling secret from his and Batman’s past adventures (This is revealed in a harrowing full page cliffhanger ending from Daniel and Florea.) However, Tynion doesn’t neglect his subplots, and Harper Row (codename Bluebird) gets the most amusing one as she comes into conflict with the new Batman. There is plenty of humor in her verbal and physical sparring between Gordon and Harper, including one line that gives “In a cave with a box of scraps” from Iron Man a run for its money. But Tynion tempers this with some tension between her and Stephanie Brown, who is absent in this issue, and the fact that Harper has no one to train her into a crime fighter now that Bruce Wayne is an amnesiac, and the new Batman is supposed to be clearing the street of other vigilantes. So, there is a dream dashing element in her story as well.
Batman and Robin Eternal #1 is a genre spanning (superhero and possession horror), kick in the pants start to this weekly comic event. Scott Snyder and James Tynion set up a creepy, overarching storyline for the series by exploring the tragic side of being a Robin. (They don’t usually get out alive.) Artists Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea use speed lines, little circles, and every tool in the action cartoonist’s toolbox to give the comic a hyperactive feel as the various Robins swing, kick, and ride into action while wisely utilizing full page spreads for surprise reveals that burst the nostalgia bubble of “Batman and Robin forever”. By the end of Batman and Robin Eternal #1, readers will see the relationship between the Caped Crusader and his various sidekicks in a new, complicated light.