Is Batman a good mentor? A positive role model who shapes and molds his young partners in the noble profession of crime-fighter?
Or does he use them? Does Batman find talented youths and exploit them in his relentless pursuit of justice? Are they anything more than added tools in his belt?
It's a provocative question, and this isn't the first time it's been asked. However, Batman & Robin Eternal is making a pretty compelling case for Batman being a user. This seems to be the central theme running through this weekly series, which stars almost every sidekick ever to work with the Bat (Bruce Wayne himself is busy not remembering how to be Batman. Long story).
In a literal sense, it's kind of odd that Batman & Robin Eternal is considered a follow-up to last year's Batman Eternal, because the book is really about Robin. His relationship with Batman is central to it, but it's not a book about the adventures of the dynamic duo.
So, what is that relationship? It's been different for each one, but it always ends the same way: with a new crime-fighter on the game board. Nobody's complaining; if anything, Batman's sidekicks seem to be just as addicted to the mission as he is. However, are they better off than they were before? There's the rub.
Batman & Robin Eternal isn't asking that particular question yet, but it's inevitable. The book is telegraphing this theme at every opportunity. A quick flashback to continue the ongoing story of Batman and Robin's first encounter with Scarecrow only underscores Batman's cold treatment of his young ward. An opportunity arises for Bruce to comfort young Dick and really connect with him emotionally, but he closes that door rather soundly.
Elsewhere, the issue is largely expositional, with very little action, but some of the new morsels revealed about Mother and her connection to Batman are troubling. There's a brief fight at the outset, but it feels like it was shoehorned in just to make sure the book had at least one tussle in it. Dear comic book publishers: Comic books can exist without fighting in them. It's okay. Really.
So far, the artists are doing an admirable job of maintaining a similar enough style to keep every issue feeling like pieces of a whole. Last issue's Paul Pelletier handles pencil duties this week, with a small assist from Scot Eaton on the flashback scene — and Eaton's work is clean enough to easily stand next to Pelletier's. The composition from both feels nice and cinematic, even if their framing is rather pedestrian.
Three down, 49 to go.