The BATBOOK OF THE WEEK is Batman and Robin Eternal #5 — because it actually brings one of the modern Batman’s shortcomings to mind.
Usually when I pick the BATBOOK OF THE WEEK it’s something I’m really looking forward to. And there are certainly some good choices this week.
But I’m picking Batman and Robin Eternal #5 because I want to address something I almost never get into: Batman’s way-too-big roster of sidekicks.
I could get into my own long history with Robin and how I was in on the ground floor with Nightwing and the original pre-Crisis Jason Todd saga. But I’ve covered a lot of that before.
Really I want to talk about what’s going on in Gotham now, with the preponderance of Batman side characters running around.
There’s Grayson, Robin, Red Robin (terrible name), Red Hood, Batgirl, Bluebird, Spoiler and the return of Cassie (who was called Black Bat for about a minute and a half just before Flashpoint). There’s also Batwoman and Batwing, who’s dormant but still able to come back at any time.
It’s just too much and it stretches the bounds of credulity even if you’re able to buy into a world where Batman can exist in the first place. (And anyone who calls Batman a loner is a fool.)
I’m on the record as liking BatJim — but that’s a different concept. And I have no problem with a network of “civilians” like Alfred, Lucius, Bullock and Julia Pennyworth.
Batman Incorporated? I hated the idea but loved the execution so I came around.
We Are Robin? That’s actually an idea that makes a world of sense — though the writers really need to be careful about making these kids too competent. A recent death in their own title was an important way of showing the stakes. But their cavalry rescue in Batman and Robin Eternal #4 was a little too much to take.
I went into Batman and Robin Eternal with some trepidation because I quit Batman Eternal about halfway through (only returning at the very end). I found that title to be repetitive and derivative. So even though I’m a huge Robin fan, I wasn’t eager for this.
The first four issues have been entertaining enough, and they’ve even joked about the number of costumed kids running around. In addition, the undercurrent of the story seems to be about just how many of these kids there can be in the first place.
Still, DC had a golden opportunity to thin things out at the start of the New 52. If they could put Wally West, Donna Troy and others to the side until they could square them in the new, truncated timeline, they should have bit the bullet and set aside Tim Drake and Jason Todd too. A Batworld where Dick Grayson was Robin for a few years and gave way to Batman’s own son Damian is a far more natural idea — and it also lends itself to smart, streamlined storytelling.
Alas, the powers that be feared freaking out their bread and butter — the Batfans.
So instead of thinning the herd of Robins, we’re left with a bloated, watered-down version of a central idea that’s lasted 75 years.
ALSO ON THE BATSHELVES THIS WEEK: Detective Comics #46 brings more BatJim with the Justice League and Bat-Mite #6 concludes that sly miniseries. There’s also an especially strong line-up of books, including: Batman: Arkham — Two-Face TPB, which collects a variety of showdowns between the (heh) two; Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Vol. 5 TPB; classic Birds of Prey Vol. 1 TPB; Robin Vol. 1: Reborn TPB (Tim Drake Begins); aaaaaand, a hardcover deluxe edition collecting The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again. You’d almost think a third Dark Knight series and a movie might be coming out …