Everybody has to begin somewhere.  Everybody has to begin sometime.  This is the place and the time for Harper Row, otherwise known as Bluebird, the newest member of the ever-expanding Bat Family.  Strictly speaking, Harper is scarcely new at all.  She appeared in the earliest days of the New 52 as an occasional guest in Scott Snyder’s Batman.  Nor, for that matter, does her transformation into Bluebird defy expectations, since we saw her in that identity as far back as Batman #28. So what we have in Batman Eternal #42 is the fulfillment of a prophecy.

Prophecies have great power.  They can shape the fate of nations.  In literary terms, they can structure entire plotlines and express the thematic heart of a story.  But is there pleasure in prophecy?  There really is none in the act of foresight itself, but there is in its fulfillment.  Nevertheless, prophecy as a literary tool require a deft touch.  The balance between satisfaction and surprise is hard to maintain, which is the main reason prequels generally fail.

Kyle Higgins largely succeeds in Harper Row’s transformation into Bluebird.  Her mission to save her brother and, as it turns out, the other younger members of the Bat Family from the clutches of the Mad Hatter is an appropriate adventure, filled with personal high stakes but within the capability of a determined and brilliant young woman with above-average athletic ability and genius-level understanding of electronics.  Harper’s’ personality comes through as determined but generally positive, aware of her own shortcomings but also of her own decisions and free will.  Her habit of narrating her thoughts and actions is somewhat odd, and obviously a tool to explain the plot more than a true aspect of her personality, but given the intricacies of the situation Higgins can be forgiven the relatively crude artifice.  It is more than redeemed by the bright banter that Harper employs in her encounter with the Hatter.

Probably the biggest drawback to the issue is the portrayal of Batman himself.  He puts in an appearance in a few panels to play the stereotypical grumpy, critical Bat we have seen all too often in the past.  It’s true that this encounter with Harper goes better than the first, in that he refrains from striking her this time, but it is scarcely a heart-warming meeting.  One suspects a transparent and once again somewhat crude setup for the unwanted-apprentice-who-proves-herself.

The Bat Family’s other incipient member, Stephanie Brown, was kidnapped last issue, if you will recall.  She awakes in her own bed, cared for by a suddenly and suspiciously solicitous mother.   This is the same mother who, earlier , betrayed her to her super villain father.  It’s true that her father, Cluemaster, isn’t much of a villain, but that isn’t the point.  Whatever the mysterious matron is playing at, her plans get disrupted by the arrival of Selina Kyle, who takes Stephanie in hand, thus setting the stage for a recapitulation in part of Batman #28.

The art is serviceable, but unmemorable.  Unfortunately, when this issue is mentioned as the first full appearance of Bluebird, no iconic image will come to mind.

Grade

B

Conclusion

Bluebird is off to a good start, but not a great one. Meanwhile, Stephanie is probably better off with Selina than with her own mother, a sad commentary if ever there was one. The story has come full circle to the teaser we received months ago. Spoiler, Batman, Selina, and Bluebird are about to come together. All that remains to be seen is whether the context of the meeting changes our understanding of it.