The Batman Office expects, in fact demands, a great deal from its weeklies. Batman Eternal was supposed to be a panoramic survey of Batman and his meaning for Gotham and its citizens.  It did not fulfill that promise.  In truth, it probably could not, as it also had to serve as the Bat Family book for the year, the vehicle to carry the continuity of the Batman universe through the 52 weeks of its publication run.  As such, it had to maneuver characters into place for long-term strategic storylines, seed plot elements for other books to exploit, and provide the principal arena for the development of the Bat Family as a whole.  Not surprisingly, the different pieces of the weekly did not, in the end, come together into a completely coherent whole.

Batman and Robin Eternal has made a more promising beginning.  That isn’t to say that the Batman Office has avoided burdening it with multiple goals.  Like its predecessor, Batman and Robin Eternal has to simultaneously carry the continuity of the Bat Family while telling its own story.  This time, however, the story shows signs of better planning and tighter construction, without the grandiose sprawl of the first effort.  Still, the weight of continuity is heavy.  One problem plaguing Batman Eternal was that the status changes for Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne were decreed too late to be effectively incorporated in the weekly, creating a bizarre disconnect at the heart of the Bat universe.  With Dick Grayson as the main character in Batman and Robin Eternal, the writers are effectively trying to pick up plot threads that were dropped almost two years ago.

In Batman and Robin Eternal #2author Tim Seeley, who is also one of the writers on Grayson, actually manages to turn some of the resulting awkwardness to his benefit.  The most important interaction in the book is among Grayson, Harper Row, Stephanie Brown, and Tim Drake.  Seeley milks this dynamic by exploiting the rebalancing effect of having Batman’s first partner suddenly reappear in Gotham.  Unlike some writers who are inclined to write Grayson as angelic, Seeley readily allows him to express piqué at finding the city suddenly overrun with young and, by his standards, amateurish heroes.  Seeley is also not afraid to turn the tables on Grayson, who goes from annoyed to touchy and defensive when Stephanie Brown, also strongly written, challenges him to justify abandoning Gotham in its hour of need.

Other characterizations aren’t quite as successful.  Tim Drake shows a welcome flash of stumbling geekiness, but Harper Row is simply there to be the plucky tech genius, and both Cass Cain and the Orphan remain ciphers.  The flashback to the Scarecrow case, however, is both funny and touching.  It isn’t particularly scary, which is a shame considering it is the Scarecrow we are talking about, but there will be plenty of time for that as the story unfolds.

Grade

B+

Conclusion

This second installment does not show anyone at the top of their game. The Orphan and Harper are both defeated, Cass is chasing across the city on her mysterious errands, Grayson is annoyed, and Stephanie is ... well, she actually does pretty well. Still, we have good character work, and some nice exploration of the backstory. It is a bit of a pause to breathe before plunging ahead, but who isn't grateful for that from time to time?