It’s usually very obvious when writers and/or editors don’t know what to do with a character.  One of two things tends to happen.  The character may go into a narrative holding pattern, standing around and filling a slot in the cast without providing any major help to the story.  They become the literary equivalent of the bric-à-brac that clutters long-occupied houses and serves no function except as a constant danger to toes and cats’ tails.  Or they take sudden changes in their storylines,  reversing function and sometimes even personality in an attempt to find new relevance.  Poppy Ashemore was introduced in Grayson #2 as a cannibalistic villain recruited by Spyral, largely to show the ruthlessness and amorality of the agency.  Since then, she has more-or-less stood in the background, providing little to an organization, and a book, already loaded down with mad scientists and femme fatales.  In Batman and Robin Eternal #3, she finds a new purpose as one of Mother’s more resourceful agents.  It is a daring throw of the dice on the part of the Batman Office, and so far it has worked.  It also allows the writers to explain how Dick Grayson is going to evade his responsibilities to Spyral for the duration of this weekly.   Spyral does not like traitors, and Mother has placed herself squarely in their sites by her apparent dealings with their resident cannibal.

The rest of the issue also serves the purpose of characterization, with mixed results.  The introduction of Harper and Stephanie to the Bat Cave is effective and amusing, as is the first formal introduction of Helena Bertinelli to the Robins, with Jason Todd being in particularly fine form.  The continuing flashback to Dick’s first major case as Robin is likewise well handled, particularly Batman’s transparent attempt to avoid telling his young partner his deepest fear  (one assumes it’s something other than guns and bats).  On the other hand, Cassandra Cain’s silent characterization of Jason, Tim, and Dick as hand, head, and heart, is disappointingly pat and obvious.

The art in this issue is also problematic, especially with regard to the modern-day appearance of the Robins.  Dick Grayson is suddenly a bulky wrestler rather than a lithe gymnast.  Jason Todd’s sudden habit of opening the face plate of his helmet on top-mounted hinges makes him look more than a little like a scruffy Tony Stark.  Tim, for his part, seems to have grown several inches.




Altogether, not a bad issue, and one with some strong if uneven character moments. But the time is now come to get the plot moving again. We now know our cast of characters. But, much as we like them, we also know it's time for them to actually do something. Let the hunt for Mother begin.