It’s sometimes amusing to watch a dog bark at an empty tree. Well, it’s funny for about two minutes, until the shrill barks and yelps begin to induce a migraine. Watching a story barking up an empty tree can likewise be funny, until you feel the first slight touch of pain between your eyes. Of course, it’s important to remember that just because a character has evinced a fundamental misunderstanding, that does not mean that the story or its author share that unfortunate notion. Batman and Robin Eternal #8 picks up in Prague where the last issue left off, as Dick confronts Mother. This early meeting between the two protagonists is a welcome change from Batman Eternal, which featured long periods of narrative wheel-spinning as character after character chased red herrings, actually make that ruby red herrings, down streets obviously marked “Blind Alley” in six different languages. Mother proceeds to tell Dick that Bruce, in that long-ago first visit to Prague, sought a new heir, as Dick was not measuring up to Batman’s needs.
There are several things wrong with such an approach. For one thing, the attempt at manipulation is patently obvious to the point of being rather pathetic. For another, we know that, whatever his youthful insecurities, the adult Dick Grayson, at least as he has been portrayed of late by Tim Seeley and Tom King, is probably one of the most emotionally stable people in the DC Universe. Sure enough, he resists Mother’s goading, although he also does not get far with regard to learning which of the Robins may be under her control. I dare say the fan favorite would be Tim Drake, largely because such a development would give DC an excuse to rewrite large chunks of the unsuccessful post-Flashpoint attempts at providing the character a history.
After Mother accuses him of ruining Prague, including the City Hall and the Nursery, whatever those may mean, Grayson joins Harper Row and Cassandra Cain on the stage of the ballet, helping them fight off Mother’s murderous children. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the fight Harper’s playful pull of Cassandra’s hair sends the silent assassin into a panic. Meanwhile, on Gamorra Island, Jason and Tim trace a technology smuggler to a church, where he cowers behind the altar, babbling about the Angel of Death and hallucinating the two of them as hungry demons.
The story falls apart a bit in this issue. Mother seems disappointingly crude in her ploy, and the link between the technology smuggler on Gamorra Island and the signal Tim and Jason were investigating is murky. It seems clear, however, that the church trappings and the frightened talk of the Death Angel, talk conducted in French, hint strongly that our old friend Azrael, otherwise known as Jean-Paul Valley of the Order of Saint Dumas, is about to appear. He also showed up on the list that Bruce had hidden away. Another child of Mother's? A target? An ally? Or all of the above. Mother is a rather unsentimental parent, after all.