Batman and Robin Eternal #9 is an interesting exercise in split direction. The art, courtesy of Roge Antonio, has become clearer since last issue with firmer lines and more classical figures in the Jim Lee tradition. It is, perhaps, a step toward the DC house style widely denigrated during the New 52 era, but it proves that, whatever its problems in other areas, the New 52 at least provided visual force and legibility. The bright colors of Allen Passalaqua, on the other hand, belong to a more recent era of Batman stories, the age of Batgirl and Grayson and Gotham Academy.
The script by Hacktivist veterans Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, moves in the opposite direction toward incoherence. Tim Drake and Jason Todd travel to Santa Prisca, still on the track of the Order of St. Dumas for reasons that are not well explained. Evidently the Order is in some way involved with the technology that Mother uses to activate her sleeper agents. They have taken over Santa Prisca, building a cathedral atop the former Pena Duro prison from which they dispense technological miracles. Santa Prisca, of course, is the realm of Bane, who does not appreciate the religious interlopers, or the visiting Robins.
Unfortunately, the entire storyline, which culminates in Robins and Bane joining forces to break into the Order’s cathedral, is only an extended tease for the final panel, a reveal of a character who we have been expecting ever since his name appeared, partially obscured, on the list of Mother’s possible children. It is a disappointing development in a series that has so far largely avoided the wheel-spinning that so often plagued Batman Eternal.
The flashback plot does proceed rather nicely this issue, as Bruce confronts Mother only to discover that she knows he is Batman. Leaving aside the fact that secret identities are becoming extremely threadbare in the DC Universe these days, Mother proceeds to offer a very interesting piece of insight with regard to Bruce’s greatest desire, and by extension his greatest fear. She offers him a partner who will not get themselves killed in pursuit of his legacy.
Disappointing as the main plot of this issue is, Mother's offer has eerie resonance for the future Bruce faces, a future in which he will lose Jason, and Damian, and even himself. Does she truly understand his deepest fear? He would not confess his Scarecrow visions to Dick, after all. Is Mother's true strength not her understanding of genetics, but her uncanny ability to read desires? Such subtlety would make her a deadly menace, indeed.