One of the more pleasant surprises of the modern DC Universe, whether in its New 52 or DC You incarnations, has been the resurrection and revamping of Spyral, Grant Morrison’s psychedelic spy agency. Tim Seeley and Tom King, the authors of Grayson who have been responsible for this development, have wisely toned down or omitted the sadomasochistic tropes that ran through Morrison’s version of Spyral in favor of tongue-in-cheek science-fiction and a joyous but carefully balanced sensuality. At the moment, with it looking very likely that the upcoming Rebirth event (or relaunch or reboot or whatever it turns out to be) will find Dick Grayson once again taking up the identity of Nightwing, the fate of Spyral is as obscured as the swirled-out faces of their hypnos-protected agents. So, it is good that Batman and Robin Eternal offers a chance to enjoy the weird environs of Saint Hadrian’s while we still can. Unfortunately, writer Ed Brisson gives us two issues, numbers 17 and 18, that contain few interesting twists or surprises worthy of Spyral or any other intelligence agency.
First of all, it should come as no great shock that Batman did not, in fact, kill two strangers in Cairo with a gun. Rather he disabled them, as part of his plan to uncover all of Mother’s machinations. Improbably, the entire situation turns out to be a trap for Batman, meant to test his resolve and distract his attention while Mother’s operative, Cassandra Cain, gathers the next chosen Robin, Harper Row. Cassandra, however, muffs her assignment, killing Harper’s Mother but allowing Harper and her father (and presumably her brother Cullen) to escape. Mother herself then tries to kill herself, and ends up vanishing as Batman is engulfed in a storm of angry Cairo police.
Meanwhile, in the present, David Cain is imprisoned at Saint Hadrian’s, where he gleefully informs Harper that her new friend is her mother’s murderer. This is obviously supposed to be a moment of high drama, but readers have seen it coming for so long that arrives more with a shrug than a gasp. More weighty is the revelation of the true nature of a Ichthys. It turns out that the Order of St. Dumas has crafted a kind of psychic virus transmitted by sonic signal. The virus will implant itself in the brain of a young human and change him, or her, into one of Mother’s children.
Batman and Robin Eternal 17 B- ; Batman and Robin Eternal 18 B-
As the story ends, Ichthys pours through the loudspeakers of Saint Hadrian's, setting up a scenario that is in some ways a twisted echo of Grant Morrison's LEVIATHAN storyline. As the characters themselves observe, being trapped in a school filled with spies-in-training about to become murderous zombies is an ... unenviable ... situation. We are moving toward the endgame, the last crisis is which Mother's ultimate secrets will be revealed. It has been a swift, if not entirely smooth, journey. Unfortunately, the story has not always been original, and with REBIRTH in the offing, the ultimate ramifications are not clear. Still, it has amused for almost six months. And, in the end, is it really fair to ask much more than that?