With the end of the DC You and the coming of Rebirth, the recent philosophy that has guided DC Comics, story over continuity, seems to be coming to an end. Once again, the editors of DC are emphasizing the glories of an integrated and coherent universe. The first intimations of this change are beginning to radiate through DC’s various publications, and Batman and Robin #20 is a prime example.
The story picks up as the headquarters of Spyral is still under siege by students driven to savagery by Mother’s mental signal projected through Spyral’s own local Hypnosis system. The action among the principal characters quickly breaks down into three scenes. The most emotionally charged involves the battle between a distraught Harper Row and a guilt-stricken Cassandra Cain. Harper has discovered that Cassandra killed Harper’s mother as part of a long-ago plot of Mother (a disadvantage of that particular villain’s name and modus operandi is they make for very odd sentences) and Cassandra in her sorrow refuses to unleash her full deadly abilities against her friend. It takes the unlikely intervention of Jason Todd to bring matters to a pause.
Meanwhile, Dick Grayson faces Poppy Ashemore, who has once again broken into Spyral’s store of Ronal multi-weapons (they really do need to change locksmiths) and Helena battles the hapless but ever-present David Cain, who has developed as something of the unkillable cockroach of this particular storyline. It turns out that Mother is no slouch at mental manipulation herself, as Cain and Ashemore activate technology that allow them to access Dick and Helena’s Hypnosis records, then to escape taking Cassandra and Harper along. Fortunately, Red Robin and Frau Netz are able to break Mother’s control of the St. Hadrian’s students just as Mother’s minions pull off their coup.
The final part of this installment dives into matters highly personal to Dick Grayson. It seems that Cain and Ashemore escaped with the control codes to the Somnus satellite, which were divided between Helena and Dick’s Hypnos implants. Helena had programmed the satellite to erase all memory from the world of Dick’s identity as Nightwing being revealed, then divided the codes between their two Hypnos implants so that, should he ever decide to leave Spyral, they could act together to return him to his former life. Unfortunately, Poppy was one of the scientists charged with the programming.
But, just as all is bleak, a rather unlikely ray of hope appears astride a giant red man-bat. Damian, taking a break from his own adventures, has decided it is time the present Robin took a hand in these affairs.
We now know, due to recent announcements, that DC's REBIRTH will find Dick Grayson as Nightwing once again, likely dealing with the Parliament of Owls in the plotline set up by ROBIN WAR. The mechanism by which that could be accomplished is now in place. Nothing is ever certain, either in life or in comics. But the fact that this issue was written by GRAYSON scribe Tim Seeley makes the bet a very attractive one. Give DC credit for planning and forethought in this instance. Whether the long-term strategy makes for a good short-term story, however, we will have to see.