When last we left our heroes, Batgirl proved to be a better detective than Batman himself, prompting him to sulk and tell her off. Stephanie Brown’s mother dobbed her in to her dad, thus earning herself the honorary title of “Clue Mastress”. Ben McKenzie gazed at the moustachioed mirror which is looking at James Gordon’s face. Red Robin was still on that damned plane, as though he’s trapped in an episode of 24 and can’t show up until a set number of pages have been flicked through.
But he’s finally arriving in Gotham this week, because it’s time for
Things kick off with Red Robin, and they’re damned well going to stick with him for the whole of this issue. He’s built a ghost hospital in his “Red Robin Nest”, which I suppose was always going to be the name he gave his secret hideouts. What do you think Catwoman calls her hideouts? The Cat Basket? I always thought it was odd that she never had herself carried around by topless manservants in a Kitty Litter.
That aside, Alfred has infiltrated the nest, making him The Cuckoo, and is listening as Tim explains just what happened to all those children Batman and Gordon abandoned way back in issue one. Even Robin is a better detective than you now, Batman! Time to hang up those Bat Booties. It turns out that all the children had been infected with weird stuff weeks before Professor Pyg started hurling drugs into their systems, suggesting that something far more complex is going on here.
But before we get into the minutiae of why these children living in a Wayne Restoration Area – the Philip Kane (who’s been appearing in Zero Year) memorial projects – let’s just focus on Tim Drake’s hyper-minimalist secret lair. This place is shiny and buffed neon blue, filled solely with projectors and hologram machines. He hasn’t done a single thing to spiffy the place up, and he certainly hasn’t taken any design advice. Last week I got upset because the minions weren’t playing up to the gimmick of their respective villains – and dammit Red Robin, but you haven’t got a single robin-related piece of furniture anywhere in your place. No beak-shaped chairs? Or an egg-shaped computer, perhaps? It’s not even RED!
Over in the aforementioned Philip Jane projects, Harper Row and her brother Something Row are bickering because Harper wants to head outside on patrol. Whatshisname begs that she shouldn’t, because the Narrows are a dangerous and low-rent area to live in – and judging from the state of his hair, there hasn’t been running water for five years – and also he has flu. Being a responsible older sister, Harper ignores him entirely and heads off outside. It’s then that we see two things: One, that her brother has some sort of computer virus thing in his eye, the same as the holographic Pyg Kids did on the first page. Two, that artist Andy Clark draws super super creepy-looking eyes. Ewwww.
At the Gotham Gazette, another new character walks into the story. Or, rather, stands near the story and complains about it. Vicki Vale is in the office, moaning about something or other. She thinks that there’s no such thing as journalism anymore, as people are too busy writing “typo-ridden fluff pieces”. In other words, it looks like the Gotham Gazette will be subbing in as an analogue for Bleeding Cool. Vicki is mean to a random member of her staff for no apparent reason, and her editor comes along and tells her off for it. It’s a really weird scene, because Vicks is getting super-aggressive without any explanation.
Her editor – who must also be living in the narrows, because his hair looks AWFUL – is also pining for the good old days of journalism, when he didn’t have to write about costumed super-maniacs blowing things up. But… it’s then explained that he first became famous by breaking the news that The Joker existed. And that he misses the days when he got to write news stories about… a costumed super-maniac… who blows things up.
I am very confused by these people. He sends Vicki and the intern off to go handle some of this ‘real’ reporting by heading into the Narrows to find out about this gang war everybody’s so worried about.
Red Robin is already there, having tracked down one of the Pyg Kids. Creepily, Robin has broken into the kid’s house, but the kid is lying catatonic, eyes open, in bed. He also has a SERIOUSLY weird poster on the wall just behind Robin, which suggests he was having some issues way before this whole “robot infection” stuff started happening.
Batman enters and tries to find out what Red Robin’s worked out. Tim refuses to give him anything, acting all prickly and hitting his former mentor with a jibe about Nightwing. Batman doesn’t respond, because he is an emotionless monster. It turns out that this kid is infected with a swarm of nanobots, who were put there not by Pyg but by someone way more advanced. Batman’s first suggestion is that it might be aliens, although if he were an objective detective then we all know Tim Drake would be the first suspect. Literally every thing Tim does this issue implicates him into this infection. Re-read the issue and tell me I’m wrong!
Bats does seem to recognise the maker of the robots, in fairness, although he swoops off before telling Robin anything. Looks like SOMEONE knows how to take but doesn’t know how to share! You’re a terrible detective sometimes, Batman.
Speaking of people who are terrible at their jobs, Vicki has brought the intern along to the Narrows for some work experience. He’s absolutely terrified at heading into the area at night, but she seems absolutely thrilled to be there. She flounces straight across to the first scary gang she can find, one of whom has a rose tattoo on his neck. She then – and she actually does this – says “what do you guys know about the Roman?” and offers them $50 if they’ll tell.
Naturally, the gang respond to this act of lunacy by pulling a knife on her, at which point the intern says OUT LOUD that his camera is work $2000. This pair are the Laurel and Hardy of investigative journalism, right here. If at some point Vicky says “sorry Joey” then we’re in business. Before they get stabbed up, though, somebody tazers the lead gang member, and clocks the others. They have barely enough time to sigh at their greasy hairstyles before they hit the ground. Harper announces herself to the others.
Brilliantly, she’s started learning from Batman’s lead, and has a belt on with various pouches. Pouches! The cornerstone of any budding vigilante’s costuming process! She makes fun of them and then leads them off to her house, where they’ll be safe.
Red Robin hasn’t left the catatonic kid yet, because he’s trying to hack into the robots and see what he can do. Tim! CTRL + ALT + DELETE! That usually gets the task manager up, and you can fix things from there. Usually works for me. Instead of that, however, Tim activates a security system in the robots, and the kid sits up to reveal glowing eyes, floating blue robot dust, and a mullet. The first of these – sadly not the third – swarms at him and knocks him down.
Harper walks The Dynamic Duo back to her apartment, leading the intern to hug her, embarrassingly. He then announces “I can help!” with unironic joy when Harper asks her brother to put some coffee on. With the dopes out the way, she then turns to Vicki and rightfully demands that the reporter explain herself. I would also like for her to do this, Harper. In response, Vicki asks why it’s safer for a girl with a hoodie and utility belt to hang around than for a woman with a red sports car to park near a gang and then try to bribe them.
Defiant, Harper immediately goes self-defensive, saying that she has “tricked out” tazers – which is the point at which the gods of dramatic irony step in and break down the door of her flat – the gang have returned. Before they can do anything, though, Robin and the blue swarm of robot disease crash through the floor and the robots immediately rush over to… eat?… the gang. It’s left vague. Everybody else watches as they do it, anyway.
The Intern attempts to flirt with Red Robin, ticking the box for “tumblr moment of the week”. Robin is more interested in the robots, naturally, and he attempts to send them all to sleep. They crash to the ground, switched off. But so does little brother! The moment Robin activates the sleep function, Cullen unleashes his own swarm of blue robots and crashes to the ground himself. Uh-oh! Harper races across to her brother and says “you did this to him, Red Robin!”, establishing herself to be a detective at least on-par with Batman.
Robin says that he didn’t, even though he literally just said the word “sleep” out loud and a moment later Harper’s brother falls deeply unconscious. As I said before – every single thing Robin does in this issue implicates him further as the villain of this story. The Intern, showing an incredible misreading of the room, asks what they should do about the unconscious (not eaten!) gang members. Dude, there’s an unconscious robotchild in the room, and you’re worried about the gangsters?
Vicki decides to taser one and start questioning him, which hilariously then smash-cuts to a newspaper headline “GANG WAR ERUPTS IN GOTHAM CITY: Exclusive by Vicki Vale”. Comics compression at its finest, right there. That’s sensational.
The final few panels of the page – this is a seriously rushed last page, as you can see – heads to Tokyo, where we find out that the nanobots are the invention of… Sergei and Maxwell!
What do you mean you haven’t heard of Sergei and Maxwell before. Are you trying to say you didn’t read a back-up story in issue #22 of Batman? You fools!!!! To be continued!
Issue #5 of Batman Eternal is by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Andy Clarke, Blond John Kalisz, Nick J. Napolitano, Katie Kubert and Mark Doyle. The other consulting writers for the series are Ray Fawkes, John Layman and Tim Seeley. Batman was created by Bill Finger, and I won’t have another word said about it!
Was the colourist credited on the cover? No
Was the colourist credited on the cover? No