Ah, the little things that make the difference between buying a comic and not. I checked out of DC's latest weekly series after just a couple of issues, mainly because the supposed hook - was Batman killing people to get his hands on orphans to train? - was ridiculous.
I came back because I heard Cassandra Cain was getting a new costumed identity this time - not Batgirl, not Black Bat, something different. That happens a few pages from the end of this extra-length issue, and it's a little underwhelming.
Orphan was the name dark mastermind Mother (mistressmind?) gave Cass's father, David Cain, and as of this conclusion to the half-year series, he doesn't need it anymore. The name is dull, evoking nothing, and the costume bland in the extreme. Oh well, I'm sure a new name and look will be along in a minute.
As Cass embraces a new stage of her life, so does Harper Row, aka Ruddy Big Taser Lass, sorry, Bluebird. It's Harper's story that kicks off this issue, a flashback that shows us what a great relationship she had with her mother, a woman whose spirit was battered, but far from broken.
It turns out Cass killed Miranda Row, presumably back when she was a kiddie assassin. Can Harper forgive her?
As well as the answer to that question, this issue features a battery of Robins, Batgirl, Batwoman, Midnighter, Catwoman and likely a few I've forgotten. They're beating back a barrage of kids apparently brainwashed by Mother as part of a scheme to take over the world, kill it to improve it... maybe she picked up some old plan Ra's al-Ghul scribbled on the back of an envelope.
I dunno, but this issue is fun; writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV give me enough to go on that I don't feel lost returning for the last couple of hours of the story. And after the wrap-up of the fighty fight stuff, we get the emotional meat - not just the fate of Cass and Harper, but the four Robins (Gotham's premier doo-cop group) reunited with Batman, newly returned from 'death'. This offers a chance for Dick to confront the question posed in those earliest issues - is Batman ruining young lives?
It's an elegant summation by Dick, a nice way to close the series. I'd love to hear from anyone who followed the whole thing - did it hang together better than Batman Eternal, which was less a coherent narrative than a stealth anthology?
There are lots of artists, so many I can't be bothered to type all their names. Screengrab!
The many hands don't stop the book from feeling of a piece - the pages are dynamic, clean, the storytelling precise. Damien looks too old at times, but that's pretty much his default.
Colourists Gabe Eltaeb and Allen Passalaqua help unify the conclusion, laying down the mood with their well-chosen hues. Marion Patrizio's letters are sharp, while illustrator Tony S Daniel and colourist Tomeu Morey make the last cover count
I came for Cassandra, and found myself nicely entertained by a Batman comic that's big and daft while still being rather thoughtful. Good work, chums!