True to its cover, Batman and Robin Eternal #13 reveals a great deal of secrets about Mother, her Children, and especially Cassandra Cain, and why she is helping Dick Grayson and the Bat-family. Scripter James Tynion and artist Marcio Takara probe deep into the mind of this silent girl, who was trained to be an assassin, but decided to be a hero through flashbacks, action, and quite the villainous monologue from Orphan. The issue shows that the things that make a “good child” aren’t scientific, but come from the heart. Cassandra has been trained to be the perfect warrior and child, but she finds more warmth and family in one emotional embrace from Batman (Bruce Wayne) in a flashback set around “Endgame” than years of training and living with Orphan, Mother, and Sculptor. Batman and Robin Eternal #13 also once and for all shows Mother’s true, genocidal plan: to create a utopia by any means necessary and kill all her Children.
For most of the issue, Takara uses multiple double page spreads as canvases to show Cassandra Cain’s skill in combat (and at stowing away in an ARGUS jet) as well as her great sadness. He studs the pages with multiple panels to show her quickness and agility, and this adds excitement to scenes where she’s punching robots, evading machine gun fire, or entangled in a deadly hand to hand combat with her “father” Orphan. But these aren’t just fun, fast moving fight scenes with some neat digital color effects from Dean White. Takara uses these sequences as a visualization of how she has transformed from assassin to hero. As Cassandra drops into Mother’s base, he draws her in a drop pose that resembles Batman in flight, and the grappling hook that is a rite of passage (Along with your first Batarang.) for new Bat-family members is prominent in many panels. In fact, it literally saves her from the clutches of Mother’s “hatchlings” as the line draws her out of this literal pit given an extra layer of spooky blackness from White.
While the present scenes are reserved for action, big reveals, and villain motive speeches, Tynion and Takara use the flashback scenes of Batman and Robin Eternal #13 to give Cassandra’s story an emotional core in her abusive relationships with Mother and Orphan, her not-as-terrible relationship with Sculptor, and her sole positive past relationship with Batman. Takara frays the edges of his panels as Cassandra thinks back to her early days when she was subjected to the Black Room, an area with no sound or light, when she disobeyed Orphan and tried to interact with the Children. When she does this, Orphan doesn’t treat her like a disobedient child, but as the control subject of an experiment, who has somehow messed with the other variables, i.e. Mother’s Children. There is one almost happy moment in her horrible past, and that is when she sees a hug for the first time, but is instantly pushed away by a shadow covered Sculptor. Takara draws Sculptor with her hands raised, like Cassandra is some contagious disease, and this is basically what she is. A Patient Zero to be analyzed, trained, and study to cure the contagion of imperfect children.
In contrast, Batman treats Cassandra as both a human being and an ally in his flashback. Takara draws the first panel featuring as an establishing shot of “Endgame” era Gotham with the Batsignal in the air, gargoyles on the roof, but white plumes of smoke from White showing the spread of Joker’s virus. Batman and Cassandra are framed in the far distance with her sporting an outfit and utility belt that makes her look like a Robin before switching to a close-up of her tearful face as she has barely escaped Orphan and Mother’s clutches to aid him. This scene sets up Cassandra’s aiding of Dick Grayson in the early issues of Batman and Robin Eternal and has a lot of emotional weight as Batman gives her the powerful line of “You are what you choose to be”, which is the complete opposite of her existence so far as Mother and Orphan’s experiment. And then he hugs her, which gives her the strength in the present day to put the Batman symbol in blood on her face and fight back against Orphan with the help of Harper Row and Dick Grayson. The blood is a reminder of her traumatic past, but the Batman emblem symbolizes her free will and decision to be a hero despite this trauma. It is truly one of the most epic moments of Batman and Robin Eternal and followed up by a quite, creepy Mother induced cliffhanger, who Takara draws with wispier lines than the Bat-family.
Batman and Robin Eternal #13 is a real turning point for this weekly series and definitely a high water mark in plot, visuals, and characterization. Marcio Takara excels at drawing quick action as well as slowing things down and soaking in the pain of Cassandra Cain’s past and using it to craft meaningful catharsis in her present. James Tynion connects three separate timelines and creates a compelling arc for Cassandra in a single issue while also setting up shocks and thrills to come while not neglecting her feelings and the theme of family, which has been a hallmark of his and Scott Snyder’s work on the Batman titles for years.
Batman and Robin Eternal #13
Story by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Script by James Tynion IV
Art by Marcio Takara
Colors by Dean White
Letters by Saida Temofonte
Published by DC Comics