Red Robin’s investigating children infected with robots, Batman is fighting a Pyg-obsessed plastic surgeon murderer – but who cares? Vicki Vale is about to take her brand of journalism to the streets! Oh… dear. It’s Batman Eternal #5!
Writers: James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Consulting Writers: John Layman, Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley
Artist: Andy Clarke
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Things kick off with Red Robin investigating a hologramatic child with a microchip in their cornea, as we finally get one of the heroes following up on those kids who were dosed with weird stuff by Professor Pyg. Who, by the way, is also still on the loose at the moment, despite being literally the most easy super-villain to catch of all. Robin is simulating this in a location called a ‘Robin’s Nest’, which I actually really like as a concept, and also makes me hope that there’s some kind of cuckoo-based character who could be introduced one day as a supervillainous squatter.
He’s simulating the kid for Alfred’s benefit, who notes that Batman doesn’t approve of any of this set-up. Well duh, Batman literally doesn’t approve of anything. For somebody who insists on putting bird-themed costumes onto every child who wanders into his cave by accident, he sure does seem unenthusiastic about any of them taking this as a sign that they should ever try to be heroes. Robin also says that he doesn’t like networking into Batman’s computer, which surely should mean that the Republicans are going to start protesting him any day now.
It turns out that this infection was actually caused before the kids got in contact with Pyg at all, suggesting that something bigger was going on that night than just the casual pig-based biplane attack. And it’s all pointed to a building called ‘The Philip Kane Memorial Projects’, where each one of the kids was based. And, it turns out, is also where Harper Row and her brother Cullen live. And, it turns out, Cullen is also dosed with whatever this is. And… no, that’s all there is, promise. Lot of tying of threads right here though, eh?
Harper is doing some kind of vigilante gig following her time in the main Batman series, which by law of averages means she’ll be called ‘Bluebird’ by the time this series is out.
Back at the Gotham Gazette, Vicky Vale is having a day of it. In what might be the most accurate portrayal of journalists ever seen in comics, she’s unnecessarily mean to an intern for no discernable reason, trying to tear him apart for transgressions like ‘was asked to hand her some internet traffic figures by his boss’ and ‘wrote up a short advert for someone else’s article’.
She says that there used to be a time when people had to work their way up before being given the main gigs, which makes no sense given the guy has just listed two menial tasks he’s currently doing for the paper before being given any main gigs.
He goes off to work the photocopier, which I’m certain Vicky has never bothered to do herself, whilst the old journalist, Warren Spacey, tells her about the gang war in Gotham. Vicky has heard nothing about this, for some reason, so he hands her a piece of paper with ‘Falcone’ on it. Wait, so they’re aware that an infamous mobster is back in town and they’re not even trying to tell their editor about it? The Gazette seems like a messed-up place.
At the Projects, Red Robin is investigating one of the other kids – by which I mean watching them whilst they’re sleeping and playing with his gadget watch. Batman steps in, and it’s a nice touch that Red Robin is immediately aware of him sneaking into the room. Jim Gordon would’ve hacked up a cigarette in shock by now. Things are tense between the pair, with Batman wanting cooperation and Red Robin refusing to offer any. They analyse the kid for a bit, and Batman clearly notices something strange about the nanobots in his system. He won’t tell Red Robin what it is, though, and flies off after another awkward exchange.
“This is about the city”, he says before gliding out, to which Red Robin wearily replies “exactly”. Turns out Robin must’ve been reading Scott Snyder’s scripts for Batman, too, you guys!
On the street below, Vicky Vale and the intern are heading down to the streets to do some good ol-fashioned journalism. Which in Vicky’s eyes means walking straight up to the first terrifying man she meets, telling him she has $50 on her, and asking information about a legendary mobster whose famous rose insignia just-so-happens to be tattooed on the dude’s neck. Vicky Vale might well be the actual worst journalist in the world, you guys, and I say that as somebody who’s attended roundtable interviews at NYCC.
He pulls a knife on her, which prompts the intern to mention that he has a $2,000 camera on him. What the hell? Why is everybody saying the things they’re currently saying??
Harper interferes, thankfully bringing this somewhat insane section of story to a close. She tasers all the dudes before telling the journalists to follow her to a safe house. Which, given the journalists are still stood right next to their car, seems like a strange choice. But it helps the plot, I guess. They head into her flat, at any rate, and the intern immediately heads off to help Cullen make some coffee for them both. While they’re going, Harper yells at Vicky about basically everything I mentioned above, which makes Harper my favorite character of the series so far.
It should be mentioned that Red Robin is still in the room directly above them, hacking into the nanovirus in the kid’s eyes. He accidentally triggers a security message, though, and a swarm of blue nanobots surge at him and knock him to the ground.
Vicky tries to pacify Harper by asking her a bunch of questions about her set-up, apparently thinking it noteworthy that a woman living in Gotham City would carry several tasers on her. What is even going on with you right now, Vicky Vale? Half the women I know carry tasers and I live in a city which is noticeably devoid of clown-based mass murderers and crocodile men. How is Harper’s set-up anything more than the exact standard you’d expect for somebody living in the worst city in all of fiction?
Backing me up on that is the fact that the scary dudes from earlier kick Harper’s door down and are about to attack her when Robin crashes through the floor, followed by the nanobot swarm. “What the hell is that?” asks one of the dudes. “I don’t know! Try and kill it!” yells the other, for some reason. Their switchblades are, of course, no match for a swarm of highly advanced miniature robots, and they’re all taken out whilst Red Robin finally finishes hacking their system and renders them dormant. Unfortunately that also renders the robots inside Cullen dormant, and he voms them out before crashing to the floor, unconscious.
With four plots now converged handily into one, Vicky ends the issue by tasering one of the goons back to consciousness, before slamming him into the wall and demanding questions from him. Because she’s Vicky, she also announces her name and workplace whilst doing this, so I’m sure that’ll definitely make her commute to the office every morning much safer. Vicky Vale, you guys. She’s the worst.
In Tokyo, meanwhile, we find out who created the nanobots – it’s an old dude with glasses, a beard, and a monkey which has a cybernetic arm. I’ve no idea who this guy is, but his arrival brings me such joy after an issue filled with far too much Vicky Vale for anyone’s taste.
47 issues to go.
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.