Batman and Robin #1
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, and John Kalisz
Out of all of the ‘core’ Batman titles for the relaunch, Batman and Robin holds one of the more interesting pitches. Previously a Morrison title that was the core of the franchise, it featured Dick Grayson as Batman as he teamed with the new Robin, Damian Wayne, Bruce’s son. While Damian was incredibly rough around the edge, and more or less a complete dick, their time together helped shape Damian into something more than a mini ninja that was also the son of Batman. He still had his attitude, I mean, he was still a little dick, but he had grown to respect what he was doing, as well as Dick Grayson. The big hook here is that in the new DC Universe, Bruce Wayne is once again the sole Batman, and this book will feature him doing the one thing he has never done. Partnering with his own flesh and blood son, instead of any ward or adopted one. Damian is the son that Bruce didn’t raise, and whom he only was able to know briefly before the events of RIP made it temporarily impossible. Couple this with Peter Tomasi, a writer I tend to believe can do no wrong, and you get an instant win. Right?
Unfortunately, Tomasi left me pretty disappointed here. I mean, what he has Bruce trying to do for the first part of the issue works for me, and I actually could get behind Bruce pushing on with his life finally. The idea that he would put Crime Alley behind him and remember his parents alive, and not dead and dieing, is the kind of character progression that could possibly lead to a lighter Batman. This characterization crumbles as the issue goes on though, and Batman is an almost reactionary hardass for the sake of being one. Then again, given how Damian is characterized throughout this issue, Batman really does have reason. Damian is a jackass, period. He’s ungrateful, disrespectful, sarcastic, obnoxious, and completely careless. Pretty much now that he’s teaming with Bruce instead of Dick he’s forgotten everything he learned from working with Dick. Now, I’m not saying Damian can’t be a little schmuck, but by the end of this issue I’m asking myself why Bruce wouldn’t be getting this kid intense psychiatric counseling, let alone let him be Robin.
The Crime Alley stuff is nice on Bruce’s end, and like I said, it’s a bit lighter than you’d probably expect out of Batman, but I personally liked it. A level of optimism with Bruce tends to make him a more interesting character. The second half of the book is where the story falls apart to go along with Damian, as they have to go stop guys from stealing some sort of radioactive fuel from a university, for reasons that are relatively glossed over…and apparently all this radioactive material is underneath a pool, because research buildings at universities have indoor swimming pools one floor up from labs filled with radioactive fuel rods. The three main guys get away, Batman has to stop a meltdown by using the pool, and Damian goes after the guys. Damian who sends their ride up in flames while gleefully jumping away (seriously, he’s got a giant smile on his face), without any remorse for potentially having killed these guys. Damian who had curbed his killing over the years is now back to not caring at all. Regression.
That’s what kills me here, character regression for Damian. He’s not that old of a character so to take him back to how he was before his time as Robin is to cut off damn near half of what he’s received in his brief existence. If anything, right now it makes Dick look like a crappy Batman because he didn’t mind having a blood thirsty little monster of a sidekick. Then, beyond all of that, there’s the fact that my first time through the issue I actually needed Bruce’s long winded exposition at the end to realize what the hell the heist was about! The second half of the issue just doesn’t really work at all, and it feels like Tomasi had an idea for what he was doing but let it slip a bit when it came to letting the readers know what it was. It does seem like it’s setting up a new villain though.
Oh, I’ll give some credit. The issue is bookended with a mysterious new villain whose encounter with the Batman of Moscow puts him in a clear path with Bruce in the near future. Potentially this arc. I’m all for creating new villains, and this one does a better job at being creepy than the guy in Batgirl. Batman may have some of the best known badguys in comics, but more depth just means that when the classics come back we appreciate them all the more. Time makes every villain that much more awesome. It’s when you see the guy ten times a year and he’s constantly losing that you completely quit to care.
Patrick Gleason does a great job on art, even if I did find myself getting annoyed with Damian’s grin. Batman and Robin look amazing in costume, the fight scenes are fluid, the action is clear, and it’s a really good looking book. Aside from Damian’s cheshire cat grin I really liked the face work done, especially with the maskless Bruce in the first few pages. There’s a lot of detail, but there’s also a lot of shadows. The book looks dark, but it doesn’t have a noir or gritty feel to it. Maybe it’s just because the tone of the book wasn’t getting grimdark, but I like it. Gleason is a great addition for this book, just like he was for Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps.
It’s really all based on your personal preference for Damian, but personally, what I see as character regression in this issue is a huge breaking point for me. I’ve been following the character since he debuted back in Morrison’s first arc, and while yes, relaunch, new start, etc, I don’t feel he’s old enough to really need such a step backward. I mean, let him be a little asshole, but he doesn’t need to slam his dead grandparents or randomly lead thugs to impending doom. Let alone enjoy it. Let him be snarky, it will get the same point across without making him utterly unlikable.
But hey, interesting new villain! Potentially interesting new Bruce status quo! Good looking art!
Tags: Batman, Batman and Robin, DC Comics Relaunch, New 52 (DC Comics), Patrick Gleason, Peter Tomasi, Reviews, Robin