Review: Batman and Robin #18 By Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Batman and Robin #18
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, and John Kalisz

The short of it:

How do you say goodbye to someone taken too soon? How do you move past the most devastating loss you could ever experience? And what’s more, how do you cope when your entire existence is based on loss? Robin, Damian Wayne, is dead. His father, Bruce Wayne…Batman, is not having an easy adjustment to it. He’s never been one to take loss well, what with his parents dying being the primary reason that he puts on his mask and kicks the crap out of bad guys. Alfred can’t escape as he comes across the Wayne family portrait, still in progress, but Bruce puts it away as he goes to cope his own way. As the Bat. Unfortunately, he sees Damian everywhere. From the poles leading into the cave, to swinging through the city, even riding shotgun in the Batmobile.

Batman releases his rage on Gotham. Cutting a path across the city, and leaving the criminals he took down tied up on the top of the police department, at the base of the Bat signal. Back to the cave he goes, before finding the letter Damian left him before running off to his death. In which he thanks his father for teaching him how to live, and promises to always stand at his side. Where he pledges love and respect through the written word, because he knew that he would never be able to say the words aloud….

And that’s the moment Bruce releases the last of his anger, and finally accepts that he has lost his only son.

What I liked:

  • Silent issues can come across as gimmicky really, really easily, but thankfully this one doesn’t. You don’t need words to convey the pain that Bruce is experiencing, or to understand Alfred’s suffering. Tomasi laid out a script and let Pat Gleason do the heavy lifting.
  • The art is gorgeous, some of the best work I’ve ever seen out of Pat, and I’m a fan of his! I’ve been singing his praises for ages, but this issue just provides further proof of his rockstar status.
  • And to give credit where it’s due, Gleason wouldn’t be a rockstar if not for Mick Gray and John Kalisz. Because this art is thanks to a team, and it took the complete package to put it over the top.
  • I’m actually a big fan of tear jerker issues, anytime a writer can get real solid emotion out of me, that’s a success. Even on my third read through I was tearing up. The issue is brilliant.
  • Tomasi skips over the action, opting for a double page spread to establish it, and then a panel to show the bodies. Normally this is the sort of thing I’d whine about, but diverting focus to Batman punching bad guys would have just diluted the actual drama. Bruce breaking things in the cave in rage was so much more effective than him punching bad guys would be. The core Batman book proved that to me.

What I didn’t like:

  • This is only the third issue of this book that I’ve bought (along with the first one and the zero). I need to change that. Sorry wallet.
  • I really hate Channel 52. Every week it gets worse.

Final thoughts:

Every Bat book is going to be doing a Requiem for Robin in their own way, but I can’t imagine any of them doing a better job than this book. Batman this week featured Scott Snyder trying to express Batman’s loss through the eyes of Gothamite Harper Row, and while it was good….you read Batman for Batman. And when a Robin dies, the most important reaction is that of Bruce Wayne, so that alone made this the most important issue that will come out of it, and, arguably, the most important issue of Batman that Peter Tomasi will ever write. So it’s only fitting that he absolutely killed it.

I’ve seen good silent issues, and I’ve seen bad ones. Ones where the writer managed to pull it off without any words at all in the issue, and ones where the writer opted to tell the story through letters and newspapers and other excuses to have non-spoken text in the issue. There’s no textbook definition of how to make a silent issue work, but at the same time, that means there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Tomasi handles it perfectly. For the most part the issue is dead silent, but then you get to Damian’s letter to his father and you just feel your heart shatter in your chest.

I dropped Batman and Robin after the first issue due to the feeling that Tomasi was regressing Damian back to his debut self of being a killhappy little psycho. Everything I’ve heard about the book since, though, and this issue? I feel like I really missed out on something special here. ┬áHe only took him back to square one so that he could personally rebuild him into something amazing.

So what’s the appropriate length of time before a new Robin isn’t considered in bad taste?

Who knew back when Grant Morrison introduced Batman’s little bastard of a son that we’d be ready to bawl our eyes out over his death a few years later?

Overall: 10/10

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