BATMAN & ROBIN #38 Review & Spoilers
“SuperPower, pt. 1: Fly Robin Fly” (20 pages)
Story by: Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils by: Patrick Gleason
Inks by: Mick Gray
Colors by: John Kalisz
Letters by: Carlos M. Mangual
Covers by: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz; Flash 75 variant by Dave Bullock
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Robin is rightfully back in the semi-eponymous book!! Long live Damian Wayne!!
The first page opens up in a cutesy manner. Damian is crouched over dear old dad Bruce’s bed looking down at him. He utters his famous “TT” remark which usually conveys dismay or underwhelmness (to borrow a word from Robin of the animated Young Justice). Nothing would bother me more than someone rousing me and posing the quasi-rhetorically question of “You up?” Damian has barely landed among the living but he’s really itching for some action. Literally! Bruce orders him to the cave for patrol.
Things pick up naturally. It’s almost as if the untimely demise never occurred. Alfred gets in a new zinger but telling Damian to be mindful of property damage. Batman, in his ever wise guise as patriarch, won’t let Robin run riot — powers or not. It’s ultra-rare for Bats to deliver a zinger of his own but he does when he sarcastically reminds his son that they’re the Dynamic Duo. A dust-up in the Financial District is a cake-walk for the super-powered youngin’. He deflects all bullets fired at him. Why squander this gift? Wennschon, dennschon! Batman literally grounds Robin when he tries to fly off in search of more rough justice. I love the proper interaction here where the parent punishes/chastises the child. One of the typical clichés is thrown out there in that Damian cannot make his own choices until the legal age of twenty-one. Damian protests unfairness which is his right. Bats delivers another barb: he’s the one dressed to scare criminals, not Robin. The man is on a roll.
I was assuming this first chapter was going to be a fun, frolicking, fight-filled issue. Imagine my shock when I viewed Damian’s beyond-disturbing dream. How can you not be off your rocker when you hail from the most dysfunctional family of Talia and Ra’s Al-Ghul?!? Disturbing doesn’t begin to cut it especially when Talia professes her motherly love despite her twisted desire to kill her only son. Some foreshadowing and foreboding awaits when she informs her progeny that “Power isn’t everything Damian. Especially in a black hole.” Damian goes through the roof, (literally!) as he’s found levitating and crashing upwards to Alfred’s room. Alfred, ever the stoic, casually asks Damian if he would like some hot chocolate since he’s having trouble sleeping. Damian opts for some air.
While at his mother’s gravesite, Damian etches her name on the tombstone with his finger. Alfred appraises Batman of the situation. Damian reminds his dearly departed mother of her failure and asserts his existence twice before flying off. It’s not surprising that Bruce has a way of tracing his wayward son. It’s absolutely ingenious!! He put some serum in the juice consumed that bonds with the hemoglobin and acts as GPS dye. Alfred tells Master Bruce three wise things in dealing with children going through growing pains:  an allowance of solitude,  a time for reflection,  and enabling trust. As Robin heads skyward (just like a bird), a trail of fireflies follow.
Damian stays afloat over the city before putting on his mask in determination. He lets go of the firefly on his finger and bolts elsewhere. Destination: his place of birth. Damian is flying at super-speed that rivals Superman’s. The lab where he was born is completely abandoned. Surprise number two for me: Damian dives into the depths of the Atlantic hitting the Abyssal Pelagic Zone. Ahoy! It’s Aquaman!! In his coolish manner, the King of the Seven Seas marvels at Robin’s feat, expresses joy in the boy’s resurrection, and mentions his admiration for Batman’s monomaniacal mission. Damian makes a bold demand: he wants Talia’s botched creations in his custody. Thankfully, without resorting to fisticuffs, Aquaman acquiesces.
The light-heartedness at the beginning of this tale progressed to grim ponderings and now delivers a heavy dose of pathos. Damian looks upon his ‘brothers’ after freeing them from their prisons. Horrendous doesn’t even begin to describe them. However, Damian delivers on his compassion with forgiveness and freedom. It’ll be interesting to see if/when there’ll be repercussions to this.
Peter Tomasi has turned this title into the most sublime, undersold Bat-book in the New 52 line. He has cultivated such a rich relationship between Bruce and Damian. Even though there’s the super-heroic side of things, this is one of the most realistic depictions of family in any form of literature. The experienced reader knew that Damian wouldn’t be collecting dust for all eternity. It may have been six months, one year, a decade, or more, but we all knew the boy would rebound. My point is this: enough time was given for Bruce and all other parties to deal with Damian’s absence. Batman will always need a Robin and this book simply requires it.
Patrick Gleason can draw anything, plain and simple! His renditions of Ra’s and Talia are as dark and twisted as they come. The death imagery is practically Lovecraftian and really highlights the rottenness of Damian’s blood relations. From Titus’ gleeful mischievous mien to Robin’s masked menace to Damian’s soft-hearted looks to the grotesqueness of the faulty clones, Patrick Gleason is a true master of art!
Mick Gray accentuates Patrick’s pencils. It’s the little things that mean the most. The bullets, the tea splashing, the wispy break in the clouds, the laced boot, the bubbles, the ridges on the coral tentacles: all superb!
John Kalisz is a multi-chromatic maker. From the absence of light to the most bright, all colours reflect mood, setting, and plot advancement. The cover itself is primo with the vibrancy of the splashy yellow that overtakes not only as a nod to a third of Robin’s costume but to emphasize the glee in Damian’s return.
Carlos M. Mangual has fun with words. As usual, he comes out on top with the sound effects. The fonts used for the title of the arc and the subtitle are bar-none.
Given the 22-month absence of young master Wayne and the eventual onset of adulthood, I give this book a 21 out of 22 (95%).
Tags: Batman, Batman and Robin, Spoilers