BATMAN & ROBIN #39 Review & Spoilers
“SuperPower, pt. 2: Boy Wonder” (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; Harley Quinn variant by Emanuela Lupacchino & Tomeu Morey
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
The saga of the super-powered Robin goes into high gear!!
The first few pages has Damian round up (literally) a batch of no-gooders from A to Z-list: Penguin, Killer Croc, Scallop & Smush (from B&R #10-12), and Bathead (WTF?!?). Despite the pitch-black scary setting Croc determines “the boy” by his sense of smell. He tosses Damian aside as if he were nothing. Penguin chastises him and says that if any harm befells Robin Batman will come down on them hard.
Damian lets himself (tsk tsk) be thrown around by Croc given the element of surprise and perhaps the hope that he can actually reason with these fiends. However, he snaps when Croc mentions death. The time for talking is over. At break-neck speed, he binds them together and propels to the troposphere. Things happen so fast that they’re in awe of Robin’s new power of flight. There’s a new
balance of power in the city and any line that is crossed will be met with extreme prejudice. Robin warns them all not to pass that line otherwise they’ll experience the Karman Line (which separates the atmosphere from the troposphere). As he flies away with them, his strength cuts out and he unwillingly drops the crooks. Luckily, the Bat-jet scoops them up. In full fatherly scolding voice with a waving finger to boot, Batman tells Robin: “Down. Now.” I love how succinct the Dark Knight is to get this point across (pun intended! Sorry, couldn’t help myself ;-P)
The next four pages are the most superb pieces of the entire issue. Bruce takes Damian on a fishing trip. Mind you, this was Alfred’s recommendation which Damian quickly ascertains. Damian wants concrete answers for his newly-acquired powers. Bruce only has speculation and doesn’t want to mislead or misinform his son. Damian tells him he’s just as content to hear Bruce’s theories. Peter J. Tomasi offers an ingenious yet logical explanation to the whole situation: the Apokoliptian Chaos Sliver that Talia used to accelerate Damian’s embryo continued to slowly emit radiation which Damian absorbed since his birth. When Bruce impaled Damian with a shard of the Sliver it acted as a catalyst that awakened the power source deep within. Nevertheless, there’s a catch. Bruce was infected with an uncontrollable rage when he seized it unprotected in Nanda Parbat. Aside from that, he had visions that showed him how to exactly resurrect Damian. Darkseid’s Omega Beams were the variable vital to the mix. This piece of news was unbeknownst to Damian. THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE BEST PART. I still get goosebumps re-reading this. Bruce points out one positive thing to this entire situation: the Sliver magnified his love for his son as well as his unbreakable resolve. He equates it to a wishing star which made Damian’s return an actual reality. Damian utters the cliché “Be careful what you wish for.” thinking that Bruce’s actions were regrettable. Bruce assures him that isn’t the case. The fishing trip is cut short when Bruce states that they cannot return home until at least one fish is caught per Alfred’s instructions. Damian tosses his rod, and flies the boat back to Wayne Manor with Bruce in tow and a single fish gored. Alfred reacts in typical deadpan fashion.
The last section of this book reiterates the power coursing through Damian’s body. Extensive tests are run. Damian is rightly miffed at being a guinea pig. Who can blame him? A little jab at the other comic book company is given when Bruce begins to say “With great power comes…” before Damian fills in the blanks with “…A great many weekly tests. Yeah, I know.” *chuckle* Alfred notices that Damian’s body ‘feels’ the pain inflicted upon him but his brain is not registering it. This does not bode well for young master Wayne. As Bruce states, it’s bad enough that every 10-year-old feels invincible but in this case it fits Damian to a T. This in turn will only make him more reckless.
Batman is the ultimate DC hero for the simple fact that he has no super-powers yet emerges triumphant each and every time. He tells Robin that his powers are unpredictable and that they will betray him. In other words, they’ll conk out and he cannot use them as a crutch. He reminds Robin to remember his training and to rely on his instincts. Robin points out that he beat death with Batman’s assist. Batman corrects him by saying that
(real or fictional) can beat that eventuality, only cheat or postpone it. Their tête-à-tête is cut short when Robin busts out of the Batmobile and takes down the tank with the thugs inside. Batman points out that the two of them are not on the same level of communication. Damian has a little freak-out (as he should) banging his head against the wall frustrated at the lack of feeling pain.
The Justice League request Batman’s immediate presence at its satellite. He instructs Robin to deliver the criminals and drive back the Batmobile. As soon as Batman enters the boom tube, Damian drops off the thugs, grabs the Bat-signal and is about to rain down on the lowlifes in an alley when the light focuses on Batman. Fake-out!! Batman decides to bring along Robin to the JL HQ. He will wait for him while Damian returns the Bat-signal.
Let the records show that this is the first time any Robin has visited JL HQ (if I’m not mistaken). Damian is unimpressed with the satellite’s layout and curt with Superman who is at a loss for words but overjoyed at Damian’s return. The Bat-Brat is not in the least fazed by Shazam who’s just gushing with enthusiasm. I love the role reversal here. Damian is more adult-minded in his child-sized body as opposed to Shazam who has a youthful mentality in a burgeoning man’s physique. Unlike most youth, the mention of video game systems doesn’t appeal to Robin.
Superman and Batman are monitoring a perilous situation on Hashima Island in the Nagasaki prefecture of Japan. Shazam and Robin’s interaction continues. Shazam wishes he could maintain his 13-year-old body with super-powers intact instead of inhabiting some “old guy’s”. Robin points out that he was just as awesome without any. Talk about cutting down the Big Red Cheese to size!! Robin offers some insightful intel regarding Hashima. He tells the World’s Finest that it’s completely abandoned and that it’s nicknamed Ghost Island. With that info, the League will go into action despite the populated Nagasaki being ten miles away. Superman posits that Robin will remain at the satellite to observe and report. Batman surprises them all by saying that Robin is tagging along. Shazam is thrilled for Damian. Robin’s delight couldn’t be more obvious. The geek in me squealed at the (potential) title for next issue: “Superfriends!” Indeed!
It goes without saying that Damian was the missing ingredient in his twenty-two month absence from this title. His presence is crucial in cementing and expanding on the father-son dynamic that has become the quintessential Bat-title in my overt opinion. I’d say this book puts all the others to shame. Yes, even Scott Snyder’s & Greg Capullo’s number-one seller. Mr. Tomasi has beautifully built Bruce’s and Damian’s bond. What started as a begrudging relationship has blossomed into an exemplary one. Just when you think it’s all been said and done, new kinks are created strengthening the ties and material is provided for unlimited unending stories.
I suspect that Patrick Gleason is a co-plotter. Each panel brings to light every aspect of the story in fine detail. He makes super-heroics look fun with Damian showboating (get it?) off-costume. He casts Damian’s conflicting emotions so flawlessly that we all jump on the ride — nonchalant, flustered, cocky, angry, apathetic, and proud. Seeing Bruce in a fisherman’s hat is a first in his 75 years of existence. The quality time between the two could not have had a better setting.
Mick Gray has kept up with Gleason’s pencils for this long that I tend to think that the two individuals are one entity. The facial expressions are what makes these fictional characters absolutely human.
One would think that using the same colors time and again would be unimpressive. John Kalisz has no such hang-ups. From the raging red flare to the crystal blue troposphere to the speckled stars of space, every page is an art lover’s cornucopia.
Instead of always pointing out the more obvious, I’ve finally learned to pay attention to what escapes other’s eyes. Carlos M. Mangual keeps it coming with the continuous dialogue that is anything but boring. However, I like the name printed on the fishing boat. As far as I can tell some letters are missing. It seems deliberate forcing one to guess the exact designation. This is aside from the obligatory sound effects.
Sadly, this title is coming to an end. This is the penultimate issue. After CONVERGENCE, this will be re-launched as ROBIN: SON of BATMAN. Patrick Gleason will take over the writing reins and continuing to illustrate. Sounds very promising!!
Final note: the cover is yet another homage to ACTION COMICS #1. Either way, it’s extremely tongue-and-cheek. Alfred’s panicky face is priceless.
How many other super-powers will Damian get? I give this book a 7.5 out 8 (93.75%) given that Superman only has eight legitimate powers [the most recent one appearing a few weeks back].
Tags: Batman, Batman and Robin, Robin