Today, Peter and Patrick are discussing Batman and Robin 8, originally released April 11th 2012.
Peter: I recently went back and re-read the first sixteen issues of Grant Morrison’s run of Batman and Robin. This picks up right after the conclusion of Battle for the Cowl, with Dick taking over as Batman and Damian first appearance as Robin. Go read it right now, because it contributed to personal re-revaluation of Damian’s character. Combined with what we have seen so far in Tomasi’s run with Batman and Robin, Damian is proving to be an incredibly compelling and dynamic character. Baseline verdict: confused 10 year old ninja.
This issue picks up at the exact moment that the climatic issue 8, with Damian’s index and middle fingers in NoBody’s forehead. He tells Bruce that he did it for him, to protect him, and his kingdom. Bruce then carries him out of the fire, avoiding the exploding boat and the Batmobile whisks them back to the Batcave. Upon arrival, Bruce makes Alfred save the heavily injured Damian before treating his wounds. Bruce has a few moments to himself and while looking at a portrait of him and his parents, he collapses. Alfred finds him, and treats his wounds while they discuss Bruce and Damian’s current medical condition. As Damian is recovering from his wounds, Bruce visits him, and gives him the recording he made while Bruce was out searching for him when Damian ‘sided’ with NoBody. Bruce reveals that he did, in fact, did want to kill Morgan, and that despite the incredible urges, he held onto his moral code of not killing. Bruce and Damian have a conversation about the code, Bruce goes into the ‘no exceptions’ clause. Damian admits that he is extremely confused and going through an identity crisis, but he does know that all he wants is to be like Bruce. Bruce then does the fatherly thing and tells him that he just wants Damian to be the best Damian he can be. They then spend the rest of the issue doing mundane activities, like playing fetch with Titus, and fishing, until of course the Bat Signal breaks the mood.
Despite this issue’s significant lack of action compared to previous issues, it is incredibly well written. This issue brings much needed closure to the NoBody story, and makes sense of Damian killing Morgan at the end of issue 7. This issue plays an important role in the ever-developing relationship between father and son. While some of the dialogue is very predictable, I don’t think that I would have liked it as much if it had been anything different.
This image really shows the compassion that Bruce has for his son, despite everything that he has done, including killing Morgan. The ever-constant Bruce Wayne reassurance. I also get the feeling that he is officially ready to be the guiding light in Damian’s life. Before he seemed somewhat distant, not necessarily sure of how or what to do, but now, he is ready.
We continue to see the evolution of Damian’s character. I mentioned before that I reread Morrison’s run of Batman and Robin. As Damian’s first foray as Robin, these stories show him as slightly more overconfident – still willing to do whatever is necessary and just being held back by Dick. Now, we see him for the first time as weak and extremely unsure of himself. This is obviously seen in his dialogue, and in his overall body language.
This is a great step forward for him. It shows a lot of growth from when we first saw Damian as an overconfident little shit. I don’t think that he immediately transforms into a tiny Bruce Wayne, but he can begin to make progress. If he does, I think that I will really enjoy reading this book in the future. Damian is one of the newest characters (even before the New 52 reboot) and that gives him the cleanest canvas with which to tell his story.
Damian is not the only one embracing personal growth in this issue. Bruce takes giant leaps forward. As I said before, he has come to terms with the fact that he must do what he can to raise Damian correctly, as he continues to learn to be a father. Look at him as he begins to clean up the last room in Wayne Manor; his father’s study. This is symbolic of Bruce turning over a new leaf in his life. I see this as him finally moving onto the next stage in his life since he began his quest for Batman. The symbolism of light being shed on the room can be seen many different ways. I like to see it not only has Bruce shedding light on his future, but he is making that choice. Light has played a big role in the art of this book, and is incredibly prominent when the characters are making important choices. Remember the image of Damian and fireflies?
At the end of this issue we see Bruce and Damian making the choice to continue to fight together, and protect Gotham together. And you know what prompts this? The Bat Signal, a big fucking light.
Patrick: You know what else is awesome about that final image? A lone firefly softly sheds its light on the tennis ball. If you recall, that other image firefly you posted from the end of issue 4 also takes place right behind the Thomas and Martha Wayne headstones. Also, Damien has his dog Titus with him on both occasions. There are just enough similarities between these two moments to draw obvious connections between them. The major difference between the two is Damien’s disposition. It’s a stark demonstration of the power of paternal love.
I have an older sister who lives in Georgia with her husband and their two-year old daughter. I don’t get to see them very much, partially because I live 3,000 miles away, but also because they’re an army family and I’m trying to be a writer in Los Angeles. Our lives couldn’t be much more dissimilar (given that we’re all American and white), but I love these people more than I can express. The day this review posts, this same sister is going to give birth to a little boy. And that kid, like his sister before him, is going to have one hell of a world staring him down the second he shows his face.
This is the mindset I’m in reading this issue. So, Peter, to answer your question: yes – this issue moved me. It may not be revelatory thematic material – the father and son learning from each other as their relationship develops – but when it works, it fucking works. I am so strongly invested in both these characters individually and their relationship, so even the well-worn territory feels fresh.
We don’t need to turn everything we write into bitching-about-Detective-Comics, but let me take a second to bitch about Detective Comics. The Batman as presented in Detective Comics is basically the exact opposite of the Batman we see on display in Batman and Robin. Tony Daniel’s Batman is cruel, impulsive and straight-up sadistic, whereas Tomasi’s Batman is a complicated man, driven by conflicting principals who struggles to be the best version of himself. QUICK POLL: Which makes for an obviously more interesting character?
I’m also really impressed that this issue spends so much time focusing on quieter moments. In fact, other than one pretty low-stakes escape sequence, there aren’t any heroics on display here. Both Batman and Robin are bloodied and beaten and they reveal their true selves. Bruce becomes the worried father and makes a concerted effort to connect with his son. Damien becomes a child. And I love that. We tend to just sort of chuckle away the fact that Damien is ten years old, but it’s great to see him let his guard down and just act like a kid. We get this great moment of honesty as soon as Damien has been dragged to safety – like all children, his mind wanders to something he likes: his dog.
He’s just a kid after all.
When trying to justify his no-killing rule, Bruce throws down the oldest revenge proverb in the book: “If you walk down a road of vengeance then you should dig two graves, one for your enemy and one for yourself.” But then he adds something distinctly more Batman-esque to his pep talk. “You can’t build a better world by killing criminals – it bankrupts your soul and society’s by reinforcing the cycle of violence.” Not only is this one of the more eloquently stated defenses of Bruce’s practices, but it is also exactly what Damien needs to hear. Not to be convinced, mind you, just to give him all the information to make an informed decision for himself. And isn’t that what a father is for?
I feel we’d be remiss not to mention the totally stellar art on the title page of this issue. Huge black bars on the top and bottom of this spread give the aftermath of Morgan’s murder an ultra-cinematic feel. And there’s all this dramatic lighting from the fire and those two absolutely crestfallen looks on Bruce and Damien’s faces… it starts the whole moody affair off in perfect character.
I’m stoked to be heading into the Night of Owls crossover with yet another series that a genuinely love. Damien’s role as a total new-comer to Gotham should clash beautifully with those damn owls. That, coupled with the Court’s ability to strike out at any time against anyone, makes me really excited to see just how the Batman & Son, LLC dynamic will play out in the next couple issues. Morgan was a great first villain for this series, the owls will make a great second act.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?