Peter: In preparation for The Dark Knight Rises, I’ve been watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight a lot lately. In Batman Begins, Bruce examines what he is afraid of in order to figure out what his enemies will fear. Tomasi and Gleason have taken Bruce’s bat symbol and perverted it for evil means. No longer do just criminals fear the bat, but ordinary citizens of Gotham are being terrorized by the very symbol they have grown to rely on for protection.
This issue really tackles two storylines, and does a great job of it. Unlike confusing issues of Batwoman, Batman and Robin’s stories are presented in two distinct chunks. For the sake of this review, I will also be treating them as such.
War of the Robins
Damian embarks on his quest to prove that he is the best Robin ever. After last issue’s spat — and subsequent cave remodel — with Tim Drake, Damian moves in backwards order. His new target is Jason Todd. Damian ambushes Todd at one of his safehouses. After some very heated dialogue, they scuffle, and Damian makes off with Jason’s helmet.
Terminus’ gang of Bat-mangles have been busy. They are going around terrorizing Gothamites, both average citizens and police alike, by branding them on the chest with a flaming bat symbol. Batman and Robin rush to the scene, and while their city is exploding around them, confront the terrorists on the rooftops of Gotham. Suddenly, Terminus — wearing a brand-new armored evil Batsuit — literally bursts onto the scene!
I really enjoyed this issue. However, I do think that the quality is starting to slip a little bit. The first arc of Tomasi’s Batman and Robin was superb. This one is suffering from trying to tell multiple stories at once. I really like the idea of the whole War-of-Robins thing. From the first arc, Damian’s character was developed really well. This is really the only book where Damian gets the spotlight. Hell, it’s pretty much the only book that he appears in, save for Batman Inc.
Damian’s development continues to be awesome here. I’m still a little confused about how he went from relatively emo to cocky little shit again, but he’s 10, so I’ll give him a break. Tomasi continues to sculpt an incredible voice for Damian here as well. One of my favorite moments in this issue is Damian and Gordon.
Also, his entire confrontation with Jason is fantastic. Both Damian’s and Jason’s dialogue is superb here. But the best part is from Jason. We saw in Damian’s fight with Tim that he likes to talk and get inside his opponent’s head, wanting something more integral. While Jason claims to be over his spat with Bruce, he does get a little snippy.
I have this weird theory about this whole thing. It all started with the family portrait sitting in last issue. I think that Damian is not trying to prove himself better necessarily, but he is trying to bring his family closer together. He has never really had a family until he moved in with Bruce. (No, the League of Assassins doesn’t count.) After NoBody and the in-depth analysis of family, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are continuing on that path.
The Terminus story is okay. I do like that the villains are mostly people that just got beat up by Batman and were accidentally maimed by him. I’ve always wondered about stuff like that. I mean, can you imagine how many people Batman has beaten up over the years? It has got to be close to a googolplex. Terminus is continuing to be pretty confusing. I would imagine that he is like his cohorts; maimed in someway by Batman. I mean, did Batman somehow MAKE HIS FACE MELT OFF?
Also, his tactics are interesting. He is using Batman’s first and most important weapon against ordinary citizens: Fear. Specifically, the fear of the bat chest symbol. Also, remember the The Dark Knight movie poster?
Of course you do. Very cool use by Tomasi and Gleason.
I still really like this issue – it just feels like a step down from the NoBody storyline. Damian and Bruce’s dynamic in that story is intense and at times overwhelming. Here it doesn’t have the flair and dialogue that it does earlier in this series. I hope that Damian will begin to play a larger role in the Terminus storyline, since he’s the best part of this book right now. Also, the inclusion of the other Robins is turning out to be pretty awesome, and Damian and Dick’s confrontation will be the best yet. As you can probably tell, I’m much more interested in the War of the Robins storyline than the Terminus storyline.
Sidenote: What if Jason’s helmet is still a bomb?! Could he use it to try to blow Damian up?
Drew: You have to respect the balls it takes to wear a bomb for a helmet.
Peter’s right about pretty much everything. There is almost no material connecting the War of the Robins to the Terminus storyline, at least not yet. I’m starting to suspect that the perversion of the bat symbol will act as a rallying cry for all of the former Robins, which would bring these two story lines together beautifully, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’m sure Peter is right about Terminus’ motivations, but I still have no idea what he’s planning.
It’s an interesting idea to turn the bat symbol against itself, making it strike fear in the hearts of guilty and innocent alike, but I’m not sure it’s as psychologically damaging as it’s made out to be. People understand that Batman is different from the maniacs running around branding everybody, so I’m not sure the notion that they use the same symbol really matters. They probably use the same alphabet, too. More importantly, I’m not sure how this relates to the huge fucking missile we saw in the previous issue. I was under the impression that Terminus’ plan was to destroy all of Gotham, including Batman, so anything else poses an unnecessary risk to that plan. The point is, I don’t understand what exactly Terminus is doing, but I think that’s okay. How he came down with melty-face-fever (aside from Batman’s wicked guitar leads, of course) is the key to this puzzle, and I can’t really attempt any predictions without it.
While the jury is still out on the Terminus story line, I have to admit that I’m with Peter in loving the War of the Robins arc. It’s not that the other story is bad, it’s just that it can’t help but feel like filler next to the subtle character work Tomasi is doing with the Robins.
I’m an unabashed Jason Todd fan, and I think Tomasi’s Damian is a fascinating character. Of course the sparks are going to fly between them, but I’m much more impressed at the surprises peppered throughout their battle. Perhaps the most surprising is the suggestion that Jason’s hard-line morality may make Damian (as a kid in a Robin costume) one of the few people he isn’t willing to kill. It makes a lot of sense, but was totally unexpected here from the otherwise unsentimental Jason. Who would ever guess he’d go easy on anyone, let alone Bruce’s son?
I also can’t get over what a dick Damian is during that fight. Calling a guy’s abilities into question after any failure is pretty cold, but it’s downright icy if that failure resulted in his own death. That makes Jason’s restraint all the more admirable. I also appreciated the callback to when Damian beat the Joker with a crowbar back in Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin run.
I like that Damian acknowledges that leaving a crowbar for Jason to find might be tasteless, but that he did it anyway, ’cause he’s a dick. The crowbar has become a potent symbol in Jason’s life, on par with Martha’s string of pearls in Bruce’s. That potency is amplified here, as Patrick Gleason gives an understated reminder of Jason’s history in the background. Notice that those background panels themselves are blood-spattered crowbars. It’s unclear if those background panels are Jason’s memories, or Damian’s imagination, but the way they are depicted so graphically makes it certain that it isn’t an objective viewpoint, put there for our benefit (you know, in case we had no idea who Jason was or something).
That kind of subtle, affecting artwork is increasingly seen in Gleason’s work on this title, and is on particular display during that opening fight scene. He employs a strict grid system in the middle of a page to show us the blow-by-blow of their fight, making every movement clear while freeing up space for more dramatic close-ups. I also loved the last panel of the first page, where we first see Damian.
That may be the single most ninja panel I’ve ever seen. This kid was raised by the League of Assassins. He’s sneaking up on the motherfucking Red Hood. It’s unclear who colored that page (John Kalisz, Allen Passalaqua, and Hi-Fi are all credited on this issue), but the darkened colors along with just the faintest of outlines really emphasizes just how stealthy Damian is being. Hell, I know he’s in that panel, and I can still barely see him.
I’m continuing to love this title. I may be a bit bitter that it’s taking away space from the story line that I’m really digging, but the Terminus story really isn’t all that bad. Moreover, I have faith that it will come together with the War of the Robins story in some brilliant way. Ultimately, though, how can you not trust in a title that delivers images like this?
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