Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing the Batman Incorporated 8, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Spoiler Alert. Hahaha, just kidding. Fuck you very much, internet. Alright, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system–Seriously, couldn’t you have just kept your mouth shut for a few more days?!? Okay, it’s okay, I’m all better now. As I write this, I’ve just finished reading issue 8 of Grant Morrison’s Batman, Inc. and I’m still not quite sure what to make of things. We all know by now that Damian “The Boy Wonder” is dead. And though I have some wild theories that say he’s not actually dead, the issue leaves us with that conclusion. Grant Morrison has stated (a bit earlier than he should have mind you) what the death of Damian means in the greater sense of the themes he was presenting us with, but I’d like to focus on the character of young Damian and what his death means in the context of the world in which these characters live. I’ll leave the heavy lifting to Drew.
First things first, we begin with Robin flying into the war zone that is Midtown Gotham as Batman struggles to free himself from his would be watery grave. Red Robin literally just walks into the Leviathan infested Wayne Enterprises building, saves a girl named Ellie, and takes out some of Talia’s trash until he’s crushed by a plane. Don’t worry, he’s not the Robin that dies tonight. Immediately after, Damian zooms in through the window (now that’s an entrance!) and takes out a few more goons before getting his neck saved by Nightwing. Then the best thing ever happens as Nightwing and Robin discuss how they were essentially the BEST BATMAN AND ROBIN TEAM OF ALL TIME. The duo continue to take out more thugs until they are confronted by Uber-Damian (who is carrying the World-Bomb trigger). Nightwing is immediately tossed out of frame leaving Robin to fend for himself. They trade a few blows as Damian pleads for his mother to stop all of the madness. Uber-Damian temporaily stops his assault on Robin to reclaim the trigger from Ellie who has bravely decided to protect it. Robin attempts to kill the evil version of himself, but is harder to kill than he thought. And, as Batman escapes just a little bit too late, Damian Wayne becomes the second Robin to lose his life in the line of duty as he is stabbed in the chest by his own twisted self.
Well this is a downer, but before I get to his absurdly untimely death, let’s take a look at what Damian was able to do in this issue. First of all, and I refuse to say this any other way, he explodes into this issue like a bat out of hell. It was great seeing Robin tear through Gotham City in his flight suit. It was even greater watching him make a very Batman-like entrance into the Wayne building. Let’s face it, this kid is practically Batman already. Just take a look.
That Leviathan thug was about to compare him to a “giant, screeching bat” which is probably the best compliment you could ever give to Damian. He starts knocking the crap out of everyone in usual Damian fashion before getting a hand from Nightwing. They regroup for a moment which allows the two to have a heart to heart which isn’t exactly Damian’s strong suit. The following scene is probably the most touching scene out of Morrison’s entire run.
Oh, and then it’s AWESOME. I literally stopped and stared at this panel for a moment as Batman and Robin reentered the fray. This brought me back to a time when I actually preferred Bruce Wayne’s replacement. A time when the concept of Batman and Robin was flipped on its head. A time when a happy-go-lucky Batman fought side by side with a surly, unsmiling Robin. A time when the Dynamic Duo became brothers that only grew stronger as each issue passed. These 5 panels are so full of joy, love, and determination that I didn’t want it to end. Additionally, I absolutely love the way that Chris Burnham incorporates (no pun intended) the “Boom” and “Ssssss” sound effects into the artwork. It’s clever and fun, and just a small example of why Burnham is perfect for this series.
Unfortunately, the fun eventually had to stop. As Damian is killed, Talia tells Batman that Damian was “a flawed creation” and “a failed experiment.” She continues to say that “you lost the world that might have been yours. You lost me. You lost everything.” She’s telling Batman that if he only had looked at the birth of Damian as a sign that they were meant to be together, that she wouldn’t have decided to kill Damian and that she wouldn’t be attempting to wreak havoc on the world as Leviathan. In the end, Damian is treated like nothing more than a pawn. With that, I’m left with the feeling that Talia has just one-upped anything that the Joker could ever come up with. I mean, killing your own kid just because you didn’t get your way? That’s fucked.
I’m left with so many questions. How is Bruce ever going to get over this? It was hard enough for him when Jason died, but this is his own son! And what about all of Damian’s pets? Bat-Cow, Titus, and Alfred the Cat! I seriously started thinking about how sad they are all going to be and got a bit emotional. They may be fictional pets, but they are pets nonetheless and someone better be looking out for them. Lastly, what does this mean for the future of Robin? Will Batman ever let anyone in that role again? In the New 52, Tim Drake didn’t take on the role of Robin directly out of respect for Jason, now that the previous Robin was Batman’s son can anyone in good conscience (or taste) ever take on the role?
Well Drew, you’re up. Did you have the issue spoiled for you? I managed to be unspoiled for all of Monday but then CBR totally spoil-bombed me with one of their Facebook posts. Stupid timeline. Anyway, what were your feelings about this issue? Did you think that Morrison would actually go through with it and do you think that this death will actually stick? I’ve got some theories about that myself, but I’ll save it for the comments section. Have at it, good sir!
Drew: Let’s not forget, Morrison’s run also featured an issue with the cover copy of Batman R.I.P. where Bruce didn’t actually die. Plus, we’ve seen Damian recover from extremely grievous bodily harm. Granted, that was with Talia’s help, but her “moment of weakness” here suggests that she might just regret this whole killing her son thing, after all. Okay, I know I’m grasping at straws here, but I think we all know the feeling of desparate bargaining when we’re not quite ready to let something go.
Point is, while I’m not entirely sure whether Morrison intends for this death to stick, he’s left DC some outs if they ever want to renege.
It’s interesting, I can see things going either way. Morrison makes a compelling case for Damian’s death, but I can’t help but notice the way he mentions that Batman “never dies,” which reminds me rather strikingly of Damian’s assertion earlier in Morrison’s epic that “Batman and Robin will NEVER DIE!” (Emphasis NOT mine.) Could this whole thing be a ruse perpetuated by Morrison and DC to goose sales (or, less cynically, to keep us guessing)? I actually wouldn’t put it past them. They made a point of soliciting a different cover for this issue, and even most of the Batman group for next month. That is to say, they’re capable of being pretty crafty, even if it seems like they totally botched the endgame on this particular reveal. Part of me wants to believe that the ham-handed way DC handled this surprise was just a distraction from a bigger surprise they’re hoping to pull (all while driving up demand for this issue). That’s likely wishful thinking on my part, but like I said, at this point, I’m willing to settle for a dirty, slimy, airborne pig.
So enough talk about how Damian might not be dead after all (at least, until we get to the comments) — let’s take the death at face value. Mik rightly points out what a heroic end it is, giving Damian a chance to save the world (successfully keeping the World-Bomb trigger out of Bizarro Damian’s hands), as well as reminisce about the good times he had with Dick. It’s also a surprisingly poetic end, with Damian’s entrance mirroring the hell out of the very origin of Batman.
I can see a couple interpretations for that parallel, and since this is Morrison we’re talking about, I might suggest that they’re all true. For Bruce, this could serve as a very potent reminder of his mission — a bat crashing though a Wayne building window accompanies the death of yet another Wayne. It reemphasizes everything that motivates him to become Batman in the first place.
For Damian, I can’t help but see this as Bruce’s story, played in reverse. Where Bruce was a boy shaken by tragedy into a world of discipline and responsibility, Damian was born into that discipline and responsibility. The tragedy here is his own death — and what next? Why, exactly what Bruce’s life was before his parents were murdered: peaceful and carefree. Whether that’s the afterlife, or simply a witness protection program in Tahiti, it’s a fitting rest for a character I’ve really come to care about over the years. He’s earned it.
Still, it’s hard to let him go. I’m sad (like, actually, legitimately sad), and I happen to be privy to the information that Damian is a fictional character. We only start to see Bruce’s reaction, but he’s clearly devastated. I was moved by the complete wreck that was Beryl last issue, following Cyril’s death, so I don’t know if a month is going to be enough time to prepare me for Bruce dealing with the loss of his own son. I suppose Damian’s hulking clone is going to force Bruce to pull himself together sooner rather than later, but I really don’t know what this will do to him. Spoilers aside, this issue somehow manages the emotional gut-punch of an actual death. No amount of spoilers could have prepared me for that.
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