Today, Peter and Drew are discussing Batman and Robin 7, originally released March 14th 2012.
Peter: This is it. I have been waiting several months for this story to come to fruition, and it is finally upon us. Batman vs. Nobody. Bruce Wayne vs. Morgan Ducard. This is a Bruce unlike any we have EVER seen before; not once in his entire history has Bruce been faced with losing is own flesh and blood. Sure Dick, Jason, Tim and Cassandra are his children; he adopted them, but never before has he had a biological son to lose. Based on the cover alone, I can guess that this is going to be a wild ride. I mean, when was the last time you saw and image of Batman that was so menacing, or so scary? I mean he is about to rip into Morgan with not one, but 14 knives sticking out of his back. Is this Batman going bat-shit crazy?
This issue picks up directly were the last left off. Bruce is racing to save Damian from the hands of Nobody after Damian reveals that he is not going to side with Morgan. Morgan is taunting Bruce through Damian’s communicator as Bruce draws ever closer in the Batmobile. Bruce busts through the side of the building, jumps out, more determined than ever, and confronts Morgan. Bruce and Morgan fight. A lot. As the fight progresses, Nobody begins to stab Bruce in the back with knives. But that doesn’t slow the Dark Knight down. During the fight they are talking back and forth about what brought this on, their past, and ideologies. Bruce finally gets the upper hand, and he picks Morgan up and dunks him into the large tub of acid. Bruce, however, seeing the look in Damian’s eyes as he watches his father submerge Morgan in acid, pulls him out, rips his mask off, and takes Damian to leave. In the final moments, Morgan addresses Damian again, taunting him to kill him, promising that he will come back to haunt the Waynes, and that this is only option. In the final moments, Damian uses the technique Morgan taught him to knock someone out, but applies more force, and kills him by, what looks like, plunging his fingers into the front of Morgan head. He then turns to his father, and asks “Forgive me father, for I have sinned.”
Do you have any idea how good this book was?! Tomasi really knocks it out of the park with a solidly written script; a fine ending to the Nobody arc. At least, I think it’s over, since Morgan is dead. Tomasi continues his trend of phenomenal character development throughout this book. This is Bruce as we have never seen him. He is protecting his son, saving him from being murdered. It really is a powerful tale. This is the final battle between two conflicting ideologies, two schools of thought. This could have been just an action book, but Tomasi really continues his character development right up until the end. Peter Tomasi writes a menacing, visceral Bruce in this issue. While Bruce’s threat of ending Morgan’s life because he threatened Damian feels hollow, the rest of the issue paints a striking picture of a Bruce Wayne that’s come unhinged by the thought of his son’s potential death. He might be a cold father, but Tomasi makes it clear in this issue that Bruce might be willing to cross his uncrossable line in the sand one day. It’s an idea I’d like to see Tomasi run with in future issues of Batman and Robin.
Despite the solid script, what really makes this book stand out is the art. The art is what does the storytelling for me in this book. Patrick Gleason really pulls out all the stops in two gorgeous double page murals, and really conveys some “Holy Shit!” moments incredibly well. A combination of his art and the inking, coloring and lettering make Tomasi’s script jump to life. The visuals in this book are stunning. Gleason and Co. take the writing and really push the characters over the edge. The best example is Batman. Most of the writing is fairly emotional, but he really goes over the top, exploding emotion, even when the image is a fairly expressionless or even as Batman rises out of the Batmobile. You can’t even see his face, but you can feel the intensity in this shot. And as I mentioned, the double pages are fantastic. The splash page were Morgan and Bruce are fight is a whirlwind of awesome, and really conveys the escalation of the fight, leading perfecting into the shocking moment when Bruce finally plunges Morgan into the acid.
But the best part about this, is the speed at which Bruce’s demeanor changes. Not only his he unleashing his anger onto Morgan, he rips his mask of, symbolizing any number of things. Read it how you want. I see it as Bruce taking ownership of his actions; not hiding behind the cowl, this is 100% Bruce Wayne. In an instant however, you see his remember the promises he made to raise Damian correctly, and his face immediately softens. It is a very powerful scene, and one of the best in the New 52 (yeah, I’ll say it).
This book is incredibly stunning. I am very excited to see what comes next. I am, however still not sure how I feel about the ending, and Damian’s last line. It really hit me hard, and I am still trying to interpret it. Do I hate it? Do I love it? Is this just a cop out, or an incredibly revealing move? We will just have to wait and see.
Drew: Yeah, I’m not sure I buy that last line, but I totally buy that Damian would kill Morgan. This may feel like one-too-many double-crosses in the battle for Damian’s soul, but I totally buy that Damian would make this decision, even as he seems to be coming around to Bruce’s worldview. We’ve seen him hold back, we’ve seen him avoid killing, but when he thinks his families life may be at stake, he crosses the line his father was only barely strong enough to keep from crossing himself. What’s truly intriguing is that they come up to the line for exactly the same reasons; protecting their family. It’s hard to tell what role seeing Bruce almost kill Morgan may have had on Damian, but I think Damian made his choice because of another lesson his father taught him, one that is even more central to Batman than even refusing to take a life: the fear of losing a parent.
Whoa. If Bruce could somehow prevent his parents from dying by killing Joe Chill, do you think he’d do it? A moral relativist might argue that it’s better to take one life than allow two lives to be taken, but that’s exactly the argument NoBody made at the drive-in; that Bruce would have prevented many many deaths if he had simply killed the Joker or Two-Face or any of his other rogues. I suppose we must take into account the fact that Bruce’s own aversion to killing stemmed from watching his parents die in front of him, so this may not be a difficult decision when posed to pre-orphaned Bruce. Those are kind of the shoes Damian is in, only he’s actually been indoctrinated from a young age that killing is perfectly fine. Once again, we see him pulling away from these tendencies, yet he still makes the decision to kill when he feels his own life and the life of his family are threatened — a decision that is much more morally ambiguous than the flippant violence we tend to associate with Damian, and one we almost see Bruce make moments before.
But there’s even more going on in young Damian’s mind. Check out this moment from when Bruce and Damian are reunited:
It’s played (and perfectly paced) for laughs, but a losing a parent’s trust is devastating for a kid. It’s arguable that Damian never really had Bruce’s trust (though again, I can’t believe Bruce would bring someone he couldn’t trust absolutely out on the street with him), but I’m not sure that’s always been apparent to Damian. I think what is apparent is that this fight wasn’t completely about Damian. Bruce has expressed how important he thinks it is that he teach Damian right from wrong — mostly because of how dangerous Damian can be — but it seems to me that the real threat Morgan poses is to Bruce’s own ideology. Could Bruce live with himself if he had allowed a family member to be killed because he refused to kill himself? (Jeez, this title is coming up with all kinds of cool Batman thought-experiments.)
But for all our saber rattling about flesh-and-blood, I don’t really buy that the stakes are higher just because Damian is Bruce’s biological son. Damian is largely a stranger to Bruce, one who often acts like a total brat. I get that parents love their kids in spite of those things, but Bruce has known and trusted (and acted as a father figure for) so many of his other sidekicks for so much longer that I refuse to believe that he could somehow care about Damian more. In the end, there are all kinds of other reasons that Bruce would be totally pissed — the fact that, after Jason, he doesn’t take too kindly to Robins being in mortal danger, or the ideological battle I mentioned above, just to name a few — that I don’t think we need to drag paternity into the mix.
And man, is he ever pissed. Bruce isn’t always the most emotional guy, but one emotion he has in spades is RAGE. Oftentimes, his anger seems like part of his act, and it’s difficult to tell just how mad he really is at this drug pusher or whoever, but he is clearly genuinely pissed here. So pissed that he really does almost kill Morgan. It’s not even clear that he wouldn’t have killed him if Damian hadn’t been there watching. That’s not a development I totally buy — Bruce even shows restraint with the Joker, a dude who has actually killed a Robin (and paralyzed a Batgirl) — so I’m choosing to read that scene as from Damian’s perspective. Bear with me here: from the fevered mind of an eight-year-old in full “my dad can beat up your dad” mode, Batman is being extra awesome because he’s my dad, and all the emotions seem extra high pitched because, you know, adults are intense and stuff. Maybe Bruce never was all that hell-bent on killing Morgan, but Damian chose to believe it because it was kind of bad-ass. In that case, the dramatic flair of Damian’s closing line almost makes sense. Almost.
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