Batman and Robin 10

Today, Drew and Peter are discussing Batman and Robin 10, originally released June 13th 2012.

Drew: What defines us? Is it our best qualities, our successes and moments of pride; or is it our worst qualities, our failures and our weaknesses? It’s a question that plagues all of us at one time or another, and one that is front and center in Peter Tomasi’s run on Batman and Robin. Damian is a character who seems to have nearly infinite capacity for both good and evil, but how exactly he’ll chose to use that capacity remains in question. What defines Damian has been a driving question of this title, and in this issue, Damian reflects the question outward, delivering what promises to be an affecting character study on all of the former Robins (sorry Stephanie Brown fans — it seems her stint as Robin has been written out of the canon for sure).

The issue begins with a meeting of criminals who have been somehow mutilated via their run-ins with Batman. Batman is pretty strict about his no killing rule, but that does leave him some wiggle room as far as permanently disfiguring people goes. Anyway, they’ve been called together by a man calling himself Terminus, who plans to kill Batman, apparently with a nuclear warhead.

Meanwhile, the Wayne family is sitting for their family portrait. Of course, putting Damian and Tim in the same room is always asking for trouble, and they bicker like they’ve always been brothers. There’s a bit of family drama here, including the fact that Bruce hasn’t told Tim that Damian killed NoBody, but the brunt of the matter is that Damian doesn’t respect Tim, and Tim doesn’t trust Damian. They storm off. That evening, Jason, Dick, and Tim all find themselves called to a secret rooftop meeting, but nobody knows who called it. Cue Damian, who explains that, in order to prove he’s the best Robin, he will beat each of them in the one thing they feel unbeatable at. Later, back at the Batcave, Damian confronts Tim. Damian explains that, in light of what went on in the Teen Titans Annual (In stores now!), Tim’s unbeatable skill may just be killing. They fight, and Tim storms off, unclear as to whether he’s really internalized Damian’s point.

This issue is rife with interesting ideas and telling character moments. It all starts with the interesting idea of Batman’s collateral damage. From Bruce’s perspective, he might see any scars he inflicts as warnings or reminders not to commit more crimes, but from the perspective of these disfigured goons, he has destroyed their lives, perhaps even taken away their ability to hold down a legitimate job at all. We’ve spent so much time in this title considering the morality of the no killing rule, it’s fascinating to take a step back and consider that any of Batman’s violence may be immoral. It’s a heady idea, and is really only pulled off here through Patrick Gleason’s brilliantly efficient opening page.

We’re introduced to a whole menagerie of baddies, along with the reason why they feel wronged by Batman (including the return of those knuckleheads from issue 1). That’s a lot of information to convey, but it never feels rushed or cluttered, and each vignette tells its own mini-story.

Gleason is also turning in some incredibly expressive faces, which really helps to sell the exaggerated sibling-rivalry of Damian’s plan. Check out this reaction shot as soon as Damian finishes explaining the plan.

Three very different reactions, but all very true to their characters. Jason buries his head in his hand, either asking himself why he came here tonight, or amused to recognize himself in Damian. Dick is both surprised and hurt to learn that Damian — whom he’d grown quite close to in their time as Batman and Robin — would ever wish to harm him. Tim isn’t surprised at all — he always new Damian was no good. It’s a brilliant and efficient character study, and only hints at what this story has in store for us in the coming months.

That sense of what to come is enhanced by Tomasi’s incredible command over the voices of all four Robins. They have a unique dynamic, and Tomasi relishes the opportunities to bounce them off of each other. My favorite moment has to be at the end of their rooftop meet-up, where Dick and Jason’s dynamic echoes Tim and Damian’s rather pointedly.

As someone who grew up in a family of brothers, I am particularly fond of the mix of camaraderie and competition Tomasi has established between these characters. More than real, it feels vibrant and full of great storytelling potential.

I also like how well this story integrates beats from other stories — we have explicit references to recent developments in Teen Titans, Batman Incorporated, and Red Hood and the Outlaws, not to mention Tim rehashing events from Daimian’s very first appearances. This suggests that Tomasi may be aiming for pretty profound emotional arcs for each of these characters. Already, at the end of this issue, Tim may recognize more of himself in Damian than he cares to admit, cleverly symbolized by a literal reflection.

Something so literal runs the risk of being too on-the-nose, but the fact that it is otherwise an ambiguous reaction shot saves it. We can’t see Tim’s face, and he doesn’t say anything before speeding off on his motorcycle, so we actually don’t know if Damian’s argument has resonated with him at all.

Ultimately, it’s hard to get too wrapped-up in Damian’s argument. He may have a point, but if we were going to say killing was the specialty of any former Robin, that would have to be Jason, right? Tim’s most prized abilities are his detective skills, which Damian doesn’t really have the patience for (though that could simply be because he’s so naturally gifted in the first place). While we’re on that vein, I have to assume Dick’s “unbeatable” thing must be acrobatics, but I can’t help but wonder; what if it was humility? I know, I know, Dick hasn’t always been depicted as the most humble individual, but I think his stint as Batman revealed a lot of deference. Really, I just think it would be funny if Damian were forced to try and prove he’s better than someone at being humble.

This was a fun, smart issue, and it promises to kick off a fun, smart arc. I really couldn’t be more excited to see how the war of the Robins plays out.

Peter: The idea of this War of Robins thing is pretty sweet. Ever since Damian showed up in Gotham he’s been at odds with pretty much everyone, especially Tim. Their relationship has always been pretty dynamic. This story arc will hopefully prove to really prove to air out their dirty laundry. Plus, Tim is finally going to make contributions to a Batman book. Lets be serious, his involvement in the Night of the Owls was pretty lame. Now that we can expect to see Tim in a Batman book in ernest, hopefully it will be awesome.

The image above of Tim, Dick and Jason is pretty cool. Seeing them all together is quite nice, plus, with Dick’s change from a blue bird to a red bird, and Jason’s choice to wear a red bat, plus Tim’s red costume really gives them all a very unifying look. While they have all left Bruce’s side, this really connects them all. It’s quite cool.

I’m kind of confused by this issue in terms of Damian. In issue 8 he was this little sad sack who didn’t know who he really was or what he wanted to be. In short; your average depressed 10 year old. What I can’t understand is how he somehow went 180 on that, and now is just an arrogant little shit again. I wish Damian would just make up his mind. I had these great ideas that we would see Damian on the up and up, but he really hasn’t gone much of anywhere.

Clearly some of this ‘War’ has already started. Tim and Damian’s epic throw down in the cave, complete with yelling banter really gets things rolling. The idea that Tim really isn’t all that perfect is pretty interesting. Dick kinda fell into the role, Jason was just angry, but Tim earned the role. Also, consider this little exchange of dialog:

The stark differences in opinions between Tim and Damian is fine. The fact that Damian has that creepy little smirk on his face is a little creepy. Also, I can’t help but want to think of a good metaphor for them smashing Jason’s memorial costume. I’m not sure what that metaphor is, but it’ll come to me eventually.

When Jason was a little upset that he didn’t get invited to the family portrait sitting, I couldn’t help but think that he wasn’t the only member of the family not invited. Clearly Cass got left out of this shot.

Also, despite the fact that only two of those people are related by blood, they look startling like one another. Bruce has always seemed to end up with Robins that look alike. He even made Jason dye his hair to help protect his identity.

I’m very excited about this new story arc. It shows a lot of promise. Also, this device reminds me of the torture device on Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back.

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?


16 comments on “Batman and Robin 10

  1. Somehow, I had missed any promotional images for this issue. When I pulled it out to read it and saw the cover with “WAR OF THE ROBINS” on the cover, I actually laughed out loud with joy. I am so excited for this.

    • I was also blithely unaware of what B&R was going to launch into. I was super excited to see Jason, but then I realized that I love all of these Robins. I am least familiar with Tim, so that confrontation mostly whetted by appetite for the Robin-on-Robin conflict to come.

      • Damian’s relationship to Tim may be the most contentious (especially with Jason’s more-hero-than-anti-hero turn in the New 52). The conversation they have during their fight kind of spoils events from the “Batman and Son” storyline, but (SPOILER) Damian tried to kill Tim to take his place as Robin. That’s just how shit worked in the League of Assassins. Point is, Damian nearly killed Tim, and Tim’s never forgiven him for it. It doesn’t help that Damian is also a petulant little snot.

        • Poor Damian, man. Not only does he have to deal with all this stuff at the ripe old age of 10, but he’s also got so many conflicting ideologies competing for space in his brain. League says kill the previous Robin to take his place, who is Damian to question this? That’s why you need to be taught critical thinking skills – LIBERAL ARTS 4 LIFE.

  2. Oh, I don’t know Peter – I think Damian being a moody little shit capable of huge mood-swings just makes him all the more terrifying a presence in Gotham. Besides, why would he not feel confident after the events of the Night of Owls. He is one of the more blatantly successful members of the family on that evening. I mean, he effectively takes command of a group of Army dudes. ARMY DUDES.

    • Yes that’s true. But at the beginning of issue 9 he was ready to run home and defend Bruce. He probably has mood swings as a result of a fractured physique thanks to his loving mother.

      • He’s also just a kid, so his decisions aren’t always totally logical. The very idea that he needs to prove to anyone that he’s the best Robin isn’t exactly the kid of logical thought an adult would act on. He’s very smart, but he’s still a child, so I’m willing to accept that he might be unreasonably driven by competitiveness, or the approval of his father, or other things that kids are driven by.

  3. Anyone else wonder where Bruce is when Tim and Damian are throwing down in the cave? Last we saw he was grinding out new batarangs or shurikens IN THE CAVE.

    • Oh I assume he’s out being Batman or Bruce Wayne or something. I find it interesting how this series seems to be reciprocating Batman Incorporated’s little head-nod. These series are trying to exist in tandem – which is rad. Though, the end of Bats, Inc. #1 would suggest that Damian wouldn’t continue to be a threat, I think we all know that’s going to end up being a little bit of a cheat.

      • speaking of Bats Inc., WHERE IS BAT-COW? Why isn’t he involved in the family portrait? Titus is there, but not the beloved family cow?

      • It’s interesting to think about the similarities and differences between Jason and Damian. They’re both over-confident loose cannons with a mean violent streak. Jason was conceived to be the new ongoing Robin, but fan reaction was so negative, DC eventually killed him off. Damian, on the other hand, was conceived to be killed off, but fan reaction was so positive, they decided to bring him on as the new ongoing Robin.

  4. Pingback: Batman and Robin 23.1: Two-Face | Retcon Punch

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