Batman and Robin 0

Alternating Currents: Batman and Robin 0, Shelby and Peter

Today, Shelby and Peter are discussing Batman and Robin 0, originally released September 12, 2012. Batman and Robin 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.

Shelby: Damian Wayne is a new character for me, and I don’t like him. I’d call him a brat, but he would probably kill me; he’s cold, ruthless, and not even a teenager yet. He’s like no character I’ve encountered before. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason on this my third Batman zero feature. What I didn’t expect was … no Batman ’til the last page. It worked out better than I thought it would; Tomasi gave me a chance to get to know Damian a little more, and after seeing what kind of childhood he’s coming from, I’m impressed he hasn’t just killed everyone else in this title simply because he can.

Unsurprisingly, Damian is in a killing mood. He’s fighting his way up a mountain through assassins and Man-Bats to get to his mother. Flashback to several years earlier: when Damian is removed from his incubator, one of this first things his little baby eyes see is Talia killing his nursemaid for suggesting that she’s putting her baby in danger. A few years later, toddler Damian is adorably sparring with his mother. He asks who his father is, and she tells him that the two of them will duel every year on his birthday, and when he can beat her she’ll tell him everything he needs to know. The years go by in a training montage blur as year after year Talia says, “Happy Birthday Damian, you lose.” Finally, on his tenth birthday, Damian fights his way up a mountain to confront his mother, and finally he bests her. They fly to London so Damian can meet his dad for the first time, and the rest is history.

Ok, before we do anything else, we need to address the cutest thing ever produced by a Batman comic book: toddler Damian playing with his dad’s cowl and cape that Talia had tucked away in her hope chest.

That is fucking adorable. It’s so cute, I want to go steal a baby and dress it up in an adult-sized Batman costume just so I can see it in real life. Come on, seriously.

I was really happy with this issue, for the same reason I was happy with Batman, Inc. 2; I am woefully under-educated on this chunk of the Batman mythos. I knew Damian’s origin as Talia and Bruce’s little test tube bundle of joy, I knew Talia raised him to be the best assassin ever, I knew Batman was trying to make him less of a total dick, I knew all that. But actually seeing his childhood under Talia’s hand was enlightening and engaging. The weird juxtaposition of Talia’s motherly affection and brutal training is the best kind of disconcerting. I think the best depiction is during the training montage, in the second to last panel. She is telling her bloodied son he’s lost, with what looks like a sword at his neck and the most loving, motherly expression I have ever seen on her face.

I included the full spread of that montage because I just really like it. Gleason’s tall and narrow panels serve to demonstrate little slices of time as it passes. The smaller training panels act as the connecting tissue between the meat of the montage: each passing birthday, with Damian getting closer and closer to his mother. I think I was more impressed by Gleason’s work on this issue than Tomasi’s. The story is just fine, but there are so many little hints hiding in the art. From the silhouette of the Man-Bat making the shape of Batman’s cape and cowl on the mountain side to Damian contemplating the bodies of his former teachers as they head to London, the attention to detail in the art is what really made this issue so enjoyable for me. What about you, Peter? I know you are much more familiar with this particularly messy branch of the Wayne family tree; was this issue engaging enough for you, or was it just old hat?

Peter: This issue is a good mix of old and new, but still was very engaging for me. Yes, some of it was old hat, but Tomasi did a great job of keeping elements from Morrison’s Batman issues that introduce Damian (collected as Batman & Son). Also, Gleason kept some very iconic moments from that same story.

I really do love this moment. In addition to being a nice, iconic shot, it also establishes for new reader just how far Damian as come since going to live with Bruce.

I do enjoy me some Damian. Yeah, he’s a little bit of an emotional roller coaster, but when you’ve had an upbringing like his, I’m not really surprised. My favorite part of this issue was seeing the relationship with Talia. That story has been told in this amount of detail before. This I like, but I don’t feel the need to really talk much about it, since you really covered it, Shelby.

I do think that this issue falls flat if you are a long time reader like me, or a continuity-phile like Drew. This story, like the story in Batwing 0 has been told before. This issue is best for someone whose never read the Damian story before; somebody like you Shelby. So I guess this really is old hat, but not so old that I wouldn’t ever wear it again.

A very interesting image in the book is the final battle scene between Damian and Talia. It’s that shadow:

The shadow plays as a homage to both of Damian’s ancestries; both the Son of the Devil, and the Son of the Bat. It’s very intriguing since it’s really not definitive which this is, but I’m sure everyone is speculating. It’s a nice dichotomy that helps flesh out some of Damain’s emo problems from the NoBody story arc. (Still the best New 52 Batman and Robin)

What really fouls all of this up is the 5 year rule. Bruce didn’t become a public figure until 5 years ago (Justice League 1). Over in Detective Comics 0, when was 10 years ago, he was still training to be Batman. 6 years ago, (Batman 0) he hadn’t adopted the cape and cowl yet. Somewhere in there, he got drugged,  fathered a child, and left a cape and cowl behind. So it’s quite a headache to get it all in order. This issue is best if you are just getting into Batman comics, and if you can disregard the odd time dilations, this is still an enjoyable read overall.

Also, my first child is getting an adult sized Batman cape right away.

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?

12 comments on “Batman and Robin 0

  1. It’s interesting, we see a lot of Damian interacting with his mother in this issue, but it’s really about his desire to have a relationship with his father. Even though they barely interact here, this story says a great deal about their relationship — possibly in ways Bruce doesn’t even realize. Killing and maiming isn’t just something Damian is comfortable with; it’s something very central to his core being, a pastime he’s shared with his mother from a very young age. Bruce telling him he can’t is more than just an arbitrary rule to Damian, it’s downright cruel. That kid is MESSED UP.

    • I love that even when he’s the most horrible thing in the world, it’s really not Damian’s fault. There’s literally no way he was going to be anything different (I mean, right? If he weren’t tough-as-nails from birth, he surely would have drowned, right?) For Damian to even consider this father’s no killing rule is actually very mature and thoughtful of the kid.

  2. I think the captions in Batman #0 are erroneous. Bruce was Batman when Damian was conceived, so he’s been Batman for a decade at least. The captions in Batman should read Ten Years Ago and Nine Years Ago respectively, otherwise Dick Grayson became Batman at the age of 20.

    • But captions within Nightwing (explaining his history with Haly’s) corroborates the Batman timeline. Drew and I talked about how problematic is was at the time (in our Nightwing 5-6 write-up https://retcon-punch.com/2012/02/20/nightwing-5-6/ ) that dick was with the circus just five years ago. Acrobat – orphan – Robin – Nightwing – Batman – Nightwing is quite the journey for five years in the life. It’s just one of those pesky things that doesn’t work.

      • DC really doesn’t have a clear picture of the timeline. It’s clear from their flipflopping on the Titans, among other things. Still, Batman Inc. 2 and Batman and Robin 0 make it clear that Bruce has been active as Batman for at minimum elven years to account for Damian’s conception, birth, and age. Judging by these things, the editorial staff seems to be enforcing a sort of artificial divide–a longer career for Batman can only be illustrated in books involving Damian, and even then not outright stated, while ‘mainstream’ Bat Books–the ones that DC hopes to market to a broader audience–are given this artificial truncated timeline.

        Batwoman is another example: we see both an image of Batman with the yellow oval, and an image of the Darkseid Zombie Bat-Clone in Year One gear despite neither of these costumes having existed ‘officially’. Five years is the new ten, but in this case it’s being artificially enforced despite a year having passed explicitly in several books.

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