Batman and Robin 13

Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Batman and Robin 12, originally released October 10th 2012.

Drew: Peter Tomasi has a pretty thankless job. Titles like Batman and Robin and Green Lantern Corps often take a back seat to their flagship counterparts — both in popularity, and narrative. Those kind of supporting titles are often bound to crossover events, requiring their writers to absorb, implement, and embrace plot developments they didn’t come up with themselves, and which may be disruptive to their own plans. In the collaborative, editor-driven world of comics, following such dicta is par for the course, but Tomasi has found himself particularly bound by crossovers, as Death of the Family kicks off the third he’s been involved in since the relaunch. It’s a testament to Tomasi’s skill, then, that he’s able to incorporate details of Death of the Family so elegantly into this issue, while still finding the emotional through-line that has made is work on Batman and Robin so enjoyable.

The plot couldn’t be simpler: a group of cultists have used an eclipse as occasion to unleash what may-or-may-not be zombies on Gotham city. But these machinations are painted over a tense backdrop of facts established in other bat-titles, subtly influencing Bruce and Damian’s interactions. When Bruce wakes Damian at the start of the issue, Damian jolts awake with a “What — is the Joker — ” a clever way to introduce the crossover without actually featuring any Joker action. It sets up a sense of tension across the whole issue — one that may already be underway as Damian absentmindedly notices that Alfred is missing — as we wait for the other shoe to drop.

Also adding to the atmosphere is the $500 million bounty Talia has put on Damian’s head, an idea carried over from Batman Incorporated. Bruce doesn’t want Damian making a target of himself, but Damian ignores his wishes to stay at the manor. Of course, Damian is attacked — by a giant frog of all things — but isn’t really in any danger until the zombies show up, at which point an act of heroism traps Damian in their clutches.

Tomasi has smartly adopted elements from both Snyder and Morrison, but the most intriguing parts of the issue are still his. Zombies, of course, but the thing that really got me is the sequence where Damian seeks — and finds — something in the sewers.

Tim told me eating poops will make me growPretty much everything about this is weird. Tomasi makes it clear that Damian has been doing this enough to gain some familiarity with specific rats, but he gives us no clue what “this” is. What does he mean by “I’ll start growing”? We saw him doing this back in issue 9, but I had assumed it was just there to add color — a random task that the real action could interrupt. Apparently, this is something Damian does on a regular basis, and is something he keeps secret from Bruce. I have no idea what Tomasi is playing at here, but with five whole issues between the first and second mention of it, he seems to be setting up a very long game.

But as I mentioned: THERE ARE ZOMBIES IN THIS ISSUE! Bruce assures us whatever is going on has a scientific, human explanation, but we also see some eerie cultists and what look a lot like zombies. I suspect Tomasi does have a scientific explanation for what’s going on, but I’m way more interested in zombie action than any exposition. Unfortunately, the zombies only show up at the very end, doing little other than delivering a fun little cliffhanger.

They've mastered "eat to live," but they've yet to learn "don't fuck with Damian to live."

Tomas Giorello’s fantasy-infused art makes for some great horror, but it’s a very jarring transition from Patrick Gleason’s assured line-work that populates the rest of the issue. Gleason’s pencils have become such an integral part of the tone of this series, it’s hard to adjust to any changes. It also reminded me what a great job Gleason has been doing keeping Damian young — his slender arms and round face sell just how competent Damian is in spite of his age.

Ultimately, all of the threads don’t quite cohere to a logical whole, but I liked each vignette enough to enjoy the issue. Shelby, I know you aren’t exactly the biggest Damian fan, so I wonder if moments like the quiet conversation he and Bruce shared about Talia was even a little interesting. Did this pull together for you at all?

Shelby: I don’t really like Damian, it’s true, but I recognize that he is a very interesting character. More importantly, I like the story-telling potential his presence creates, and I really like his relationship with Bruce. The conversation between the two of them about Talia is nice, it demonstrates a softening in Damian; he’s just asking something any kid would ask an estranged parent. My favorite Damian moments are when he behaves like a 10-year-old, and that behavior is juxtaposed with the almost unbelievable reality of his situation. A perfect example is the opening spread: he’s fallen asleep with his dog while doing homework.

Just don’t forget that his homework is studying the complete criminal history of a psychopathic madman, who is currently gunning for his family. It’s Gleason’s pencils that really sell this moment for me. Every little detail is exactly what it needs to be: the snoring dog, the police evidence photo of Joker’s face, even the half-eaten slice of cake and Damian’s socks perfectly sell this scene. While the conversation with Batman was also a nice reminder that deep down, Damian is just a kid who’s parents are separated and he’s trying to make it work, I was a little distracted by the fact that they were in a rocket ship. I know Bruce is made of money and is the Bat, but to speak casually of hopping in the spaceship to repair a satellite because of the solar eclipse is stretching it a little bit.

I love the ambient Joker tension you mentioned, Drew. It’s a smart author that can naturally fold elements of a crossover into the universe he’s created. With more talk of omens, plus the actual omen of the dead rising from their graves, I can’t help but wonder how big the Bat-team is going with this Joker event. We’ve got the dead rising, a two-headed beast, and a river reversing its course so far; that is some Biblical-level evil we’ve got going on. This issue was fine, a good read. We had a nice father/son moment, a mystery in the sewer, and zombies. Through all that, though, Tomasi reminds us that there are way scarier things on the horizon, and in this book we’re going to see those scary things through the eyes of a child. Also, did you notice that when Damian was idly wondering what kind of dumb tea Alfred was buying, Titus was chewing on what looks like a femur?

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?

23 comments on “Batman and Robin 13

  1. I like that Damian is so indiscriminate in his sense of superiority. Like, he values being really tough, but is also condescending about the kind of tea his butler buys him. Like, that’s the kind of shit the Queen would complain about, if she weren’t afraid of looking like a whiny, stuck-up effete.

  2. They should just call this title: “Damian Wayne: Friend to the animals.” I love this aspect of the character, heh.

    Really enjoyable issue though I hated the drastic artist shift near the end. The sudden!Zombies were a little jarring too but I guess the explanation is as simple as what you guys gave. That said, the plot of this issue is almost not important at all, the real meat of the issue is Damian’s journies and the interaction between Damian and Bruce and it’s fantastic stuff.

  3. I can’t get over how much I like seeing characters like this bounty-hunter frog without any explanation. He’s a bounty hunter who just happens to be a frog or something. Don’t ask questions.

  4. I’ve never liked Damian, but I still have to feel for a 10-year old kid whose mom has put a hit out on him. I would really appreciate it if Bruce would call him on his snottiness, especially toward “Pennyworth.” For Bruce to tolerate the abuse of the man who raised him is, dare I say it, criminal. I wish Tim Drake would dish out some kind of “in your face” hack that gets the best of Damian.

    All that said, I’m really enjoying the growing sense of menace now that the Joker is back. Are they going to leave his face off forever? Will he become some sort of “master of disguise” or will he reclaim his original face? I think it’s telling that even Harley is terrified of him now.

    • I tend to count on comics to return to the status quo, so I would be really surprised if DotF ended without the Joker having his face reattached. I’d personally like to put this whole face-removal business behind us. It wasn’t great in Face/Off and it isn’t great here.

  5. Pingback: Green Lantern Corps 13 | Retcon Punch

  6. I didn’t care for the zombies in this issue, it’s just something to have Batman and Robin fight. That said, I am extremely intersted in everything else this title has to offer. Honestly, if Tomasi wanted to write an issue of Bruce and Damian just hanging out doing ridiculous things like flying in space ships while REALLY having sweet father/son moments, I’d eat that up with a spoon. Thier lives are so insane and unbelievable (in a good way) but to juxapose their ever evolving relationship as father and son really grounds these characters emotionally and is the main reason this book stands out to me.

    P.S. That bone is really freaking me out. Which I’m sure is exactly what Tomasi wants! What a jerk. 😉

    • Yeah, I totally agree about reading this even if it were just the family drama portion. I haven’t been feeling the largely disposable villains that Tomasi has focused on over the past few issues (Frog: The Bounty Hunter is a good example of this). NoBody’s personal ties to Bruce and his role in the ongoing philosophical debate between Bruce and Damian made him an ideal villain for this series. I would love to see Tomasi turn back to that type of villain. That said, I loves me some zombies.

      • I also love me some zombies, but when compared to the other things I mentioned they just pale in comparison. I get that superheroes need external threats to infuse action into their stories but this is one of those titles where they can get away with having those quieter character moments take up most of the issue. But yeah, NoBody was great, we need another one of those for sure.

        • Yeah, fair enough. Honestly, for Damian, I don’t even worry about physical threats — that kid can take care of himself — but mental and emotional threats make for some very compelling stories. He’s still trying to figure out what he believes in, and a villain preying on that is far more interesting than someone shooting at him a lot or something.

        • I couldn’t agree more. This kid is trained to the teeth but, emotionally, he may be even more unstable than Jason at this point. And that is saying A LOT!

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