Today, Shelby and Mikyzptlk are discussing Batman and Robin 17, originally released February 13th 2013.
Shelby: Even though Death of the Family technically finished with Batman 17, there’s still going to be some emotional fall-out for the whole Bat-Family to deal with. I’m happy I didn’t have to wait more than a week for Batman and Robin; as soon as I read that final “Ha” last week, the first question on my mind was “How is Damian going to deal with this?” Despite the fact he’s more mature than your average 10-year-old in a lot of ways, Peter Tomasi has reminded us time and time again that Damian is still just a kid. Between that and Damian being the only actual family Bruce has, his reaction to the Joker’s action’s is the one I’m most interested in.
Almost nothing happens in this issue. After a long day of dispensing justice and butlering, Bruce, Damian, and Alfred go to sleep and have telling dreams. Recap: complete.
All the dreams of the men of Wayne Manor revolve around the concept of legacy. Damian’s Inception-style layer cake dream deals with both his Wayne legacy and al Ghul legacy. As he (Damian Wayne) converses with his other half (Damian al Ghul), he tries to reconcile both parts of himself. He tries to tell himself he is a Wayne first and al Ghul second, but he’s starting to realize his dueling legacies are mutually imcompatible. If he truly wants to fulfill his al Ghul legacy, he’s going to have to kill everyone he loves, everyone who has become important to him. It’s interesting that he can casually keep the head of his father as a reminder of his heritage, but cannot accept drowing Alfred, a man who, to an al Ghul, would have no value whatsoever.
It’s the second half of Damian’s dream that really speaks to the legacy of Batman.
In Damian’s eyes, Batman is sucking the life out of his father. Damian-as-Robin loves that his dad is Batman, and he wants to grow up to be just like him, partially because everyone wants to be Batman when they grow up, but mostly because he wants to be like his dad. Pat Gleason yet again continues to excel at giving us those little moments that remind us Damian is 10 years old. Look at him, eyeing up his dad’s boots.
I think the recent encounter with the Joker is making Damian consider, even just sub-consciously, what being Batman really means. He wants to be Batman, but Batman is draining the life from his father. Bruce’s dream is the most poignant, as his paper boat of justice is swamped by his rogue’s galley, until he’s swallowed by a white whale in Joker makeup. As he sinks, it’s Damian as Robin who saves him. Bruce is as worried about being devoured by Batman as Damian is. I love the idea that Damian is making Bruce reconsider his priorities, between being Batman and being a dad. Obviously, I also love the idea that Damian can save Bruce from Batman. It begs the question: what is the legacy Bruce wants to leave for Damian? Does he want to leave him the legacy of Batman: a lifetime of fighting a never-ending battle against dangerous psychotics? Or does he want to leave him the legacy of a good father who cares for his son? Can he possibly leave both, or are the Bruce and Batman legacies mutually exclusive?
I know it’s only February, but this is currently one of my favorite issues so far this year. The “tell it through a dream” trope is perfectly executed here; Tomasi is using the dreamscape setting to really break down what’s going on in a character’s head without having to worry about pesky reality. Speaking of avoiding reality, how awesome is Alfred’s dream? He dreams of happier times with Thomas and Martha and young Bruce, until a noise brings him down to the cave. When he finds the Joker bashing in the skulls of the rest of the Bat-Family with a hammer, he decides he’s had enough of that shit.
Even though Alfred’s dream is the most straight-forward, I think it still is concerned with legacy, specifically the legacy he wishes he could leave the Wayne family. He wishes he could just make everything ok again for the Waynes, and he wishes he could blow the Joker straight to hell. I love how Alfred woke up with a start, but fell back asleep with a smile on his face after that one.
This issue is exactly what I wanted coming out of Death of the Family. I wanted to see Damian dealing with the Joker, and I’m a total sucker for good dad moments like Bruce tucking Damian in after his nightmare. I know this title hasn’t always been 100% on, but I hope Tomasi keeps on this track. All I want from this title is good dad moments and adorable kid stuff from Damian and Batman and Robin asskicking. What about you, Mike, were you as blown away by the layers of symbols in this title as I was?
Mikyzptlk: Well Shelby, I couldn’t agree with you more on your take on this as this issue is easily one of my favorites of the entire run so far. This series is at its best when its personal, and Tomasi is incredibly adept at delivering those small, personal moments between these extraordinary characters. This issue felt like an emotional epilogue of sorts for Death of the Family, which was definitely needed. These characters deserve some rest after their ordeal, and it really is a fantastic way to delve into how they are all really holding up. I mean, it’s not like these guys are ever actually going to talk to each other. That would be silly.
An example of a small moment I want to bring up is the following segment from Alfred’s dream.
Not only does this scene give us more insight into the fateful night that created the Batman, but it’s absolutely HEARTBREAKING. Seriously Mr. Tomasi, are you trying to make a grown man cry? This is just cruel. I mean, look at Bruce’s tiny hands! I literally stared at this scene for a minute, taking it all in. And then, Gleason gives us this amazing piece of acting.
OH GOD, JUST RIP OUT MY HEART WHY DON’T YOU? This is the face of a man who knows that the sweetness he sees before him will forever be taken away, never to return. This is the face of a man who knows that there is nothing he can do to prevent a tragedy, although the shotgun Shelby mentioned earlier sure does provide for some healthy, vigilante style catharsis.
The last thing I want to mention is also a potential source for heartbreak, although, it could just be my imagination. Which, I guess is sort of fitting considering the issue. Damian’s final dream is of he and his father fighting crime as Batman and Robin. After a “long night” of fighting, and as dawn approaches, the caped crusaders rest on the ledge of a church where the following is shared.
This is yet another small, personal, and incredibly sweet moment delivered by the creators here, but does anyone else detect a bit of foreboding? Damian is finally accepting his role as Batman’s sidekick, and seems happy to just be Robin, whereas in the past, he’s looked at Robin as a stepping stone to the Mantle of the Bat. I can’t help but think of all of those cops in those action movies that are 2 weeks away from retirement, but get blown away by the bad guy at the last minute. They are finally content with their lives and are looking forward to where ever life takes them next then BAM! Grant Morrison kills them off like he planned to from the start. Oh sorry, I got a little specific there at the end of that last sentence. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen in the next issue of Batman Inc., but I have to imagine that Tomasi does. It’s possible that I’m reading too much into this, and this is just supposed to be another sweet father/son moment, but it’s also possible that Tomasi is a clever bastard that’s playing on our expectations of what may or may not come.
What do my favorite commenters think? You know who you are. (HINT: It’s ALL of you.)
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