Batman 18

batman 18Today, Mikyzptlk and Scott are discussing Batman 18, originally released March 13th, 2013.

Mikyzptlk: The death of a loved one is something that is incredible hard to face. It’s also got to be something incredibly hard to write about, especially when you have to do so in a superhero comic where action and adventure is normally the name of the game. With the recent death of Robin The Boy Wonder, the Bat-writers have been tasked to deal with his death in their own way. Scott Snyder manages not only to continue the story of his new character Harper Row, but seamlessly and organically ties her story into the death of young Damian Wayne.

The issue begins with Harper Row and her brother Cullen visiting their father at Blackgate Penitentiary. We learn a few things, but mostly that Mr. Row…is a complete scumbag. We also learn that Batman is responsible for Blackgate’s newest resident and Mr. Row’s none too happy about it. Back in the Narrows, Harper prepares for another night of tracking Batman. It turns out that no matter how stealthy Batman is, Harper can see his electrical footprints a mile away so long as he taps into Gotham’s power grid. As Harper starts swinging from rooftops she begins thinking about how odd Batman’s been behaving lately. Apparently, Batman’s been fighting Gotham’s scum at night and during the day. Harper realizes this behavior is due to some kind of loss he’s suffered, but what she finds more worrisome is that all of this non-stop fighting has made Batman less sharp and she fears him getting severely hurt or worse. When Batman squares off against a man with Venom-powered dogs, Harper steps in for a much needed assist. Harper does help with the baddies take-down, but Batman isn’t happy at all that she’s still on his tail nor that she’s been “training.” He knocks Harper on her ass and tells her that it’s over. The next day Harper visits Bruce Wayne at Wayne Tower and shows him plans that she thinks will help Batman. To her surprise, Bruce agrees. That night, Batman tracks Harper and apologizes to her. She tells him she may not know the details, but she knows he’s going through a lot of pain. She also reminds Batman what he means to the city with a touching and personal story. The issue concludes with Harper’s message to Batman broadcast on Wayne Tower. It’s one simple word taught to Harper by her mother before her death. “RESOLVE.” Which just so happens to begin the the letter “R.”

ResolveRobin is dead. Long live Robin! Too soon? Yeah, too soon. But Harper Row sure is beginning to make quite the case for herself for the next potential Robin. Even though I’m still reeling from the death of Damian and getting emotionally gut-punched by comics such as Batman & Robin 18I still couldn’t help but have a ton of fun with Harper Row in this issue. Scott Snyder beautifully fleshes out the character of Harper in this issue and seamlessly pays his respects to Damian as well. Snyder has successfully created a brand new character for the Batman mythos that he clearly intends to have stick around for awhile. The character is so rich and interesting, and regardless of whether or not she becomes Robin I can’t wait to see more of her. She’s smart, tech savvy and resourceful and while she may not be trained, she is brave and willing to put her life on the line. Most importantly, she cares about Batman and knows that he needs help. She’s — OH MY GOD — she’s the new Tim Drake. Again, no one knows what Snyder will decide to do with Harper Row, but if you’ve read Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying please let me know in the comments if you see the same similarities between Tim and Harper that I do.

While this issue was mainly about exploring Harper Row and her family, Snyder managed to tie her story to the death of Damian in an organic and poignant way. She reveals to Batman that after her mother’s murder (a newly revealed plot point that I’m sure we’ll learn more about later), she became understandably depressed to the point that she was dragging her brother down with her. Fortunately, she recalled an important lesson taught to her by her mother that helped her survive.

LessonsThis is absolutely brilliant. Not only do we get let in on a potential murder mystery, but we also learn something personal and endearing to Harper that just so happens to not only tie into the death of Damian but helps Batman in his time of utter despair. This helps fans to connect with Harper even more which is important if Snyder wants to keep her around and it helps Batman to connect with her too in ways that I’m not so sure Harper is even aware of. The fact that she unwittingly turns Wayne Tower into a gigantic memorial to Robin is priceless and is touching to Bruce on multiple levels. Again, I’m not saying that this solidifies Harper as the next Robin, but there is no doubt in my mind that Batman wants to take her under his (bat)wing in at least some capacity.

On to the art. Man, the Batman titles are absolutely lousy with great artists right now. While we didn’t get to see Greg Capullo’s beautiful pencils this time around, we weren’t left high and dry. Andy Kubert delivered an absolutely ferocious Batman and gave us scenes brimming with energy in “Chapter 1,” while Alex Maleev (known for his amazing run on Bendis’ Daredevil, amongst other things) nailed the quieter scenes in “Chapter 2.” While their styles are certainly different, I found them both to be fitting to the parts of the story each artist was portraying. I certainly won’t be complaining the next time I see either artist on a Bat-book again, which hopefully will be very soon! I’ve already shown you some examples of Maleev’s work on this issue, so now I’d like to give you a taste of Kubert’s contribution if only for the unadulterated badassery of it.

Badass. Level: BatmanWell Scott, what’s your reaction to all of this? Are you as hooked on the character of Harper Row as I am? Did you enjoy getting to learn more about the character in this issue or did you want to see more of a direct response from Batman or his supporting characters to Damian’s death? Lastly, how much do you think it sucks that Bruce has to work in the same building where his own son died? Poor Bruce really can’t catch a break.

Scott: For a normal person, working in that building would be absolute hell, but Bruce has never been one to shy away from the places where his loved ones were killed. This is the guy who moved into a brownstone on the block where he watched his parents die, after all. Not to say Damian’s death hasn’t been awful for him, but he’s not going to try to forget what happened, and knowing it went down in his own company’s headquarters will only strengthen his resolve to rid Gotham of crime.

What a bold way for Snyder to respond to Damian’s death — by not even mentioning it. Of course, it was hanging over the entire issue like a giant raincloud, but presenting the story from the perspective of a character who doesn’t even know about the death was unexpected. What’s even more shocking is that it works. And it’s all because of how awesome Harper is as a character. The fact that the first issue of Batman following of Robin’s death makes a strong case for a new character to become Robin almost seems disrespectful to Damian’s memory. But Harper has just the right combination of endearing traits to make it seem like she’s exactly what Bruce needs. She’s tough, independent, caring, observant, fearless, incredibly smart, quick witted, dedicated, and totally punk rock. And on top of that, she really isn’t trying to be Robin. She isn’t trying to be anything. She just believes in what Batman stands for and wants him to succeed. Being a girl also helps her, as she does feel like such as an obvious replacement for Damian, as would, say, a young, dark haired, male trapeze prodigy, or something like that.

Here’s the moment Bruce’s opinion of Harper changes:

Harper's bizarreHe pretty much has to like her after that. And not just because of what she’s telling him, or because of the message she has for Batman. Bruce knows he broke her nose, but she doesn’t know he did. And here she is, standing in front of the most powerful man in Gotham with her face all banged up like it’s no big deal. Bruce doesn’t even ask her what happened to her face. Maybe she just thinks he doesn’t notice or care. Or, when coupled with his readiness to help her send Batman a message, maybe it seems peculiar. Batman isn’t revealing himself to Harper, but she’s smart enough  that she’ll start piecing things together if he’s not careful.

I’ll leave you with this stray observation: Harper’s insistence that she is not interested in knowing Batman’s identity reminded me of Joker in Batman 17. Many parallels can be drawn between Harper and past Robins, but she has some villain potential, too. Like Joker, she’s obsessed with Batman, but only as a figure, not as a man. At this point, it’s for the right reasons, but if Batman keeps her at arm’s length, maybe she goes down a different path. She does have the blood of a criminal. How crushing would it be if Harper gets in with Batman while he’s in this vulnerable emotional state, only to betray him? I don’t want this to happen, and I really don’t think it will. I like Harper — there’s just something about her obsession with Batman that seems unhealthy, and it gives me pause.

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?

25 comments on “Batman 18

  1. Kubert’s style has become identical to Michael Lark’s one. I like Michael Lark, and I think that he and artists like him are perfect for a Bat – title, but I would have preferred Kubert to keep drawing with his own style, instead of just copying someone else and therefore becoming a mere clone. Or maybe it’s the inker who gave his art a Lark – ish touch?
    Anyway, I still consider Kubert a wonderful artist.

  2. Yeah, the parallels to Tim’s story were so strong that I actually thought they detracted from the story. Granted, the parallels between Damian and Jason’s stories are kind of unavoidable, so it’s understandable that Batman’s reactions would be similar, but the fact that she’s picked up on his grief and is looking out for his best interest is very Tim-like. In that way, I kind of hope Scott’s read that Harper might turn into a villain turns out to be right. I’m with Mik in liking Harper a ton, which would make the thought of her turning against Batman extra devastating. Bruce doesn’t really need more depressing shit in his life right now, but that could make for a very strong story, with a villain we sympathize with (and would pity for turning to the dark side). She could have some kind of electrical gimmick.

    • Harper’s backstory is somewhat of a parallel to Stephanie Brown with the father being incarcerated and vilified, and I’m right there with you on the Tim comparison.

      I really hope Batman’s words were Snyder speaking through the character, not letting Harper become Robin. Her skills are such that she could protect the Batfamily while they scour in trenches against the ever-present war on crime. She fits into the Oracle role almost perfectly and this gives Damian’s death more meaning as Bruce continues to grow more hesitant of letting minors run beside him into gunfire. I don’t want the loss of a great character cheapened by the introduction of another.

      • Oh, I hadn’t even considered Harper taking on an Oracle-like support role. That actually makes a ton of sense. I could see Bruce allowing that, and it will suit her background much more fittingly. Like Bruce said, if training for every waking moment for your entire life isn’t enough to keep you safe as Batman’s sidekick, setting up a punching bag in your hotel room really isn’t going to cut it. Oracle makes sense, though. She’s already set up to find things on the electrical grid, which should be as useful in fighting crime as it is in tracking Batman. That’s totally the role I’m pulling for, now.

      • That really does make a lot of sense and like I said in my write-up, I don’t really care how we see Harper, just as long as we see her in some kind of role. But how long do we really expect DC to go without a Robin?

        Also, how do you think Bruce is going to explain the death of Damian? Batman is keeping quiet about Robin’s death, but how long can Bruce Wayne keep quiet about Damian’s?

        • I was just thinking about that — though, then again, I’m not sure how he ever explained the sudden appearance of a 10-year-old son in the first place. Maybe he just went back to wherever he came from?

        • He just told them that Superboy punched a wall–No wait, that was another thing. I guess he could have just told everyone that he went back “home.” But that is super creepy to me and if anyone found out that the kid was actually dead…all I’m saying is I’ve been watching A LOT of SVU marathons lately.

      • Yeah, I totally agree with you both–In issue 12 I thought “Awesome, Harper could totally be the new Oracle!” And after this issue she totally seems the new Tim replacement (with shades of Stephanie Brown). I would actually be happy with either development.

        Side note–I wonder if this issue would have been any different following the Death of the Family story had Damien not died. I have been thinking about it–it kind of works either way (though the whole R on Wayne Tower would not have been as meaningful…). But it sets Harper up to be a key character in any of the roles mentioned (Robin, Oracle, or villain). Smart writing–keep options open and the readers guessing.

  3. I love love love Scott’s read that this could well be the beginning of a villain’s story too. We’re all so quick to look for how she makes sense in Batman’s universe that everyone sorta jumps the gun on calling out what role she might play in the future. That’s super fun to do, and I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. Maybe she won’t be the new Robin, new Oracle, new Huntress, new Joker, new whatever. Maybe she’s just Harper Row.

    • Good point–and yeah, that is who she OUGHT to be. But there are so many great characters in the Batman mythos that have disappeared. I know I am wishing to see many of them re-emerge in some form, and Harper provides a vehicle that could bring us something close to Oracle, or a new take on Robin. Or hell, maybe Alfred could use an assistant.

      But it would be cool to just see a new character with a new role added to the Batman mythos. Regardless, she’s a cool character and I hope we see more of her (though it may be some time before she develops much more in Snyder’s Batman as it looks like the next big ark is going back in time…).

      • I have a feeling Snyder is planting seeds that will come to fruition in the long run. Since he typically writes long story arcs, I’m sure he had a strong sense of what he wanted to do with Harper from the beginning and it will eventually click into place. Batman probably shouldn’t have a Robin for a long time and I think Harper would be better suited to an auxiliary role like Oracle. But it would be cool to see her obsession go off the deep end.

        Side note–I LOVED the way Alex Maleev drew Harper, very punk and sexy. It’s much easier to draw a consistent Batman than it is a character like Harper. I felt like Andy Kubert’s rendering of her was a little too cartoon-y.

  4. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one getting Tim Drake vibes from this story. I wouldn’t mind Harper becoming Robin someday, but I don’t want it to be anytime soon, and i’d prefer for Damian to return and take his mantle back someday…so I’d love to see Harper in an Oracle-esque role, or maybe be something like the Newsboy Legion, doing legwork for Batman.

    Normally I enjoy Andy Kubert’s art (he was easily the best part of Flashpoint), and he drew a great Batman, but I wasn’t too keen on his Harper and Cullen. I was kinda relieved when the artist changed mid-issue.

    • I loved Kubert’s retrospective take on Batman in “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”, and I still like the Batman action, but yeah, I think the non-Batman stuff was a little lacking. I think I was bit more drawn to Maleev’s looser, inkier style in the second half.

  5. I see things much in the same way as Drew here, I have read A lonely place of dying and although I love Scott Snyder’s work, this did feel a bit re-hashed because it’s so similar. I had an Oracle-like character in mind for Harper Row from issue 12, and a villain would be kool too, but I really hope she doesn’t become Robin, or in any case, not for a full year or two. There’s no way to Bruce could/should be ready to take another youngster out with him to fight crime after the death of this 2nd Robin (3rd if you count Steph Brown, although she wasn’t Robin anymore and wound up not really being dead).

  6. I was just thinking about Harper, and realized I would really like it if she could continue to help Batman as a civilian. I’ve been trying to think of any platonic relationships between male superheroes and female civilians, and I can’t think of any. There are plenty of romantic relationships, plenty of superhero friendships, and plenty of male/male superhero/civilian friendships (think Jimmy Olsen or Foggy Nelson), but I can’t think of a single instance where a male superhero is “just friends” with a female civilian. That’s weird, right?

    • Does Batman and Leslie Thompkins count? Or does the character have to be a bigger presence in the comic?

      I think there is an argument here for the fact that we are talking about superhero comics, where escapism is king. I, for one, would be disappointed if Harper didn’t get some kind of code name and costume. I feel like, in a world where you can be a superhero, why not be a superhero?

      Plus, at the end of the day, we are going to have a new Robin. DC’s never gone long without and there’s no reason to start now. With that, my vote is for Harper. Of course, Snyder has also stated that Harper was never designed to be Robin so there is that…

      • I’m glad I’m not the only one on Team Harper when it comes to Robin status. I think we know from the Batman & Robin schedule alone that it would be at least half of a year before she donned the cowl. That seems respectful; plus, we know she would need a LOT of physical training before Batman could even entertain the notion. I’d just hate to think now that there’s been a 10-year old ninja assassin Robin that there’s no longer any room for a less-skilled, Stephanie Brown-ish Robin in the DCU.

        • Hi Mogo! Some weeks ago we talked about comic book themed trick questions, and I didn’t reply to your last comment. I’m doing it now to apologize and to tell you that the trick questions you provided were very interesting, clever and, most of all, informative. For example, I ignored that Magneto had had a third child, and, honestly, I did not even know who Polaris is. Thank you for your reply! : )

        • Hooray Team Harper!!! You bring up a good point about training, Mogo. That could be another way that DC delays a new Robin if they wanted to give the fans a bit more breathing room. This way, we could essentially have a new Robin without having someone in the red tights. I think it would make for some great build-up too, watching Batman relentlessly train them, before they take up the role.

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