Batman and Red Robin 19

batman and red robin 19

Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Batman and Red Robin 19, originally released April 10th, 2013.

Mikyzptlk: Some of the things we enjoy discussing here on Retcon Punch are the various themes that come up in the comics that we read. Sometimes those themes are buried deep within the surface of the story while other times they are a bit more telegraphed. With the latest issue of Batman and Rob –sorry– Batman and Red Robin, Peter Tomasi has chosen the latter option as he’s begun to take Bruce Wayne on a journey through the 5 stages of grief due to the loss of his son. There is no doubt that this issue is all about denial to the extent that it’s the actual title of the issue, but if Bruce is going through denial Tomasi is going to make sure he doesn’t do it alone. The obvious guest-star of this issue is Red Robin, but Tomasi has another surprise for you up his sleeve. 

So, we know that Red Robin and Carrie Kelley are guest-starring in this issue. However, I’d like to begin my summary with a guest-star I definitely didn’t see coming: Frankenstein! The Agent of S.H.A.D.E. guests in this issue and it’s not exactly under the best circumstances as he’s captured by Batman. Don’t worry though, it’s only because Batman wants to take Frank apart in order to reverse-engineer the process that brought our lovable monster back to life in order to resurrect Damian. Oh, did I say not to worry? YES, WORRY. Frank tries to convince Batman that he should let Damian rest in peace, but to no avail. Only Red Robin is able to put a stop to Batman’s plans by blowing up the lab that Bruce had put in place for his cringe-inducing experiments. Batman is very displeased with Red Robin, but leaves him with Frank (who kindly asks for a hand…and the rest of his parts).

As stated before, this issue also gives us the mainstream DCU introduction of Carrie Kelley. We meet her on her drive towards Wayne Manor where she drops off some DVD’s of vintage TV shows (by Rod Serling!). No one answers the door, but Bruce wants to know how this woman is connected to his late son. He tracks Ms. Kelley down to return the DVD’s, but is quickly bombarded by questions about Damian’s whereabouts. Bruce beats a hasty retreat and Carrie is left without answers. Later, we discover that Carrie has been teaching Damian about acting. She still has questions about Mr. Wayne and his son, but is satisfied for now as Bruce has “settled up” with a very hefty check.

Funny Money

Super-fun trivia side note: The check number is 1986, which is also the year that The Dark Knight Returns debuted!

Okay, so let’s get started. This issue has everything, multiple Robin’s, monsters by Frankenstein, and an understandably grieving Bruce Wayne. What I like about this grief is that Tomasi starts at a very real and subtle place with Bruce by having him refer to Damian as if he’s still alive, but quickly escalates it to comic book level craziness as Batman tries to figure out how to resurrect his son. Any time I get to read Frank, it’s an absolute treat and this issue was no different. Frank is able to relate to Bruce in deep and meaningful ways because of everything that he’s gone through with his own family.

Pull yourself together man

This was not the issue I was expecting at all, nor was Frank a guest-star I was expecting either. However, Tomasi managed to use elements from Frank’s series in very surprising ways. The lesson that Frank tried to teach Batman may not have sunk in yet, but that’s only because Bruce hasn’t gotten to that stage of grief. Peter Tomasi has set up the next few issues in a way that has thoroughly surprised me. Not only are we going to be treated to a slew of guest-stars, but if this issue is any indication, each star will help Batman through the painful stages of grief we see him begin here. I can’t wait for more.

I’ve also got to mention how much I love how Carrie is introduced in this issue. Tomasi has cleverly connected the character with Damian which connects all of us to her as well. Additionally, this connection allows us to learn things about Damian that we didn’t even was there. Who knew the kid was interested in acting? This is such a non-I-was-trained-from-birth-to-be-an-assassin kind of thing that it shows just how much Damian was growing into his own person. I had to read this a few times to put everything together, but thinking about Carrie teaching Damian about acting through classic movies and old Rod Serling TV shows made his death even more tragic than I’ve previously thought, to the point that I actually got a bit teary eyed. I think this is a realization that Bruce also shares which helped me to connect to Bruce in a way that I don’t normally do. I’m not a super-fit guy, I’m not a ninja, and I’m certainly not the night, but I have lost loved ones which is something that we can all, unfortunately, relate to. So, not only does Tomasi connect us to Carrie, who is essentially a brand new character, he connects us to Batman, the main character of the book, while further developing the beloved character Damian posthumously. 

Oh right him

Oh right, Red Robin. If I had one complaint about this issue it would be that Red Robin wasn’t really much more than the guy who screwed up Bruce’s plans. I mean, for a guy whose name is on the book, I was figuring that he’d play a more important role. Fortunately, what we got instead was fantastic, so I can’t ding the book too much for it. Well Shelby, how about you? Were you as impressed with Mr. Tomasi as I was in this issue? What do you make of Carrie Kelley? Do you think she could be our newest Robin candidate? Does that even matter or has Tomasi done a good enough job to interest you in the character for her own merits? Lastly, are you on board for the emotional rollercoaster that Tomasi has set Batman on?

Shelby: I understand that Grant Morrison created Damian Wayne as we know him. I understand that Damian’s death was a part of Morrison’s vision for Batman, IncThat being said, I’m so happy to see Bruce really dealing with his son’s death here between the pages of Batman and Robin. In the brief time I spent with the characters here, I grew to love the relationship developing between Bruce and Damian, and it’s why I think it’s appropriate for Tomasi to continue that story in this book as he takes Bruce through the grieving process. Honestly, this is about Bruce right now; I don’t even want to consider new Robins, not yet. Carrie Kelley, Harper Row, Dick Grayson come ’round for round two, it doesn’t matter: Bruce isn’t ready to deal with it, and I’m not either.

So, what about Bruce? Thanks to Scott Snyder’s beautiful take-down of the Bat-Family Support System in Death of the Family, Bruce isn’t totally wrong in striking out on his own. Of course, none of the Bats or Robins or butlers would abandon him in a time like this. At the same time, that trust is gone, and Bruce knows it. But more than that, I think Bruce is going rogue because deep, deep, DEEP down he knows this is wrong. Dissambling Frank for any reason is wrong, but doing so to resurrect the dead is extra wrong. Bruce is in denial of Damian’s death because he believes very firmly that he can bring him back, and he’s in denial of just how awful his actions are.

Tomasi has started Bruce on what promises to be a very gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, human path. As much as I love Snyder’s work on this character, his Batman has always seemed…very fictional. Complex, strong, deep, absolutely, but ultimately still very much a fictional character. But even though the scene is outrageous (Frankenstein’s castle and all that), Tomasi’s Bruce feels so much more real to me. My heart broke when Alfred pointed out he was talking about Damian in the present tense. It broke again when Bruce told Frank he wasn’t going to fail his son, that he needed him back. People grieve, and underneath the cape and cowl, Batman is a person; these next five issues are going to be Bruce’s personal journey through the stages of grief, and Tomasi is going to make us feel each stage like a punch in the gut. In the end, hopefully, Bruce will come out a stronger man, and a stronger Batman. Then I’ll be ready to talk about Carrie Kelly.

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?


34 comments on “Batman and Red Robin 19

  1. I completely agree with you about a new Robin. Bruce needs time, we need time. Still, Tomasi did such a wonderful job of introducing Carrie to us, just like Snyder did a great job of introducing Harper.

    This issue was definitely, and appropriately, about Bruce, but being absolutely obsessed with the character of Robin, I just couldn’t ignore the Carrie Kelley pro/epilogue and the implications that could have with the future of the Robin character. What’s fascinating to me is that we now have 3 different Robin contenders who are seemingly being vetted by 3 different creators.

    Okay, TL;DR warning:

    Grant Morrison has Ellie: Bleeding Cool makes a compelling case:

    While Snyder and Tomasi have Harper and Carrie respectively.

    Morrison is leaving Batman soon, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Ellie went away. Snyder has said a few times that he never designed Harper to be Robin, so I wouldn’t be shocked if she just became a Bat-ally. Now, though, we have Carrie Kelley, who Tomasi has retconned into the life of Damian Wayne with an emotionally resonant connection. This connection is important for anyone who tries to replace Robin. Jason Todd was introduced without any connection to Dick, which is probably a big reason why he initially failed as a character. When DC tried again with Tim, they introduced him by way of a retcon with an emotionally resonant connection. They actually placed Tim in the audience of Haly’s Circus the night that Dick Grayson’s parents were murdered. When it came time to persuade Bruce to allow a new Robin, Dick was first in line to support Tim. There was an emotional bridge between Dick and Tim, and I’d say that Tomasi has built a bridge between Damian and Carrie here too. I wonder where he’s going with it.

    Long story short, I’m so excited to be getting three different Robin contenders, all of which are female! Good stuff.

    • Holy crap! I just figured that out! As disappointed as I am that Superman wasn’t palling around with Damian, giving him movies to watch, that is a pretty fantastic reveal. Thanks for pointing that out, guys!

    • Hahaha. We spent last month assuming it was Clark Kent. It felt like a total non sequitr, but it offered the same sense of “oh, I guess Damian has a life Bruce doesn’t know about.” This feels a little more natural than Damian hanging out with Superman.

  2. So, I took a little look forward at the next issues to see how they would correspond with the rest of the grief stages. Assuming Tomasi is going to take Bruce through all 5, anger is Batman and Red Hood, bargaining is Batman and Batgirl, and depression is Batman and Catwoman. Acceptance is too far out, and isn’t posted yet.

      • Actually, they’re all pretty well selected – Barbara is Bargaining? She did cheat paralysis. Also, Mike you pointed out that Tim’s involvement in this issue was sorta minimal, but he does act to be the ultimate Denier to Bruce, wrecking his resurrection plans.

        • I feel that’s a bit of a stretch to be honest. If anything, I think it’s Franks words that will help push Batman forward. Sure, Tim may have “denied” Batman something, but I didn’t see his actions trying to help Bruce move past his current stage of grief. It just seemed like he was more grossed out at Bruce’s actions than anything else.

          At the most, Tim’s worried about the moral implications of what Bats is doing to Frank. Tim offers nothing in the way of consoling Bruce and even brings up the DotF stuff again. Like, I get that everyone is upset that Batman lied to everyone, but his son just died for heavens sake! Cut the Bat-man some slack.

        • Tim’s playing the tough love card here. The whole lab/Frankenstein setup was what Bruce was using to hide from the reality that is son is dead. Tim destroyed what was allowing Bruce to deny Damian’s passing and forced Bruce to face it. All the words in the world from the unattached head on the slab were not going to get through to him, he needed a detached third party to strip away his denial. Tim is perfect for the role of “detached third party.”

        • Okay, I see where you are going with this, but even if Tim does ultimately act to strip away Bruce’s denial, I don’t think he specifically set out to do so which is what I’m primarily getting at. Frank states that he let Batman tear him to pieces just so he can see that Bruce should not want to resurrect Damian because of the half-life that Frank lives.

          I’m sure you are right that Bats would not have listened to Frank, but at least he was trying to relate to and and get to Bruce in some way. Aside from Alfred and Harper, no one else has really tried to be there for Bruce.

        • I don’t think it matters why each member of the Bat-family represents the stages of grieving – in fact, it’s a little bit silly if they all each decide to represent one of them. And come to think of it, not all the staging of grief are all that healthy (denial and anger being pretty destructive behaviors).

          Also, let’s not trivialize Batman lying to the family about the Joker. That’s a BIG deal, and they were all put in REAL danger (and/or suffered large-scale loss) because Batman likes to play cat and mouse with Joker. I think anyone is justified in not cutting Batman slack right now.

        • Agreed. And I know it sounds like I’m trivializing it, but I’m really not meaning to. I’m not saying he should just be forgiven, but he deserves just a bit of slack in my book. Dude is in some pain.

      • I so look forward to any DC book that Selina appears in outside of Catwoman, so that I can get a readable version of the character!

  3. Of all the books DC has, this is the one I have the most complicated relationship with. I own 1, 2, 3, 9, 0, 13, 18, 19. Damian was favorite Robin, but this title has never fully grabbed me and a large part of that is the art. That said last months (#18) moved me more than any single issue of any comic ever has.
    As for this months I agree that Tomasi did an excellent job at portraying Bruce’s grief/denial and continued on theme from #18 that there was this whole other side of Damian that he knew nothing about.

    • Oh, Pat Gleason’s art has been one of the reasons I have liked this book as much as I do. I couldn’t work it into my reply, but that spread of Batman starting to take apart Frank, with Tim spying and Alfred commenting is incredible. All those little panels held together with stitching? Awesome.

      • I know that a lot of people LOVE Gleason’s work, it’s just not my favorite. I find his faces distracting – but I think that’s just me.

        • It’s not just you. I like most everything about his art, but I do find some of his face work distracting. Specifically in this issue, Carrie looked a bit…odd to me. I was going to mention it in the write-up, but my verbosity got in the way of my verbosity.

    • The end of the first story arch is really great – much better than it starts. So, my favorite issues have been like 5-8, 17, the annual and 18. But, if you weren’t digging the start of the Nobody arc, maybe you wouldn’t dig the ending either. I think it’s worth going back for and is sort of the basis for the relationship as explored later in the series. But double-again, that’s Gleason-art-heavy, so maybe not for you.

      • I’m sure I will go back and pick them all up at some point if for no other reason than I will be in severe Damian withdrawl. L’il Gotham is the only ongoing fix for the forciable future. 😦

        • Well, Grant Morrison did leave one mysterious Lazarus Pit lying around somewhere. Maybe another writer will pick up those threads one day? Keep your fingers crossed!

        • We’ve got like three more issues for Morrison to plug that hole. Obviously, nothing is ever FINAL in comics, but he’s said in interviews that he wants to leave Batman in the same condition as when he got him (like when you go camping!) – and that means no killer-son.

        • It seems like he’s actually trying to return Bruce to a state that he hadn’t been in since long before Morrison took the reins. Dude hasn’t been Robin-less in decades, but Morrison has mentioned something about returning him to loner status. It’s surprising, since he had just gotten through making such a compelling case for Batman never having been alone, but leave it to Morrison to surprise us.

        • Morrison may have wanted him to be a loner and killed Damian but Snyder did a lot of heavy lifting to get him to that stage. I have not heard of any colaboration between the two on this front.

  4. Pingback: Commentary Track – Peter Tomasi Discusses Batman and Wonder Woman 30 | Retcon Punch

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