Spencer: We see a lot of redemption stories in comics (and in pop culture in general), and while many of them end in death, almost all of them end with the person seeking redemption finding some sort of forgiveness. Yes, the ideas of atoning for past crimes and being forgiven for them tend to go hand-in-hand, but should they? It’s an interesting notion, one which Patrick Gleason seems interested in examining throughout Robin: Son of Batman 2. Damian Wayne is out to atone for a year full of horrors he committed before becoming Robin, but atoning for some crimes is clearly going to be much harder than atoning for others — and it may simply come to down to who he’s seeking redemption from. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Batman and Robin 40, originally released March 25th, 2015.
Drew: Bruce Wayne’s back was broken. Otto Octavius took over Peter Parker’s body. Superman had a mullet. Steve Rogers was dead. We often talk derisively of these kinds of easily-reversed changes in superhero comics because they seem gimmicky and cheap — what better way to boost sales than to trumpet the death of Superman? — but I’d actually argue that these stories offer a clever way of exploring what makes these heroes great. Moreover, they remind us not to take what we like about these characters for granted. Fewer characters have been put through quite so many changes recently as Damian Wayne, who has both died and gained superpowers, so while Batman and Robin 40 ends with him back in his non-dead, non-superpowered state, it’s actually kind of refreshing. Continue reading
Mark: One of the complaints leveled at comic books is that nothing ever sticks. A character dies, only to be brought back at the next best opportunity. Damian was dead, but now he’s back. Reborn Damian has super powers, but it’s probably only a matter of time before he’s de-powered. Does the inevitability detract from what’s happening now? As a reader, that’s not something that’s ever bothered me. My only expectation/hope when reading a series is that individual arcs will be satisfying. Comic books are mini-rebooting between arcs all the time. If a good arc is followed by a bad arc, it doesn’t diminish what came before.
Batman has had a lot of surrogate children over the years (it seems like recently we’re having a Robin graduation every year or so), but there’s obviously something unique about his relationship with Damian. It’s been a long journey to Damian’s resurrection, and finally seeing the Dynamic Duo back in action is a lot of fun. Still in the end, as much as this is sold as a new beginning, this issue is more of a concluding chapter to the Robin Rises saga. Continue reading
Patrick: One of my least favorite criticisms of serialized fiction is that a story “didn’t go anywhere.” We have an expectation that the journey we’re on with the characters is somehow part of an investment that pays off in a meaningful way as events progress. We literally use that term “pay off,” as though the entertainment itself in a cost-benefit proposition. I resent the idea that we can’t enjoy a single issue on its own merits, and instead comfort ourselves with the idea that one volume seeded something that will feel significant later. Robin Rises Alpha 1 closes out the Damian’s Resurrection story by finally giving readers a glimpse of what it means to have a superpowered Wayne behind Robin’s mask. It’s an issue frustratingly short on content, repeating themes, scenes and pages from elsewhere in Batman and Robin, all but guaranteeing that the pay-off here is a retread of the past, rather than boldly striking out into the future of the character. Continue reading
…for us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died and was buried. On the third day He rose again, in fulfillment of the scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
-The Nicene Creed
Patrick: Growing up in the Catholic church, I always had a little bit of a problem with this part of the Nicene Creed. On the one hand, it’s very clear: Jesus sacrificed everything — including his life — in order to save the whole world from sin. But on the other hand, death didn’t share any of the long-lasting consequences it does for anyone else. Jesus died, but then he returned, three days later. What’s more is that he transcends his human flesh and embraces his fully divine nature by hanging out with God in heaven. While the drama of death and resurrection is enough to stir a body to faith, it betrays a fundamental truth about death. What’s hard about death isn’t that someone dies, it’s that they stay dead. And yet, this narrative — of death and rebirth — is so powerful it’s one of the stops on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Batman and Robin has allowed Bruce Wayne to deal with Damian’s death in grounded, real ways for almost two years, but now that “resurrection” is in play, subtlety goes right out the window. This is Damian, the bat-Christ-figure to beat the band, and he only marches back on the field to fireworks. Continue reading
Spencer: We here at Retcon Punch haven’t been subtle about our love of Batman’s new Hellbat armor. The suit is awesome, and what’s better is that it isn’t just some gimmick meant to push toys; writer Peter Tomasi has created “realistic” (in comic book terms, at least) reasons for the Hellbat’s great power and for why Batman needs to use it in this particular situation. Still, he and penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz understand just how cool the Hellbat is, and much of Batman and Robin 35’s success comes from how the creative team chooses to portray the suit — which, in some cases, means not showing it at all. The issue is visually dazzling, and the artists know which types of imagery to use to best convey the stories both on Apokolips and on Earth. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Mark are discussing Batman and Robin 34, originally released August 20th, 2014.
Patrick: When The Death of the Family was heading into its final issue, Scott Snyder appeared in a ton of interviews claiming that this conclusion was going to have a lasting effect on Batman and the Batfamily. But after that story line wrapped up, Snyder took his own series into Batman’s past, conveniently avoiding working through much of this fallout. Similarly, Grant Morrison killed Damian in Batman Incorporated, but wrapped up his series only a few issues later. The emotional heavy lifting as fallen to Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, who have dutifully presented the most erratic, emotional and frustrating Batman possible. Everything that Batman is — the selfless knight of justice, the patriarch of the Batfamily, the infallible detective — has been undermined in the wake of these twin tragedies. Understandably, that pushes Batman away from his readers, and his alienation from the world started to reflect the audiences’ alienation from the character. In issue 34, Tomasi and Gleason have Bruce offer a naked apology to his protégés, but they’re also inviting us to trust Batman again. Fuck yes: I’m ready to forgive. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Batman and Ra’s al Ghul 32, originally released June 18th, 2014.
Patrick: No one’s got a deeper bench than Batman. A lot has been made of the integrity of his relationships lately — it’s almost the most important piece of Batman’s mythology in the New 52. Check it out: Batman Eternal is all about Batman struggling with his relationship with the city, and even pulls Gordon out of rotation. This comes on the heels of The Death of the Family and the Leviathan killing Damian, which all just compounds the stress put upon those relationships. Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Robin, Red Hood, they all have reason to distrust the man who’s a superhero first, and a human being second. But Batman’s not just the biggest superhero in Gotham, he’s the biggest superhero in the DC Universe, so there’s no end to the relationships we can explore to learn something just a little bit more about Bruce Wayne. Continue reading
Peter Tomasi can be seen as a workhorse of DC’s writer stable. He is constantly dealing with other people’s baggage in his own series, including the Batman and Robin-altering death of Damian Wayne. But that’s not the only thread Tomasi has used to weave his Batman epic. Indeed, the loss of Robin has turned into survey of how the New 52’s Batman fits into rest of the Universe. Issue 30, titled Batman and Wonder Woman, plays with some of the best toys in the box. Patrick sat down with Pete and went through the issue page by page, so get your copy handy and join us on the Commentary Track.
Retcon Punch: First, can you talk about going after Wonder Woman and exploring the more magical end of the Universe. I know we’re chasing around resurrection pits and whatnot…
Peter Tomasi: Yeah, it seemed like a good place to explore. They’ve had Lazarus Pits all around the globe, and it felt like a cool bit that we hadn’t ever seen where: why wouldn’t a secret island full of Amazons have one? Maybe there’s a little something-something going on there, and we could play with a little magic there. I don’t really do this a lot, I’m a very linear storyteller — I wrote this whole sequence of them going to the island first and all this stuff. Continue reading
Today, Drew and guest writer Gino Killiko are discussing Batman and Batgirl 21, originally released June 19th, 2013.
Drew: I have to admit, as a stage of grief, bargaining never made all that much sense to me — especially not as the third stage. I can accept that somebody might make an impassioned plea to whatever powers exist at the time of a loved one’s death, but I’m just not sure who people are bargaining with long after a loved one has died. It turns out, that is because the whole Kübler-Ross model that the “five stages of grief” are based on is actually adapted from the stages associated with an impending death, which kind of supports the notion that bargaining after the fact doesn’t necessarily make any sense. That might explain why Batman and Batgirl 21, which is meant to focus on the third stage of grief, doesn’t quite work. Continue reading