One of the advantages of being a comic book nerd is that you can flaunt things around that people who don’t read comics don’t know. One of my favorites is of course that Bruce Wayne fathered a child with Talia al Ghul and he is now the current Robin. I don’t often get a chance to talk about this but when I do it’s usually a fun conversation with lots of ‘Whats’ and ‘huhs’ from the other participants. Within DC’s New 52 it should come as no surprise that Batman and Robin was among the launch titles and that Damien Wayne is the titular Robin (no real changes here in terms of the reboot), but this comic packs a lot more punch then most of the other rebooted titles and not due to it’s action. Batman and Robin does have many exciting action scenes yes but the core and heart of the story is centered on Bruce and Damien’s relationship and that makes it different and special.
Peter Tomasi has taken the dynamics and styles that Grant Morrison created and kept them alive. Following up Morrison might be one of the scariest jobs in comics, but Tomasi handles it well. This is the kind of Batman comic that gives you a greater understanding of the trials that Bruce has to go through to maintain his crime fighting persona. Sure, none of us can really relate to the one-sided killing machine that is Damien, but the tender father/son moments between the two of them are what make Batman a much more relatable character in this comic. Seeing Damien growing more and more as Robin gets you excited and proud for the character much like Bruce, and is probably one of the few times you will ever ‘feel like Batman’.
The story of this collection has a lot of working parts that as a whole make it truly remarkable. First is the way its story is developed around a world of classic Batman and Robin fighting crime stories. We’ve seen it a thousand times before, but not with this character dynamic. The way it invokes the beloved (some might say ‘simple’) crime fighting tales of the Dynamic Duo will put a smile on your face just before you get really sad again based on the harsh ways Bruce treats Damien. Second, the power dynamic between Bruce and Damien that I’ve already mentioned, and third the simply gripping overarching plot.
All these other things in mind, they can be just as applied to Patrick Gleason’s artwork. While I would complain that the overall design for the antagonist isn’t the most original it still looks great. He also manages to place the titular heroes and their enemies under different colors and sources of light that really present them in ways we seldom see. Also few people can really take the concept of Batman’s cape and make it stand out from any other comic, but it’s done here. Praise is also in order for the inkers Mick Gray & Guy Major and the colorist John Kalisz. The shadows and depths created by their work make the art in this more then just pictures to look at – you’ll often find yourself staring at them longer than you would pay attention to less detailed art in other comics. Kalisz’s choices of color are also admirable. He took a chance by giving bright primary colors some resonance in a Batman book, but the way the colors tend to match the characters’ own palates is a detail many will miss but adds to the experience of the comic.
This is more then just a superhero comic. This is a tale of a father and son at odds with each other, an age old premise that’s been done a million times over but not with this kind of spark. Batman and Robin are one of the most iconic pairs that have ever existed in American culture and while this story respects that, it takes them, simply put, beyond it. We’ve seen Bruce acting in a parental role for the previous Robins before yes, but here his real parenting skills are put to the test. If you’ve had your appetite whet by Scott Snyder’s Batman comic and need more, buy this. I couldn’t put this down when I was reading it and it made me very upset that I hadn’t been picking up the issues of it from the start of the reboot. Batman and Robin rules the night.
Rating: 9 / 10
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