Batman & Robin #1
Partnered with his son and crime-fighting partner Robin, Batman wages a never-ending war on crime while a mysterious criminal assassinates members of his global effort to defeat the criminal element.
I have been very behind the pack with my coverage of DC Comics’ New 52, but after reading some positive reception decided to dip in and sample a few titles. Like most members of my generation, I am a big fan of the Batman. From the comics to the cartoons, TV programs and feature films, the character of the brilliant caped crusader remains a part of my general consciousness. Numerous times I have attempted to take part in the collection of the monthly Batman series with varied results. I tried out the monthly book just before a recurring series of cross-overs took control of the character (from No Man’s Land to the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul) and was frustrated by the wildly fluctuating quality of material. Much like Action Comics and Superman, you just never knew what to expect from a Batman book.
As a first issue, Batman & Robin has little ramp up aside from the interaction between Bruce Wayne and his evil son. Borne from the union of Batman and the daughter of his enemy Talia al Ghul, Damian is an unruly and rebellious punk who was is not only a self-appointed authority on everything but was also trained by an international league of assassins. The interplay between the Waynes is the real sell for this book in my opinion aside from the astounding artwork. In other books, Batman is an egocentric isolationist dick, but in this series he is a father and must therefore be a bit more sensitive in offering a good role model for his son to live up to.
The book opens with the murder of a Russian member of Batman Inc, a franchised adaptation of the Batman ideal. A killer is on the loose, destroying the brotherhood of crime fighters that Batman has worked so hard to establish. It’s an interesting idea and one that I frankly share. The concept makes little sense to me. Tomasi juggles the continuation of established continuity with the added responsibility of introducing new readers with exemplary skill. The issues hardly reads like a welcome mat to new readers but it is also side-steps the slow process of producing excessive exposition for one of the most well-known characters in modern fiction. I dreaded sloughing my way through yet another origin story with this one and was pleased to find that it briskly cut to the chase.
Using the remembrance of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ deaths in Crime Alley as the establishing scene of our heroes, Tomasi was able to exhibit the sharp differences in Damian and Bruce’s behaviors. Bruce is turning over a new leaf by no longer recognizing their deaths and instead celebrating their wedding anniversary while young Damian sees no point in wasting time over the dusty past. There’s a war on crime to win, after all, and there are always casualties.
Traveling in a vehicle designed to travel through the Gotham City sewer system, Batman and Robin are called to action as a crime takes place in the nuclear reactor of a nearby university. The crime-fighting scenes are well drafted but show the distinctly different styles that each hero uses. Batman is controlled and methodical while Robin cruelly causes the violent death of a few criminals foolish enough to attempt to steal Batman’s ride.
The series features the amazing artist Patrick Gleason who I had followed from Aquaman to Green Lantern Corps and such. Gleason’s art shines in Batman & Robin, adding character and action to each page. When interviewed by Newsarama back in the 2010 about this ongoing gig, Gleason showed excitement about drawing a Batman book and a reaction similar to most readers to the Damian/Robin:
I’m sure I’m like most people — I kind of hated Damian at first. But the little twerp has really grown on me. And now he’s such a cool little twerp!
There are a handful of those great characters that an artist gets to draw that really keep things fun and fresh. Plus I think there’s just something interesting to all of us about that guy in the room that struts a little too much or carries himself differently. We all like to keep an eye on them.
So when I think about approaching Damian, I think it could be a lot like my approach to Guy Gardner. I have a longer leash artistically on things like attitude, and facial expressions. There are a lot of similarities that I can see in them. So there’s some real fun to be had with Damian.
I will say that the ‘five year theory’ that DC is obsessed with is a bit silly. In this issue it is established that within that time Batman not only began his crime fighting career but also burned through three Robins and sired a child. That’s a LOT to go through in such a short period of time. I wish that DC editorial had decided to leave time as a vague notion or just start from scratch, but what can you do? It’s only annoying when the script recognizes it.
A fun and entertaining read well constructed and illustrated, I can recommend this series to Batman fans looking for a new monthly without the daunting ties to continuity… while it lasts. I am late to this party but have copies of Action, Batman and Detective en route and will provide more reviews as I find copies of DC’s sold out #1′s.