New 52 Review: Batman & Robin #1
With the DC Comics relaunch going on all this month, the only book I have been looking forward to more that Batman & Robin, is Batman #1 itself. Even though Damian Wayne has been wearing the Robin moniker for as long as he has, this is the first time we will actually see him directly under Bruce, and really, directly doing much of anything with Bruce. With the new DCU Damian is still late to the party, but not necessarily to Bruce’s life and will get a much bigger role in shaping our caped crusader. This should not only make for some really great head cracking, but for some out of this world family drama.
The book picks up right where the old DCU left off. Bruce has recently returned from bat-death-limbo, and has resumed his title as Batman. Writer Peter Tomasi takes a big risk right from the start by opening the issue on the anniversary of Tom and Martha’s death. I say risk because he immediately puts an end to it by hinting that Bruce will soon have that part of the city renovated and will instead celebrate his parent’s wedding anniversary. Though it may be a risk, I like this as the setting for the beginning of this book. It is a tribute to all the great stories that have been centered around not only the original night, but subsequent anniversaries.
The solemn night and heavy setting could lead to some slow conversation, but instead Tomasi’s writing shines through. Tomasi gives the reader a glimpse of how rocky this relationship is going to be, and we begin to see how Bruce’s father role will change him. Bruce attempts to explain the significance of the night in his and Damian’s life, but Damian’s nonchalant dismissal of death and grief tests Bruce’s patience. You can see, much like in a real father and son relationship, Damian knows just what to do to push Bruce’s buttons. As a result, Bruce more than once breaks from his contemplation to call Damian down. I have always felt that deep down Bruce’s psyche was a fragile thing always on the verge of pushing Bruce over the edge. The best part of Damian is that he is already there and can bring Bruce with him. Damian presents as someone with no remorse, reservation for killing, or sense of consequence. While this actually created a great balance to Dick’s Batman, and really enhanced their relationship, it makes for a road block to his relationship with Bruce. Though Damian was raised as part of Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins, and is constantly perpetuating his teachings, at his core he is very much like his father, but without any of the maturity and perspective that grounds Bruce. It seems that instead of being something where the two learn from each other, it will just be a constant test and battle that they will each have to endure.
Trust will be a big issue with these two, and it will be interesting to see how Tomasi goes about building it. Bruce may have taught more superheroes than just about anyone else in comics, but no one has ever been as dismissive as Damian will prove to be. Damian already begins to try and assert himself as Bruce’s partner and not his underling, and it is hard to earn someone’s respect when you do not feel you need to. Additionally, Damian feels validated by his time with Dick, and his training, which Bruce will see more as baggage, than résumé points. Meanwhile, Bruce is faced with a different problem. In every Robin/Batgirl relationship that he has been in before, he has always been the pseudo parent, but now he is the parent. This makes for an interesting dynamic as Bruce repeatedly tells Damian that he is his son, but seems to be reminding himself more than anything. Also the reader has to question Damian’s devious personality as Tomasi seems to really highlight how many of Bruce’s secrets Damian knows. Will Bruce be able to both accept and guide his son, or will his own internal turmoil and Damian’s constant antagonizing push him to do something he will regret? Excited yet? I know! Great stuff!
Meanwhile we are introduced back to the world of Batman Inc. with a strange new villain attacking and killing the Batman of Russia. (If anyone knows who the Batman of Russia is supposed to be, let me know in the comments, because I have no clue.) This Nobody character is intriguing and clearly has it out for Bruce Wayne and Batman Inc. and it will be interesting to see where Tomasi takes this. It will be a tough task for villains to shine in this book, as the dynamic between Bruce and Damian will dominate, but maybe some of these new villains may be interesting enough to invest readers.
The artwork is covered by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and colorist John Kalisz. I like that they seem to downplay Batman’s costume redesign, more hinting at it than actually drawing it. The action sequences are good and most of the book is neat, clean and well laid out. Their best work comes at the beginning of the book, drawing both Damian out of costume and Bruce while he is talking about his parents. You get the sense that these panels just mattered more and as a result they are the ones that stuck in my mind more than any of the others. Gray’s inks in these early pages could have been lost as it is a night scene, but instead they really do the book justice. Kalisz’ coloring though out the books is fitting, but again seem to have the most impact with the meloncholy scenes in Wayne Manor and the sewers beneath Crime Alley.
I am always afraid when I get really excited for a book, because I fear that it won’t be able to live up to what I build in my head. That being said I think Tomasi, knows the score of this relationship, and should be able to keep it being too much, it will make for great drama. What did you think of the book? Let me know in the comments below!