Comics Anonymous

June 19, 2012, 8:30 am
Filed under: Comic Reviews, DC Comics | Tags: , , ,

A few months back I performed an exorcism on my DC comic buying habits, getting rid of some of the books that I’d been getting since the relaunch just because. I managed to whittle it down, leaving only 10 titles – something I’ve managed to stick to, with the exception of a couple of the second wave titles. However there was a title I did re-think when doing my first monthly order since the cull – Batman and Robin. Was it worth keeping and is the recent issue #10 any good?

Before I talk about #10, let me first go through my reasoning for keeping this book as way of a prologue to my trim down of DC titles. I’m generally a sucker for not giving up on something part way through it, and although I’d managed to break my ties with several of the DCNew52 and forget about what might happen next in their stories, Batman and Robin was the exception. My “3 question rule” had caused it to be eliminated, probably on the basis I either couldn’t remember what was going on, or didn’t care too much about the story at that time, however something about the words “final part in the arc” staring back at me from the issue of Previews I was flicking through made me overrule the decision. ‘I can always stop after that’ I thought, spoken like a true addict.

I’m glad now that I didn’t, since the subsequent 4 issues in the story at the time where pretty incredible and went to exactly the kinds of places I wanted this book to go. You see this isn’t just ‘another Batman book’ where it gets by on a rotation of rouges escaping from Arkham Asylum – this is a book about relationships and much more about the heroes than the villains. I mentioned all the way back in my review of the first issue about how important it was to show the relationship between Batman & Robin / Bruce and Damian, since this was the first time in history that the father and son are the Dynamic Duo together. Although the relaunch may have started slow, leading to my hesitation, it certainly ended with a bang.

Now that we’re post Night of the Owls, we can start to pick up the pieces from what happened before it in issue #10, whose cover promises a “War of the Robins”. The situation between Batman and his many Robins is an unusual one – unlike the Justice League, once a hard day/night’s work is over, they’re still living with the person they were just out saving the world with, so the story doesn’t end when the heroes go home. This is none more apparent in this month’s issue, which features more of the Bat-family out of costume than in it. The key word here is “family” – something Bruce is keen to keep and treasure while he can, but like all families, there’s sure to be some squabbling between siblings – the only difference here is that instead of throwing toy soldiers at one and other, it’s batarangs!

This book has always had a big emphasis on Damian, since it’s one of the only books he features in, and has always been about him fitting in – firstly fitting into the role of Robin while Grayson filled Batman’s shoes, then fitting in as Bruce Wayne’s son when he returned. Now though, Peter Tomasi is making Damian fit in with the rest of the Wayne family. He may be a a trained and skilful assassin, but integrating isn’t one of Damian’s strong points – leading to plenty of friction at Wayne manor.

Similar to his first arc, Tomasi’s got another plot bubbling away in the background with the antagonist preparing their fight against Batman and co, with assistance from some of the other villains Batman has brought to justice, leaving them “twisted and broken, emotionally and physically” – which humorously gives us an insight into what kind of imprint is left by Batman’s boots when he kicks you in the face – Bat-foot-prints (see panel above!). I like it that Tomasi, like Snyder, isn’t relying on the staple of Bat-verse villains, and instead coming up with something original that will help give the story some more meaning. How this new villain Terminus and his body’s accelerated deterioration will fit in to the overall plot is still to be revealed.

My complaint with this issue though unfortunately lies with artist Patrick Gleason. I’ll admit, I found myself checking if Gleason has been the artist from issue #1 of this series, because it seemed to take a nose dive in quality this time round. It’s possible that because a majority of the issue has the Wayne family in their sunday best instead of their crime fighting gear that Gleason’s struggled – during the family portrait scene at the start I was only able to distinguish who each character was supposed to be based on their relative height to one another. A lack of any real facial features causes each of them to blend into one, except for Alfred who appears to be 20 years younger than he should be. I’m guessing this is just a fluke, because once suited up, the heroes and the villains look much better.

Overall though, I’m glad I broke my own rule, and just at the right time to let this book prove what it could actually achieve. With one arc down, Tomasi is proving that he’s understood the brief on this book and will explore those all important family values inside Wayne Manor and hopefully Gleason will prove that this issue was just a brief slip-up and normal service will be restored soon.


Craig – @hastiecraig

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