Thursday, May 29, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin: "Born to Kill" by Peter J. Tomasi volume 1

I spent the last two weeks reading and individually reviewing the eight issues that composed this magnificent first volume. It had been an amazing journey for me to examine and discuss the character arc progress between Bruce Wayne (Batman) and his son Damian (Robin) which is the most important thing that writer Peter J. Tomasi himself emphasized throughout the issues. As for the villain NoBody, he explained in an afterword (his very own story proposal that he submitted to the company) that it was just the 'B' story that adds a dimension to what he wanted to achieve in the story, and that the emotional spine and theme of the first volume relies heavily on nature versus nurture, particularly on how Batman and Robin must learn to build a relationship based on trust, love and respect even if external forces would get in the way every once in a while, especially with a vocation like crime-fighting.

Damian is born and raised a killer. His mother Talia al Ghul and the rest of the League of Assassins had tempered his steel into something sharp and deadly. Bruce knew that his absence in the most formative years of his son's life has already been detrimental, and in the span of these issues, he tries everything to ensure that Damian walks the right path and not give in to the darkness that his natural instincts are much more attuned with. I really enjoyed reading Tomasi's proposal for the Batman and Robin line-up because it showed that he understands the direction he's heading and how to get there the best way possible. This collected edition also included an excerpt of the issue #7 script, and a gallery filled with artist Patrick Gleason's character sketches of Damian and some panel layouts.

Going back to the proposal, I would like to quote some of its insightful passages that I believe captured the essence of the first arc Born to Kill:

"Bruce sees Damian as a broken boy and is on a mission to fix him. Damian, on the other hand, only wants to be accepted by his father for who and what he is; he doesn't want to be looked at as some science project that needs to be modified."
"As Bruce wrestles with what it means to be a father in uniform and out, Damian is wrestling with himself too, using all his willpower to keep his natural instincts and inclinations at bay, trying his best to be the son his father wants him to be, but finding himself failing and not knowing who to turn to, especially when he starts to see Bruce as less of a fantasy father figure and more of a fallible human being. For Damian, it was easy to look up to Bruce when he was gone, but now that his father's back, Damian's finding it was simpler to love and respect the legend more than the man himself."

I think it's worth mentioning that there is an old continuity reference in Tomasi's writing though it was only implied. There was a time before when Bruce Wayne died and so Dick Grayson (former first Robin and now Nightwing) had to take over so he became the new Batman while he assigned Damian as his Robin. I wanted to point that out since there was a scene in one of the issues here where Damian (first issue and some other one) talked about the fact that Dick trusted him but Bruce can't do the same thing. In case you feel like that was a baffling thing to say, then that's the short backstory that should sufficiently cover it.

I can honestly say that this is my most favorite volume from the New 52 Batman titles yet, even surpassing the more riveting plot and suspense created in Scott Snyder's The Court of Owls. I'm a sucker for character-driven stories and exploration of character dynamics more than anything else in fiction so Tomasi's work for the first volume of Batman and Robin truly spoke to me. I'll be reading the next issues individually again very soon (as well as the collected second volume Pearl), but for now I'm picking up the Batman issues for Death of the Family and reviewing them separately. I've already read and reviewed the crossover/tie-ins edition of this story arc before, but I think Snyder's collected third volume edition is more compact and a better anthology than that one.


* Meaningful and emotionally resonant, the first volume humanizes Batman as a father and elevates Damian as a formidable Robin.

No comments:

Post a Comment