Monday, May 26, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #5

"Not knowing where you are but knowing who you're with is painful and frustrating."

Repercussions are now fully realized in this issue as Batman searches for his lost Robin. In his pursuit across Gotham, Bruce Wayne makes a recorded conversation addressing his son Damian, and in which he divulges the story on how he met Henri Ducard and his son Morgan (who is also the villain NoBody). Meanwhile, Damian teams up with NoBody and infiltrates an embassy where its ambassador profits from human trafficking. Here NoBody offers him the choice of getting away from under the shadow of Batman for good--even if it means by fire and blood. But will he take it?

The issue starts with brisk elegance. Bruce finds a piece of paper on his parents' grave site. It was a note from Damian that simply says: I had to leave. The lie is over. Alfred then shows him the sketches that Damian has been drawing in the last few weeks; pictures of mutilated bodies and other sorts of macabre that underlies the pain of a neglected and high-strung child. Bruce immediately leaves to look for him, all the while making a rather emotionally stirring recording of all the things he should have said and done that might have prevented Damian from leaving him. Reading those panels almost made me tear up. Bruce himself is emotionally crippled with all the losses and moral obligations he had to deal with; and being Batman might just cost him his one shot of having a family again.

A searing question then prevails from Bruce's litany: "Why would you step into the darkness so fast?" It's a question that drives right into the heart of things, whether there's a direct answer or not. Bruce expects Damian to choose the light like he had done after a tragedy has befallen him as a child before, but I think he is slowly coming to terms that Damian's wounds go deeper than what he has seen so far. Bruce's absence in his life growing up is just as harmful as Talia's choice to raise him to be a killer. This is the tragedy that marks Damian Wayne.

In just a span of a few issues, Tomasi has presented us a well-paced and earnest narrative that examined a most intriguing and highly volatile relationship. Suddenly, this isn't just about Batman trying to impose his set of standards and legacy into the reluctant shoulders of a relatively inexperienced sidekick. This is now more about a father who needs to fight for his child's soul or lose him forever to the evils he sought to eradicate in the first place. Gleason's artwork has haunting angles as well which only serve to emphasize the sadness that the panels are dripping in.

This issue not just explores Bruce's torn feelings but also Damian's quiet rage. During a conversation with NoBody, he asked if Damian is prepared to make his father an enemy and to which Damian replies coldly: "He already is an enemy. Pennyworth's [Alfred] been more of a father--at least he hasn't dropped in and out of my life expecting me to be some Bruce Wayne replica that supposed to think, act and breathe just like he does every second of the day." This is a notable piece of dialogue. It highlights Damian's perception of Alfred whom he does have quite a bit of affection for because the butler seems to be the only one who recognizes how lonely he is; and Damian might also be unconsciously referring to his upbringing. His mother Talia groomed him to be an heir to the al Ghul empire. His father expects him to be a hero like he is as Batman. And he detested both of his parents' self-centered intentions. It's not at all surprising then for him to step into that darkness that fast when there is nothing else on the other side that's worth clinging onto.

Issue #5 Mutineer has great layers to its narrative and characterization, most especially on Damian Wayne. This is truly an emotional story that is worth the monthly wait.


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