Tuesday, May 27, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #8

"Damian, what have you done?"

"What I had to do....what I needed to do...for you, father."

The NoBody storyline comes to a full stop here in the eighth issue fittingly entitled Black Dawn. If you have been following my reviews of the first seven issues of Tomasi-Gleason's Batman and Robin for the New 52 line-up then you might have gotten spoiled already (that is of course if you decided to read everything I've posted in spite of the spoilers warning stated).

This final issue was the resolution of the entire NoBody arc, and I think that, as a whole, it was more than a satisfying symphony of remarkable notes that were consistently delivered in character drama and plot suspense. Tomasi's writing and Gleason's illustrations were able to cultivate the much needed thematic resonance since they began this exciting collaboration, emphasizing the discordant pieces that don't fit just yet, but all the while preparing us yet still taking us by surprise when that gradual crescendo comes to its grand finish.


The last issue ended with Damian thrusting his two fingers right into NoBody's forehead which instantly killed him. Morgan himself explained in issue 6 that the cranium tissue is particularly delicate in that position. With the right amount of pressure, you can incapacitate someone or end them for good. Damian leaned on the latter which is a crucial moment for all of us. It was awful, just awful, for Batman to witness his ten-year-old son finally give in to his killer instincts; a boy who was hidden from him for years by his own ex-girlfriend and only to be trained as a top-notch assassin. It was awful because Bruce wanted something more for Damian than a life of violence and cruelty which is why he became his Robin. He wanted to make sure Damian applies the same kind of noble direction and restraint that he does when it comes to confronting and eradicating the evils of the world.

And yet in that moment, Damian kills NoBody and not because he wants to prove a point by blatantly disregarding his father's moral code; it was simply because he wanted to be pragmatic about the whole thing. If NoBody lives, he will continue to haunt them. Damian placed himself in a position that Batman would not take, and consequentially carry that tremendous amount of burden for the rest of his crime-fighting career.

If Bruce knew just how far Damian is willing to go to protect his father, then he would have chosen to stain his own hands with blood. But now he knows perfectly well that his son is a lot more driven to do whatever it takes for the people he loves.

The cover from the previous issue was again misleading. It featured Batman with his mask falling off and pushing a blade into NoBody. And then we discover in a full-paged panel that Damian kills NoBody just to end the cycle from repeating again. It was harrowing and yet a true necessity; one option that not even Bruce Wayne himself as Batman is strong enough to choose every once in a while for truly heinous scum out there. The fact that Damian can and will choose that option only means that the next stories that come after will be something to look forward to indeed. Here we have a Robin whose ferocious loyalty and ability to make hard decisions will greatly contrast and complement Batman. I don't know about you, but this makes me so happy!

In the last moments of the issue, we get this heartfelt exchange from father and son that truly captured the significance of the moment they have survived together:

I can't express just how much this broke me apart. Bruce still clings to his ideals but also finally has an honest conversation with Damian as to why it matters that they should not take lives of the bad men they are faced with every day. And Damian finally admits how much he idolized his father and how much he wanted to follow his father's footsteps and probably fill in his shoes someday. That to me is a promise of brighter things to come for these two unlikely partners. And then we get this panel:

So I'm crying forever, thanks.

I would like to tirelessly commend Tomasi and Gleason for what they have achieved in the first eight issues of Batman and Robin. It's a great work of art in general, and an engrossing emotional read. I can't wait to read more about Damian as Robin. This is a strong beginning. Let's keep it up!


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