Monday, May 26, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #3

Now this is more like it! I criticized the last issue for being too brief without being able to create enough action and suspense within the limited scope of pages--so I suppose Tomasi finally took the reins and went ahead with that expectation from the readers, providing us with a much needed sense of urgency and fatality for the third installment, Knightmoves.

It must be said that so far his Batman and Robin series truly feels like a personal examination in a character-centered level; even the plot surrounding the new villain NoBody serves as a commentary on the intense and contradictory dynamics between Bruce and his son, the stubborn-for-his-own-damn-good Damian. I really enjoyed the interplay going back and forth among these three characters during this issue. Damian's ferocious need to prove that he is his own brand of vigilante is becoming dangerous for his father who built a reputation and curtailed a legacy that he hopes one day Damian can emulate and embrace. But since NoBody has expressed his intention of annihilating Batman, Bruce had to forbid his son to go out in patrols, much to the eager former little assassin's chagrin.

His scenes with Alfred as they played chess were delightful, particularly since Alfred understands that underneath all the bravado and excess, Damian is just a boy looking for adult guidance, and his closest kin can't decide whether or not he should be a father first and his crime-fighting partner second, or the other way around. I don't think Bruce could ever decide with finality on this one, because I believe being in the vigilante business means there is always more chaos and each situation would require a unique way of responding to it. In some cases, he should be a father first; in others he must put aside personal affinities and be Batman. It's a complicated arrangement and the key to handling it is to deal with it together but for now, both father and son have yet to form that kind of bond.

I would also like to point out that there is this streak of malice that naturally shows in Damian with his every decision and movement. Determined not to be undermined by his father, Damian decides to go patrolling on his own and ends up beating thugs almost to their deaths. During this crucial scene, his display of anger made me worried. It's obvious that the boy is misguided. NoBody witnesses this and acknowledges that there is more darkness to the boy that neither Bruce or Alfred can truly understand. In a climactic confrontation, NoBody captured both Batman and Robin and took them to a remote location. This feels like a beginning of a psychological torture that would definitely put the father and son's loyalty to each other to a test. NoBody has finally found a weakness and he will be relentless in exploiting it. What makes it frightening is that Damian might just give in because it is apparent even to the readers that this is a boy maltreated in so many ways that going full-on murderous seems to be his default.

I'm not saying he has no morals; clearly when NoBody taunted him to kill the thugs earlier, he held his ground and refused to finish them. But NoBody was still right when he points out that Damian does wish to completely give in to his killer instincts and the only thing that holds him back is his father. Whether he admits it or not, Damian does want to gain Bruce's approval and confidence but that seems to put a strain on him because he was born and raised to kill--and perhaps that nagging impulse is a lot stronger than his desire to create a meaningful connection with his estranged father.

Another moment I appreciated is the fact that in the last issue, Bruce bought a pet dog and quite awkwardly imposed that Damian names it because it's his pet now. Damian, understandably, rejects the dog because he had never seen himself being a normal kid who would like to take care of animals. It's just another way for Bruce to make him do something that goes against his natural instincts; and this is why Damian keeps pulling away no matter how much he wants to be reeled in by his father's noble intentions and well-meant gestures. Alfred is privy to all of these moments, and I sort of feel sorry for the butler because I can see that he wanted to smack both of them sometimes but would not overstep his role.

So I really liked this issue because the drama and action have finally escalated and it promises that the next issue will be a better one in terms of exposition and plot development.


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