Damian orchestrated a well-prepared (and much needed) vacation plan for his father which took Bruce and Alfred into Barcelona, Spain where Bruce proceeds to uncover certain heartfelt trivia about his parents. Meanwhile, Damian dupes his father into thinking that he was also traveling Europe ahead of him, but was in truth merely leaving behind clues for the next destination from the comfort of the bat-cave using a video camera and a green screen. Sending his father away has enabled Damian to put on the Batman costume and patrol Gotham streets for himself, apprehending crooks and annoying certain police officers along the way. While reading this issue, I was bemused, shaking my head and almost muttering, "That's so Damian!" GAH, I LOVE THIS BOY WONDER!
And this dichotomy has always been the most interesting aspect of Damian Wayne's character: he has the ability to be cunning and calculating especially when he has ulterior motives under his sleeve; however, his actions are generally motivated by an inherent goodness of that of a child. In this case, as much as I think Damian was enjoying being Batman for at least three nights in a row without worrying about adult supervision, I also believe he wanted Bruce to take the pressure off and explore his roots which then gave us readers some of the most touching moments in a Batman comic book yet. Bruce continues to find certain things about his parents in the trip (such as a painting by Martha Wayne with Bruce's baby hand on the side; a honeymoon photo of his parents standing in front of a statue; and a brick Thomas Wayne used to propose to Martha). It was deeply moving for me, especially since it's often rare for us fans to see Bruce connecting with his emotions and whatever that has anything to do with his late parents.
Meanwhile, it was such a thrill to see Damian embracing the duties his father had carried for so long as Gotham's Dark Knight, and how much of a perfect fit he was for that role. You could tell he loved not only being a potential new Batman, but also being his father's son. After all the bloodshed, tension and heartbreak he and his father had gone through in the earlier issues, it's uplifting to see that they were able to move past it together. As Bruce said in the end of this issue, he had finally stopped worrying incessantly about Damian because he has also learned to trust him, both as his partner in crime-fighting and as his family.
It's all warm and good until we remember that this annual issue happens before the tragic events in Batman Incorporated where Damian dies. That bittersweet quality has therefore enhanced Tomasi's writing for this issue. Bruce and Damian have finally connected genuinely, but the worst has yet to come for them. And when it did come, it was certainly one of hardest things I had to witness as a long-time Bat-fan. However, Damian's untimely death did not diminish whatever love and compassion he had shared with his father. If anything, it only preserved it, and Batman and Robin Annual #1 is a living testimony of that.
* A whimsical and earnest examination of what makes family one's salvation and serenity.