Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #11

This has got to be the first Batman and Robin issue from Tomasi-Gleason collaboration that honestly made me want to wish I could forget about reading it (except for the sideline story pertaining to the confrontation between Damian and Jason Todd earlier in the pages). I've heard before that the tone and focus for the next B&R issues have drastically changed from the very humanizing character arcs between father and son, to stories that are often tacky and simplistic. And that hurts me, okay? I just loved what Tomasi had done with the first eight issues and if the hearsay is true that the quality has dropped slightly in the next ones, then I sure hope I could still make it through, even if I can tell you right here and now that I don't give a semblance of shit about Terminus and his parade of imbeciles. I mean, I don't see the point.

I want to talk about the only redeeming facet of this issue. Actually, there are two. The first one is the visual feel of the panels. The action sequences are far more detailed and intense than the last issue so I want to give props to Gleason (and Gray) for that. There are some badass-looking drawings strewn across the pages that almost made me forget about what an awful load of crap I was reading. But I digress. Let's discuss the other redeeming quality, which is he opening scenes between Damian and Jason. I've always had a love-hate sort of thing going on with Jason Todd. I absolutely felt a lot of sympathy for him with Judd Winick's story Under the Hood and his personal history has been the most difficult to reconcile with, both for Batman and the readers. Damian was of course very quick to point this out. He rides on Jason hard, bringing up this uncomfortable issue and forcing him to admit that a part of him still blames Batman to this day and couldn't forgive how much he failed him.

But Damian is also quick to defend his father, placing the guilt on Jason for being such an incompetent Robin who never listened to instructions. For his turn, Jason brings up the fact that Damian has killed NoBody (something Batman didn't want to divulge with anyone else but Jason somehow knew because he saw the corpse himself). Damian took that in a stride since he's perfectly fine of the horrendous things he's capable of. What matters is that he doesn't give in to his killer instinct again. Jason, of course, distrusts him further. The fight scenes alongside this brutal dialogue exchange is such a treat to see unfold, especially since Damian takes the souvenir he had expressed he will take once he beats each Robin. In this case, he meant Red Hood's mask. That was a cute panel: Damian riding on a motorcycle with the trinket dangling in front of him.

So those are easily the redeeming parts of this issue which is by the way called Terminus: Branded. Again, no one cares about Terminus because Tomasi doesn't seem that interested to let us know who he is, what he wants from Batman and why he goes to lengths with his theatrics. NoBody was at least essential to the first eight issues; his personal story is a juxtaposed exploration of Bruce and Damian's relationship as father and son, and he made Damian do the unthinkable. But Terminus? I can't give a shit about him because he doesn't have a presence at all.

All I could think about while reading the panels where he is featured is that I wish he gets out of the fucking way so the readers could learn more about the Robins and the conflicts and tension among them. I said before that I admired Tomasi for crafting a character-driven narrative in the first B&R volume, Born to Kill and with the War of the Robins storyline, I thought he was going to grace us with another interesting character arc, this time focusing on all the Robins and their relationships with one another and Batman. Instead, we get thrown with a mediocre villain-for-the-week action flick that does not have enough substance for us to digest.

I really hope Tomasi gets his shit together and stop squandering the potentials of his line-up. Damian Wayne is such a strong force to be reckoned with already. All he has to do is to put him in contexts and situations that don't always have to feature him beating up villains into a pulp. He has fairly established that he can write Bruce Wayne/Batman and Robin in such humanizing and insightful ways once, so why can't he do that again?


* The lowest rating I have ever given in general yet, and one that could have been lower if it wasn't for the continuing epic confrontation between Damian and the Robins.

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