Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #12

Wow. Maybe my expectations are too high for Batman and Robin these days because of the impressive caliber and heartfelt character arc that writer Tomasi has successfully delivered in the first volume of the series. But I've come a long way with reading Batman in comics and I had to expect more from the roster of modern writers, especially after the New 52 reboot. Tomasi had provided me with something very emotionally resonant when he took time developing the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his son Damian in Born to Kill, which then affected how their dynamics as Batman and Robin played out. Now we get the second arc of the series and it leaves so much to be desired right off the bat.

This issue finally ends the Terminus storyline, an unusually tacky run that thankfully lasted for three issues but something that felt even longer than that because it was just so god-awful and misguided. I don't even want to talk about the plot here in the review because that would be a wasteful use of my time and yours. What should be discussed instead is the disappointing conclusion of the War of the Robins storyline. Tomasi found a gem in that subplot. It was interesting to see the Robins duke it out and verbalize their insecurities aloud to each other. And what could have been a wondrous character arc once more was shoved aside to give way to this ridiculous segment where Batman puts on a metal suit and stops a nuclear warhead from hitting Gotham City. On top of that, Terminus is such a flat antagonist that you can easily squash him and no one would even notice--and that's exactly what happened.

I'm sorry to say but stories like this are the reason why some people still think comic books are a joke with one-dimensional characters, absurd premises and equally frustrating resolutions. I never had that stigma, personally, but this issue will make those hurtful comments against the medium justified. Never have I ever reviewed a bad book with a low rating because I always strive to read ones that are of quality so I don't rant like an asshole on your dashboards because books are supposed to be joyously consumed and not berated on. But this issue was so terrible that I needed to give it that rating. And it pains me because I think Tomasi is one of the strongest writers for New 52 but shit like this should not be tolerated.

But the silver lining in this issue comes from the said disappointing conclusion of the War of the Robins saga. Even though it was a short-lived subplot, it could have been well-rounded and amazing to see unfold further. After defeating Tim and Jason, Damian sets his sight on the 'first son', but Dick Grayson doesn't accept Damian's challenge and instead tosses him a souvenir which is one of his weapons. He wasn't insulting Damian by declining but instead giving him the affirmation he needed but was too proud to ask. The gesture was a peace offering as well and quite a sweet reassurance that Damian is Robin now, not Dick, not Tim and certainly not Jason. Bruce chose him to be Robin and not just because he was his own flesh and blood. Bruce saw something in Damian, a potential that could be molded into something heroic by donning the green mask and yellow cape. And Dick acknowledges it too. To me, this is a monumental and touching message from the very first (and longest) Robin to the newcomer who is truly making it on his own issue by issue, and I only wish this is the main second arc story, not the fucking Terminus shit that no one's grandmother gives a fuck about. 

The Robins set their quarrel aside to help Batman deal with this Terminus moron, consequently robbing us the opportunity for great character expositions. Apparently, when a bad guy drops by, everyone is just supposed to be super friends again and fight evil like we're still trapped in a bad sixties cartoons or something. WHO FUCKING APPROVED OF THIS FOR A MODERN COMIC BOOK?

I mean, wouldn't it have been glorious if the three issues focused on the Robins instead and then Bruce's say on the entire thing? If written well, it wouldn't be a cheesefest. Perhaps that's the editorial concern so they asked Tomasi to tone down the emotional element of his story to prefer something more action-oriented. Listen, Tomasi has showcased that he could publish eight issues whose content are character-driven and the fans embraced and loved it. I was one of them. So why would you pull the plug on that and settle for something you can read in other comics that are ten times better written? I get enough action and confrontation in other Batman titles anyway, and I would like B&R to stand out from all that, something of a worthy successor to Grant Morrison's stuff back when he was writing in.

I don't mean to make comparisons here but it's the only way I can stress with gravitas how much I was offended by what I just read. I wanted a personal story from this series because it seemed to me that Tomasi works best in that vein of writing, and his Damian Wayne has been one of the best things about the Batman New 52 for me so far. I don't want him to do himself a disservice to what he has accomplished so far because that's just unfair for a writer who has found his voice for B&R, only for it to be silenced to make way for something idiotic like that FUCKING TERMINUS STORYLINE. WHY DID I HAVE TO READ THAT CRAP?

Okay, I need to end this review in a hopeful note, not with a profane conclusion. I'll keep my faith on Tomasi because I know he could do better because I have seen him in his best. I sure hope the next issues I'll be reading later will get Batman and Robin back on track.


* Skip this. You don't need to know how Terminus storyline ends because it's not worth the contemplation.

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