Sunday, June 8, 2014

[New 52] Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #14

This is quite a mixed bag of an issue for me. On one hand, I don't know why we even need that Saturn Club cannibals and zombies subplot to begin with when the Joker's imminent return in the next issues is guaranteed already. It was such an annoyance that almost made this issue unbearable to read. Also, the weirdest thing about the art is how it was drawn by Mick Gray on the first thirteen pages or so, and then the style switches back to Gleason's. That was an abrupt change that should have been inconspicuous but it wasn't. But hey, at least Gray provided us with a fantastic sequence of a horde of zombies attacking rich people in a banquet and then Batman kicking all their asses? I mean, what's more visually compelling than that?

Oh, but there is something better than that. I will never get tired of saying that Tomasi should just focus foremost on his amazing ability to tell small-scale personal stories between his two lead characters before he goes further into the action-oriented plot and juxtapose those elements. It worked splendidly with the NoBody arc so why not utilize that again? Is he afraid that such a character-driven story would be too formulaic? What is his goal here? But I'm willing to forgive him for this issue this time because he did give us something emotionally resonant for the first time since the Born to Kill volume.

If you have been following my reviews about this title, I tend to describe his writing for Batman and Robin as "emotionally resonant" because it's true. That's the magic behind this line-up. It's not like any other superhero story out there whose pages are only energized by a big-event face-off between its heroes and villains. That kind of comics is fun to read every once in a while when you know it's all that title could offer, but there was something distinct about Tomasi's B&R in its first eight issues that I believe has the strength in literary approach that could do away with that.

Cannibals and zombies and ridiculous exposition aside, this issue's best moment happened in its last pages. Bruce reprimands Damian yet again as they walk back to the bat cave, expressing his concern in such a domineering manner that Damian can't resist interjecting to prove a point. They argued about Damian not following protocol again and it was honestly exhausting to the readers too. But Bruce then has a human moment when he finally admits that losing Jason Todd, third Robin, to the Joker before has been something he carried around for years and was never able to forgive himself for; and the fears he had about the Joker doing that again to his only son have manifested at last. Damian understood the threat the Joker imposes but he is not afraid at all which only makes Bruce assume that he cares about nobody else but himself, not even thinking about how much his father is worried for his safety.

But Damian responded by placing something on the table next to Bruce. He looks down at it and realized that it was one of Martha Wayne's pearls from the necklace which was pulled from her neck by the mugger before he shot her dead. That was terribly poignant. I've always wondered what Damian was doing in the canals from the last issue and it turns out he was picking up these pearls for months, hoping he could complete it and give it back to his dad. I mean..just..god!

Not too worry, readers, I could not cry because I'm at the office while reading this and I didn't want to draw attention to myself. But I will leave you with this last page:

For those last pages, I'm rating this a lot higher. And I retract saying in my previous review that you should skip this. Skip the first 20 pages and get right to this scene! If this did not touch you in any way then you're dead inside! This is an important moment, guys, because Bruce has failed to acknowledge such a simple thing like saying he's proud of his child earlier in the issues because that's how emotionally tone-deaf he is. So when he finally got to say it like that, I wish I could start crying here too because it was such a redemptive moment!


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