Friday, December 26, 2014

Robin Rises: ALPHA by Peter J. Tomasi

Picking up right after the events in Batman and Robin issue #37 last Dec. 17, this was an issue I was looking forward to the most especially when its release was around Christmas Eve. Anyone who has been following my Bat-reviews knows for a fact that I'm a Damian Wayne fanatic, particularly the way B&R writer for New 52 Peter J. Tomasi has characterized him and his relationship with his father and partner, Bruce Wayne. When Grant Morrison had him killed in Batman Incorporated, it hasn't been an easy transition for everyone, especially for this Tomasi title because he had to adjust to this development for every release, touching upon the five stages of Batman's grief until DC finally green-lit the return of Damian Wayne to comics.

Robin Rises was the story arc that followed Batman's journey to the planet Apokolips right after making a decision to resurrect his son once that opportunity became ripe and possible for the taking. Though the Justice League themselves were on the fence about the ordeal, Batman carried on with this mission though he also made sure that he was doing it for the right reasons; better reasons than those he had when he was still in denial and grieving his son. The one-man crusade was not a solitary undertaking, however, because Alfred chose to also commission the rest of the Bat-family (Batgirl, Red Hood and Red Robin) to follow Batman to Apokolips and assist him in any way that they can. Sporting some badass Robin-themed suits, the trio were accompanied by Damian's pet dog Titus and a reluctant Cyborg.

While at Apokolips, Batman faced Kalibak and a horde of alien creepy-zoids who prevented him from taking back his son's cadaver. The rest of the resurrect-Damian missionaries, on the other hand, found themselves caught up in tons of gory confrontations, unable to get to Batman until the opportune moment presented itself. That said moment occurred when Batman came face-to-face in a dreaded collision with Darkseid who wishes to avenge himself from the last encounter with the Justice League. After a bloody strife, Batman was able to acquire both his son's corpse and the chaos shard which has the ability to revitalize the human body. He escaped together with the rest of the gang just in the nick of time and collapsed in the batcave, about to be killed with the hellbat suit he had been wearing for a while now. But Bruce couldn't care anything less as he forces the chaos shard into Damian's lifeless body. A few seconds passed and Damian awakens. He and Bruce share an overdue reunion embrace with Alfred, Batgirl, Red Hood and Red Robin in the background with faces a mixture of shock, awe and relief. But right after their hug, Bruce suddenly loses consciousness in Damian's arms. AND HERE WE ARE.

Replacing regular artist Patrick Gleason, Andy Kubert illustrates this oneshot issue Alpha. The first few pages have shown us the same sequence of events from the last B&R installment #37 and it wasn't that bad of a recap. It heightened my anticipation for what happens to Bruce afterwards which was unfortunately an anticlimactic ruse. He was surprisingly okay after all. Tomasi was merely going for a dramatic cliffhanger from the last issue but had no plans to make it bad again for the father and son. A part of me was relieved because I don't think I'd be able to endure a switch, with Bruce about to die himself this time around just when he got his son back. But another part of me feels slightly cheated because Bruce's sudden recovery from the hellbat-suit's malfunction felt a little too convenient for the plot. Nonetheless, we get some cool action once Kalibak was able to transport to the batcave. It was also at this moment that Damian's superhuman powers were unleashed. He beats the crap out of Kalibak while the rest of the gang provided minimal support. I would point out that Alfred was particularly amazing in his scenes, playing the role of the loyal butler with a badass streak as he courageously soldiers on to help the others defeat Kalibak especially when Batman was in no shape to be fighting. Damian's newfound powers was a peculiar thing; I'm not sure if they're going to be a permanent part of his character now, but it would be interesting for me to see next year how these powers will affect and contribute with his missions as Robin.

The overall art for this issue wasn't as diverse as I would like but the action panels were great enough to hang onto page after page. I also have these following panels that I loved to death because they had some kind of emotional resonance to me. I think my biggest nitpick for the visuals of this issue is that the background details can be distracting because they look so odd in some pages as if they were rushed at the last minute or were never given any notice to while Kubert illustrated the ones that are supposed to be the spotlight. Still, I thought these were forgivable slights. In a nutshell, Robin Rises: ALPHA was an acceptable follow-up to the previous installment even if there were a few moments in this issue that I feel should have been polished better. In comparison with the earlier issues, I felt like this wasn't as strong as I would have liked it to be.



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