Friday, January 30, 2015

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #38

I'm still reinforcing my X-Men comics diet but I decided that, every once in while, when a new issue from among the three Bat-titles I look forward to the most is released (namely Batman, Batman and Robin and Detective Comics), I'll come back to this blog to type out a review just to stay on track. And how could I not with this one? After all, Peter J. Tomasi's Batman and Robin series remains my absolute favorite of all the New 52 titles and it's mostly because Damian Wayne is MY Robin, always and forever. A whole year has passed since he died in Morrison's Batman Incorporated. A big gap has to be filled in the meantime so Tomasi had employed other characters (Aquaman, Two Face, Wonder Woman, etc) alongside Batman to make up for Robin's absence.

It was only last Christmas when Tomasi and co. took us to a very enticing and heartfelt journey toward Damian's inevitable resurrection in Robin Rises arc, and it was personally a very cleansing venture for a fan like me. Grant Morrison may have created Damian Wayne but I would like to believe that it's Tomasi who redefined and strengthened his characterization for New 52 which was why his loss was so substantial before, and why his return felt like a victorious gain.

The last issue Robin Rises: Alpha hasn't been a fully satisfying installment from last December but this one, though strangely entitled Superpower-Fly Robin Fly, packed some great character moments that are comedic and touching, and they are mostly coming from Damian. Things are almost back to normal between father and son; Batman is accompanied by Boy Wonder in routine nocturnal patrols again, and their relationship has been better than before. There is trust and compassion even if Damian's newfound superpowers slightly threaten the balance that they have worked on and fruitfully achieved together. Bruce is understandably worried that his son may be losing some agency and control especially when he's not used to the superpowers he inherited from, let alone the extent or how to best utilize them in missions. Alfred, however, sagely advises him to give the boy some solitude to figure out things on his own. After all, both father and son have been through hell and back (if not literally) so Bruce should just allow Damian to come to terms with this change by himself first because he has become an adult now with an obligation to make his own choices.

Bruce owes it to him to recognize that. This issue heavily deals with second chances and the nature of personal responsibility and I admire the very grounded and muted tone and approach of Tomasi's writing for it. Tomasi could have easily written an action-packed issue that shows a superpowered Damian being a badass but he opted, once again, to explore how this affects Damian's psyche. The result of which is quite an admirable piece that once again resonates.

There are a handful notable scenes here. First, we have his nightmare sequence of his late mother and grandfather Talia and Ra's haunting and taunting him. Artist Patrick Gleason (with colorists Gray and Kalisz) truly brought these panels to life and infused them with horror and visual retrospection. I bet it's refreshing for them to work on a more varied color palette than the previous ones with the hellish landscapes of Apokolips (which were unmistakably superbly illustrated as well). Afterwards, he visited the graveyard where his grandparents and mother's coffins lay, contemplating about the fact that he was once buried there with them--and what it now has to mean that he's still alive and therefore has many other things to accomplish in this world. He flies to the sky, looking at Gotham City in the perspective of a Superman or any semi-godlike being and realizes that he should not be above it all. So he visits his mother's old compound where she kept and experimented his clones, destroying some of its content before he swims to Atlantis and talks to Aquaman who agrees to free said detained clones from confinement (as referenced from the issue where he and Batman teamed up against Ra's, which was probably one of my favorite instalments). After he reached the shore with his clones, Damian allows them to live in peace, claiming that they were still a part of him and deserve more than the cruel lives his mother have put them through. This just goes to show the full measurement of his maturity and compassion. Reading that scene honestly warmed my chest area. This isn't the same stubborn, impulsive and reckless Damian from ages ago. This is a young man coming to terms that he has the power to improve lives as oppose to destroying them. It takes more strength to do the former.

In that sense, this issue showcases us a Damian Wayne who learns to forgive the atrocities he came from and accept that although he is very much capable of committing the same kind, he would rather embrace a nobler role fighting the good fight beside his father and partner. He may still be a child age-wise, but he very much a grown-up whose actions and decisions must always be for the betterment of self and others. His scene here were meaningful and beautiful to see unfold. I expect as much from Tomasi whose Batman and Robin has always been very character-driven in a sense that it prioritizes growth and internal struggle of its lead heroes, particularly that of the titular Robin. I CAN'T WAIT FOR WHAT ELSE IS IN STORE FOR THIS TITLE!


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