Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi issue #39

I've been so busy with my X-Men comics diet that I wasn't even able to keep tabs of DC announcements in the last three months or so, which was why I completely missed the news concerning the cancellation of Peter J. Tomasi's Batman and Robin. Well, DC is launching with brand-new solo titles of select heroes this June. That roster includes Cyborg, Starfire, Black Canary, etc. But why is this happening, you say? There was a big event in the DC universe just recently called Convergence (and Divergence, apparently? Let's find out on May 2) so that debacle pretty much affected the New 52 continuity A LOT.  Not to worry, it won't be another reboot, of course. There are just some additions and adjustments we all need to get cozy with come June. The most notable of which is the fact that there's going to be a total of twenty-four new titles to be released. 

See, I know there's a reason why I've been avoiding exploring the other corners of DC and decided to focus mainly on Bat-titles instead. DC, after all, is filled with crazy, shifting events and I don't want to approach that roaming storm at its highest velocity just yet. One of these days, I will get around to JLA and Futures End stories but first and foremost, I'm all about Batsy and his fam.

Anyone who has been reading my reviews in BCG would know by now that Batman and Robin is my most favorite title from New 52 (Born to Kill as my topmost fave graphic novel for New 52 as well) because Damian Wayne is my Robin. And he is going to get HIS OWN TITLE! And you know who's writing AND illustrating it? It's no other than Patrick Gleason, current B&R artist! INSERT MORE EXCLAMATION POINTS HERE! That's why I had no reason to be heartbroken over the cancellation of Tomasi's B&R because I'm looking forward to Robin, Son of Batman A LOT! Sure, I'll miss Tomasi's interpretation of the father-and-son dynamic and relationship but a part of being a comic book fan is being able to fiercely hold onto the stories we love while also having the courage to let go when change comes to pass. I'll probably post a tribute entry for the B&R series as soon as it releases its final issue (#40?) just to finalize my own farewells.

Now let's move on to the review. First off, THAT COVER. I literally squealed as soon as I beheld it. It was reminiscent of Action Comics' cover of the very first appearance of Superman back in 1939. Looking at it just makes me giggle a few times in a knowing, douche-y sort of way, inviting the questioning glances of strangers sitting close to me in a bench as I stared at this one's cover for a while. At that point, before I even began reading, I made two inferences: (1) this is going to be a fun issue, and that (2) Superman might be making a guest appearance. I was ultimately right on both accounts.

I'm confident about Pat Gleason's art style by now. I've witnessed him grow so much as an artist since issue #1 and no other issue testifies to his creative progress more severely than this one. Super-powered Boy Wonder might be a filler story but it manages to be incredibly engrossing even when it's more or less filled with goofy moments and hilarious dialogue exchanges. While issue #38 was a rather poignant and reflective issue where Damian Wayne makes peace with his clones by allowing them to live and this singular act has therefore cleansed him of his violent past as an al Ghul, this issue is lighter and funny. Beginning with Robin taking away Penguin, Killer Croc and villains that appeared in that forgettable Terminus arc (Termi-who?), he ties them all in a neat bundle then flies up so he can dangle them in stratosphere (I mean, why the fuck not?) so they can have some serious discussion concerning a shift in the Gotham status quo. At the last minute, his powers failed him and the collective thugs almost fall to their deaths but Batman luckily swoops in with his plane. He grimly looks at his son and orders him to get down. Damian looks away from his dad, and right at us, with a vaguely embarrassed expression in his face. The golden moments don't stop there. Next we see Bruce and Damian in civilian clothes, in a fishing boat, supposedly bonding like a father and son should--only Bruce admits that this was all Alfred's idea. Neither is enjoying the quiet time at the lake, that's for sure. They do have a conversation about the most likely origin of Damian's powers (something about the chaos silver shard Batsy used to resurrect him).

I just love the absolute hilarity of this issue. As much as I'm pleased that he was wise enough to make peace with some of painful aspects of his past in the last issue, I'm also glad to see Damian running around with his powers like a normal ten-year-old this time, where he gets cocky and demonstrates his prowess in the most immature of ways. The most memorable of which has to be when he stared carrying around the Bat-signal (Oh, look it's been repaired. Shall we start a countdown for the next time it gets destroyed AGAIN?) It was such a ridiculous (and endearing) image of him, prancing with said large equipment on his back, shining light on the scum of the streets, warning them not to do anything criminal. Once more, Batman was there, unfazed by his son's increasingly erratic behavior. Can we talk about how awesome Bruce is this issue? He's more trusting and patient lately. He might be worried about the grave consequences of his son's newfound abilities but he's taking it in a stride, generally just grateful that his boy is alive. It's subtle and unspoken but it's definitely apparent that Bruce and Damian are a real family now, and their love and devotion to each other have deepened after all the trials they have faced and conquered individually and as a unit.

The most striking of moments happened after Batman and Robin apprehended a group of criminals and Damian, in frustration, reveals exactly how he feels about his new abilities which is basically the fact that he's NUMB and this must be so terrifying for him. He might be invincible but it would seem like having such powers is not necessarily a good thing if it meant that he was feeling less human. I really thought this moment was brilliant, especially the way Bruce handled it:

The last four to five pages were awesome because Damian gets to see the Justice League headquarters for the first time. Although he acts dismissive about it, it's apparent that he was excited to be inside it. Superman and Shazam were the only ones present and Sups immediately expresses enthusiasm over meeting his best friend's son for the first time but Damian brushes him off. Shazam cheerfully engages him in small talk about the home base and other kid stuff, and I thought it was interesting to pair them off because they do share a closer age range (Shazam's persona is after all a thirteen-year-old boy) and I think a friendship is more likely to flourish between them if the writers decide to give it time. It already started in a good place. Shazam seemed more than eager to be talk to and hang out with someone who isn't always a serious, intimidating adult like the rest of his Leaguers. His ready and casual remarks about Damian's powers were reassuring; he didn't judge or condescend Damian in any way. Every small interaction they have so far shows how genuine and interested Shazam is about Damian and I could tell that he can wear Damian down and Damian will eventually learn to get used to his presence. I'm really excited to see what the next (and most probably last) issue of B&R will handle these two. This issue ends with Batman allowing Robin to join them in a JLA mission and Damian was shocked by the confidence and trust his father expresses in that moment. I was impressed. Just look at this last page:

With plenty of funny and insightful character moments, Super-powered Boy Wonder felt like a filler issue with a great weight of substance. I noticed that this was already dated for April 2015 which only meant we're getting the next one around May, right around another Free Comic Book day, and before the June launch of the 24 new titles. I may be on the Marvel side of things this year but make no mistake: my heart still belongs to Batman and DC!


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