I think it's become obvious by now that this title is disconnected from the continuity happening in Gotham City with Gordon as the new Batman. It might even be set during the grieving period of Bruce Wayne's 'death' before somebody else put the cowl. Gleason never really addressed the specific timeline his story arc is placed in and that works well enough. In my mind, this is set after Snyder's Endgame during a tender time when Damian is grieving his father; yet he is also doing it by honoring his memory in the best way possible: making amends for the cold-blooded killer that he was when he used to be the heir to the Al Ghul empire of assassins and cuthroats. This series then can be seen a redemption story. I certainly to choose to see it that way.
Gleason on story and pencils, Gray on inks and Kalisz on colors once again worked together for the beautiful visual palette of this third installment of Year of Blood. What I love about this series is that it definitely feels like the proper spin-off for Peter J. Tomasi's recently concluded Batman and Robin if we're strictly looking at the illustrations and overall composition and texture of the panels and layout. The writing itself has taken a brave step forward to capture the same emotional resonance and dynamic quality that Tomasi utilized a lot for his issues in B&R. He's hitting the right notes every so often that is reminiscent of Tomasi's style but I think Gleason is also forming his own voice when it comes to the characterization of his Damian who is finally getting older at last. I'm so happy he's eleven now because when I was eleven, I had undergone some painful transitions myself so there are a few moments in between reading this issue (and the first two) that made me think about how I handled my own personal calvary back then, and if I truly did become a better person of my own making. Damian is struggling with this reality himself; his father saw his potential for goodness even when all he was ever programmed to be was to commit crimes and misdeeds--and he wants to keep proving Bruce right.
Damian has come to terms throughout Tomasi's B&R that he is meant for something more and after he died and was reborn with Superman-esque abilities only to lose them after awhile, Damian is once again on the verge of going through something earth-shattering which is the entire point of cleaning up his heinous actions during his Year of Blood trials. I care about this character a lot and I'm so happy that writers like Tomasi and Gleason are taking the time to make Damian more knowable, relatable and utterly dynamic to readers. When I heard he was going to have his own title this year, I was overjoyed. I want Robin: Son of Batman to be good and to never forget what Damian Wayne means to fans like me who enjoyed seeing this kid grow up and be a hero on his own terms, through his own sheer will. (Uh-oh, so much for not fangirling the fuck out of Damian again. I guess I will never ever stop).
And that is what the third installment is all about. It's about Damian claiming independence by taking back his mistakes and doing something to atone for them. It's about him becoming more than just his father's son, his grandfather's heir, his mother's precious burden. It's about Damian moving on from whatever grand image all his parental figures have recognized in him, even Bruce. At the age of eleven, Damian had experienced so much grief, a lifetime of it even, that he is now prepared to become his own man. It's terrifying and exciting and overwhelming--but he has focus, strength and wisdom, now more than ever. This was why it was so touching to see him reach out to a person like Maya Ducard, Nobody's orphaned daughter. I originally thought myself that she was going to be some annoying, bitchy villainess who will be blinded by revenge and selfish goals, but she surprised me since last issue, including Damian himself. He knew what she is suffering because he had undergone it himself once with Talia.
She helped the people in South America when they were in danger. She showed compassion and concern over Goliath the giant bat and was even sweet enough to lull him to sleep when he was overcome by inexplicable rage. It seems that she was not her father's daughter after all. She was not equipped with his cruelty or single-minded mission to expel criminals through murderous means. She has a good heart of a girl who felt rejected and ignored by man who was never a father to her. As she and Damian exchange blows while crash-landing from the skies, she expressed all her rage and wanton desire to be worthy of her father's approval; she lashed out on Damian not really about avenging her late father but more because she was envious of the kind of relationship Damian had with Bruce, something she wished she had. Upon hearing this, Damian makes her an offer she was unable to refuse.
If she helped him atone for his Year of Blood crimes, he is also giving her a chance to become SOMEBODY as oppose to Nobody. Much like Bruce has given him a choice to become a better person by becoming his sidekick and partner Robin, Damian is doing the same thing for Maya, and don't we all want a second chance to prove we can be the best versions of ourselves? Of course, Maya accepts it. She started out with the vicious intent of killing Damian to avenge her father and ended up being saved by him when she accepted for herself that she can change as Damian is doing now. This isn't hypocrisy. This is evolution and change itself is always going to be gradual--it will take time--and it will be a hard battle to win.
After making amends, the two of them had a nice, quiet moment under the stars:
And then this immensely adorable moment:
I like Maya so far and I absolutely love Damian more for giving her a shot in claiming redemption for herself. It's possible that, considering they are close to the same age, she may become a love interest for him in the future...but for now I don't want any kind of hints and teases of romance between them because they're children and I would like them to focus more on their individual cavalries while developing trust and friendship along the way. Talia is also coming back so that guarantees that things will get messed up again later on in the series. Overall, this issue is a great build-up to what I hope will be a more rewarding installment next time around. Gleason continues to find his bearings as a writer while his visuals are stunning as always!
I can't wait to read more of this!!