Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Batman and Robin #1

DC Comics, 20 pages, $ 2.99

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciler: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau

As the title would suggest, this book is very much about the relationship between Batman and Robin. The big difference, compared to its previous incarnation, is that Batman is now Bruce Wayne again, and that may be part of the reason why this title is considerably less successful at what it does than Grant Morrison’s take.

Whereas Dick Grayson—a.k.a. Nightwing, a.k.a. the first Robin, who had succeeded Wayne as Batman in the last series—is a much more lighthearted, more joyful character than the brooding, snotnosed Damian, who still appears as Robin here, Wayne himself—Damian’s father—doesn’t offer much of a contrast. He’s different from Damian, all right, but ultimately, it’s just a different, more mature kind of brooding and snotnosed, and that dynamic is much harder to pull off. Tomasi and Gleason don’t really manage to.

The creators’ handle of Damian is solid enough, but Tomasi’s Batman seems phony more times than not. It seems wrong for Batman to spend a lot of time pondering whether it makes more sense to honor his parents’ death or their marriage. It seems wrong for him to be talking about something like this, certainly, even to his son.

His overall behavior towards Damian seems preachy, negligent and unduly cruel all at once, which I doubt is what Tomasi was going for—Batman takes his 10-year-old on a mission, watches him almost get killed, watches him kill people, and then even blames it on the kid and gives him a dressing down? If the point of the story were to portray Batman as a dangerous lunatic who should steer clear of kids, then fair enough. But I don’t think that’s what Tomasi had in mind. You can make this story work, but here, it doesn’t.

Tomasi also takes some rather cheeky storytelling shortcuts. There happens to be a big handy swimming pool right above the nuclear facility? Get out of here. Patrick Gleason’s art is quite fun, on the other hand. He’s a good storyteller with a pleasant and distinctive style, so the story works on that level, at least.

I can see how a book focusing on the new Batman/Robin dynamic can be worthwhile, generally, but this isn’t there yet.

Grade: C-

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