REVIEW: Batman And Robin #18

by

Or – “The Horror Of A Grieving Parent…”

Having just completed the birthday party for my now-nine-year-old, I can’t even imagine what Bruce Wayne is going through having lost one of his ever-growing bat-brood.  Even in a world where resurrection is a possibility, death can still be meaningful, but is this the issue that proves that truism?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

BatmanAndRobin18CoverBATMAN AND ROBIN #18
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciler: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist John Kalisz
Letterer: Taylor Espositio
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Batman And Robin:  In case you’ve been living under a rock, the latest Robin died in combat a couple of weeks ago, as of this writing.  Now, Bruce Wayne has to once again face the loss of a child, this one made even more tragic by his being raised by one of Bruce’s greatest adversaries as a human engine of destruction.  Can even The Batman overcome this kind of loss?

SHADES OF BATMAN: YEAR TWO.

The role of Robin has always been a complicated one, but one of the more recent explanations of the character is that Batman needs a Robin in his life to keep him from descending entirely into darkness.  It’s a compelling thought process, but one that is problematic within the framework of the New 52, what with there being at least five Robins in a VERY short period of time.  If I look at the actual history of the Batman in DC’s new in-universe chronology, the impact of the loss of Damian is vastly lessened.  Luckily for me, I have the ability to ignore all of that and pretend that ALL the comics of the last 80 years happened.  (Except for Legends of the Dark Knight, because that was always meant to be out of continuity.)  This issue begins with a brooding Bruce Wayne sitting in Stately Wayne Manor, going through Damian’s belongings, including a sketchbook that seems to indicate that the boy was a gifted (and observant) artist.  Tomasi tugs on the heart-strings with the sight of Alfred openly weeping at an unfinished Wayne Family portrait (Bruce and the Robins, with Damian unfinished), but the scene is undermined by the bizarre shadowing that makes Alfred look like he’s wearing a domino mask and the decision to have Bruce pull the white curtain over the canvas to close the scene.  Yes, I understand that it’s meant to evoke the “sheet-over-the-deceased-body” imagery, but the execution feels a bit too on-the-nose for my tastes…

SUDDENLY, I REALIZE THIS IS A SILENT ISSUE…

The middle third of the comic is an action-fest, as Batman leaves the cave, remembering/imagining Damian alongside him as he goes, and the creators counterpoint the current darkness of his life with colorful swatches in the Robin fantasies.  Unfortunately, the main color used is red, which makes each Robin scene look like a kill-shot, again over-playing their hand as to the tragedy of the story.  Batman brutally smacks down on the streets of Gotham in his grief, leaving dozens of criminals tied up on the rooftop of the police station before returning home to the cave, where he finds Damian Wayne’s last words in the form of a note.  Apparently, before leaving to confront his mother, Robin wanted to apologize for his actions, leaving a note that ends with the statement that Bruce taught the boy how to live.  It’s a nice moment, leading to a full-on breakdown from Batman, starting with a surge of violence and ending with Bruce Wayne tearfully embracing his fallen son’s uniform.  The last page spread featuring the tearful unmasked Batman is actually quite well done from a visual standpoint.

THE BOTTOM LINE: I TOTALLY GET WHAT THEY WERE GOING FOR…

In short, this issue does good work with the concept of a Batman shattered by loss.  What undermines the issue comes from the shortcomings of the creative team, with Pat Gleason’s Batman looking almost Judge-Dredd-like and grotesque throughout the issue.  The sequences of him wrestling a monstrous tank-like Batmobile work in a bombastic way, but the emotional sequences fail under his pen.  Likewise, Tomasi does a good job with the story here, but deciding that this should be an entirely silent issue puts additional strain on a plot that’s pretty basic.  All in all, though, Batman and Robin #18 acquits itself pretty well, even with the difficulty in grafting emotions onto the ultra-grim-and-gritty New 52 Batman, earning a respectable 3 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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