Gotham has been without Bruce Wayne’s Batman and, until now, his trusty Robin, Damian. Now, Robin is back, and he is determined to carry on his father’s legacy. Can he do it? Find out in your Major Spoilers review of Robin: Son of Batman #9.
Previously in Robin: Son of Batman: Damian Wayne finished up his goal to fix what he could of his Year of Blood and turned an adversary in to an ally. Returning to Gotham, he helped his fellow Robins against the Court of Owls and their crusade against the boy wonders, even briefly becoming an Owl himself to try and save them all.
BACK IN GOTHAM
Damian Wayne is back in Gotham, and his father has no idea who he is. Despite Bruce’s new life, Damian knows the mission of Batman is not done, and he can’t let his father’s legacy falter at the hands of pretenders. Until Bruce Batman returns, Damian sets out to protect the city, and his first run in is with the colorful group of Bat-Freaks, a group of lackeys marred by Batman and Robin who are out to take them down. After dispatching them, Damian deals with two guys who are meddling with Nobody’s ship. Damian is at a disadvantage, until Goliath shows up, and the duo handle their opponents with ease. They reveal themselves as associates of Maya, Nobody’s daughter and former Nobody, who blame Damian for getting her out of the game. After they leave, Damian swears Goliath in to his mission to help Gotham and takes him to the cave.
This issue marks the very sad end of Patrick Gleason being the writer and artist on this book. His time pulling duty as both has had some ups and downs, but he gets something with this issue that very few writers get: a whole issue to say goodbye and set up the next team with a clean slate. While I have enjoyed the chance to dive deeper in to Damian as a character with his mission of redemption, I have really wanted him to get back to Gotham and know his reaction to his father’s current life. Why no one told Bruce that he has a son is still a little confusing to me, though I guess Damian is tied more to his identity as Batman than Bruce Wayne. Damian’s reaction is one that I expected, that he would carry on the torch while waiting for his father’s return. Like his father would and true to Damian’s character, he tries to do it alone until Goliath shows up. I don’t know what the fate of Goliath is going to be when Gleason is off of the book, but I do hope he stays around as Robin’s partner in solo situations. He provides a lot of heart to Damian in the same way Chewbacca does to Han Solo. While I thought Maya was the weakest character of Gleason’s run, she provided a number of avenues for Damian’s growth, and her absence is felt.
There isn’t a lot here in terms of story or outstanding dialogue, but it does all feel very personal. Everything that Gleason had done alone and with Peter J Tomasi feels resolved, and that the next team could take this book in any way that they want. Damian’s gruff exterior remains with some moments of violence and harsh taunting that we wouldn’t get from Batman or previous partners, but you really get the feeling that Damian has committed to the mission now. Even with no supervision, he doesn’t permanent maim or cripple his enemies, even leaving them wrapped up for the GCPD. Gleason has had a hand in defining Damian since the New 52 relaunch, and he’s played up his strengths. He isn’t the best writer working in the biz right now, but he does a fine job with carrying the story. Nothing in this issue is groundbreaking, but it is like comfort food where the familiar can be exactly what you need.
THE BOY WONDER ON THE TOWN
As much as I have enjoyed Gleason, I was not a fan of his art in the beginning and still have my moments of displeasure, but it has grown on me in a lot of ways. There’s a cartoonish quality to it that sometimes works really well, and sometimes rubs me the wrong way, though this can vary from panel to panel. His faces often seem flat and, at times, hard to distinguish from character to character. There is a level of detail that I greatly appreciate, and his line work is clean and crisp with the aid of Mick Gray on inks. There are a number of close ups that Gleason smartly gives room to express more than dialogue could. By this issue, it really feels like he has established his style for this book and has a greater comfort as an artist than a writer. There are some panels in this issue that are truly great, and I would gladly hang a poster of the panel where Damian and Goliath overlook Gotham in a pose that is thoughtful and powerful. John Kalisz’s colors are exactly what is needed on each page, changing appropriately to reflect the mood and setting.
I think it is appropriate to look back at Gleason as an artist on this book on the whole, given that he’s now been with these characters for years. I have always loved that he draws Damian as the age he is supposed to be, but he manages to make him feel older through body language and facial expression. The design of Goliath is one of my favorite parts of this book, feeling strong and imposing, but with these big expressive eyes that make up for his lack of speech. Goliath feels so much like Gleason’s creation that seeing someone else draw him will be jarring. I think there are other writers who will be able to tell good Damian stories, but it is going to be hard to find an artist who can define this book so much as Patrick Gleason has.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A FITTING END
I’m not ready to see Patrick Gleason off of this book, but I am glad he was given the room to say goodbye on his terms. There is a real completeness to this issue that puts a bow on what needs a bow, and leaves open what needs to be open. The dialogue and story work fine, but the art is really the strength of this book. Any book that acknowledges, and features, Batcow will always get an A+ for me. Alright, it’s not getting an A+, but this book does showcase the strength of Gleason’s time with Damian Wayne, and he will be missed.