By now you’ve probably heard that Batman and Robin #18 is pretty great, particularly because of it’s complete lack of dialogue or internal narration. Like many of the Bat-book crossovers of The New 52 “Requiem,” the aftermath of Damian’s death, feels a little forced in books like Detective Comics or Batgirl. But certainly when you’re dealing with the death of Robin the obvious book to watch is Batman and Robin, in large part due to Pete Tomasi, the best writer of Damian Wayne outside of his creator Grant Morrison. Since his New 52 launch (and a little bit before too) Tomasi has mastered Damian and brought forth layers of admirable humility previously only briefly explored, rendered wonderfully by the skilled Patrick Gleason.
Batman and Robin #18 is a beautiful book that can be approached as a faithful follower of The New 52 series, or simply as a reader looking for a good modern tale about Batman losing his Robin and a father losing his son. This issue deals with a sullen Bruce Wayne contemplating his son’s death, while still uncovering things about him he might not have previously known. Whereas Bruce is an emotional rock initially, Alfred, the heart of the Bat-family, is justifiably a basket case from the get-go. So what does Batman do when he’s grieving? He continues being Batman of course, maybe a more efficient Batman even. Since he is creature born of such grief and rage, we eventually see Bruce break down in emotional frustration.
This issue is the perfect marriage of careful scripting and potent artwork. Though the written word is used sparingly in this issue you can feel Tomasi’s intended tone throughout the book, in no small part due to Patrick Gleason. The scene of Alfred regarding the unfinished family portrait (of Damian in particular) is the latest in a long list of beautiful visuals that Gleason has contributed to this book. There’s obviously a lot of grief in this issue; I mean even the damn dog knows! We’ve seen Batman grieve over Robin before, but 1988 was a very different time for comic books. I think this is the perfect moment in time to re-examine the death of a child in the superhero books, and Tomasi and Gleason are the men for the job. If you haven’t read the previous 17 issues of this series, do yourself a favor and pick them up or the first volume of the collected edition. Grant Morrison is full speed ahead on his Batman Incorporated story with only four issues left, but Batman and Robin is the book to look out for to see Bruce Wayne coming to terms with his (latest) personal tragedy. Bravo.
Final Grade: ★★★★★ 5/5