Everyone knows that Scott Snyder is the rock star of the Batman books in The New 52, producing stories that are critically and commercially successful, as well as spawning ideas that have crossed over into nearly every other Batman-related title. With this in mind you could be forgiven for overlooking a book like Batman and Robin initially. But given the hype surrounding Batman and Robin #18, and the series’ interesting new direction going forward, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be reading this wonderful book by Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.
The most recent incarnation of Batman and Robin was created by Grant Morrison, following the “death” of Bruce Wayne in Batman R.I.P./Final Crisis. After Morrison’s 16 issue run, Pete Tomasi stepped in for a 3-issue-arc continuing the adventures of Dick Grayson (Batman) and Damian Wayne (Robin.) The first issue of this arc contained a brilliant scene drawn by Patrick Gleason in which Bruce and his family sit down to watch The Mark of Zorro, the last movie he saw with his parents.
When The New 52 rolled around and Bruce Wayne was once again the “Batman” in Batman and Robin, Tomasi and Gleason decided to zoom in on the father/son relationship of Bruce and Damian Wayne. As Robin, Damian had grown tremendously under the guidance of his creator Grant Morrison, but this all occurred while Bruce was missing/presumed dead. Batman and Robin #1-8 (now collected as Batman and Robin Volume 1: Born to Kill) focused on Bruce and Damian learning to trust each other both as partners and as father and son. Tomasi introduced the character of Nobody, who had ties to Bruce’s training with Henri Ducard. Nobody and Batman were framed as the two opposite ends of the spectrum for Damian: vengeance vs murder. There is a lot of rage-fueled action in this opening arc, drawn with in painful precision by Patrick Gleason. Gleason really masters the art of Batman, making him an enveloping creature of the shadows. He also gives Damian a wonderful visual humility, expressing the inner turmoil and conflict that the boy is going through.
Though the title is Batman and Robin, Tomasi rightfully places the focus on the latter half of the dynamic duo. Morrison gave Damian Wayne a unique voice and attitude, but Tomasi and Gleason grounded the character in humanity, while respecting what had come before. The relatively short 3-issue “Terminus” arc showed Damian announce to all of the former Robins that he would individually surprise attack and defeat them to prove he is the best Robin; which is an idea that is so fitting for the character. This arc could’ve benefited from another issue or two, but Tomasi and Gleason had to set the stage for their tie-in to Batman‘s “Death of the Family”, the Joker crossover. Scott Snyder and Batman artist Greg Capullo may have created the design for the “faceless Joker” but Gleason perfected it. Each of the Joker issues depicted in depth the Clown Prince of Crime with a rotting face that he regularly flipped and played with in a gruesome and chilling manner. I had admired the series before, but when I saw that terrifying image of the Joker, I knew Batman and Robin meant business.
Batman and Robin #17 was an epilogue of sorts for “Death of the Family,” showcasing the dreams/nightmares of Damian, Bruce and Alfred. The issue featured a lot of subconscious imagery and metaphor from the previous 16 issues, but felt like a standalone chapter that would serve as a reprieve for the next big arc. Little did we know that the next big arc of Batman and Robin would be one absent of the Boy Wonder. Damian Wayne met his demise in Batman Incorporated #9, sending a shock wave throughout the Bat-books, with no greater impact than in Batman and Robin #18. I’ve written about this in full already, so let me just hit the bullet points: no dialogue, great art, immense sadness/rage, awesome story.
What is a Batman and Robin series without a Robin you ask? Tomasi and Gleason aren’t exactly telling, but they assure fans that they have a lot of big plans for the next year. In the meantime the series is changing its name from month to month: Batman and Red Robin, Batman and Batgirl etc. and will be dealing with the five steps of grief. If you haven’t been checking in on Batman and Robin every month already, now is the time to do it. Tomasi and Gleason are putting something truly unique and heartfelt on the shelves. If you consider yourself a Grant Morrison Batman fan, a Batman fan or just a lover of things that are awesome then you should be reading Batman and Robin.
Here’s the cover image for next month’s Batman and Robin #20: