SUNDAY SLUGFEST: Batman & Robin #1

A comic review article by: The Firing Squad
Batman and Robin is back, except now it's Bruce Wayne under the cape and cowl and still Damian. Which means Robin is still a bit of a sociopath in desperate need of his father's guidance. But will some father-son bonding in this issue make Damian all normal? Hells no.

Kyle Garret:
Ray Tate:
Travis Walecka:

Kyle Garret:

I'll be honest, I had all but given up on the Batman books.

The problem, for me, is that I loved what had become of these titles. I loved Dick Grayson as Batman with Damian Wayne as Robin. I thought the dynamic was wonderful. Bruce Wayne as Batman didn't really hold much interest for me. I got to the point where I wished they'd just rebooted the line-- at least then we wouldn't get this completely insane "Batman has been active for only five years" bit (and it is, it's completely insane, DC. Make it ten years-- what does it ruin by adding five years? So Batman and Superman are pushing 30 now, is that really a problem? Everything would make sense if you just made it ten freaking years. Treat your readers like they're not stupid, sack up, and make it ten years).

Surprisingly, DC's recent one line trailers actually got me interested in Batman and Robin. That line was "You're not my partner, you're my son." At which point, the obvious hit me: Batman is a freaking father!

Seriously, think about that for a minute. Think about the treasure trove of stories that Bruce Wayne having a son has to offer. The man who has spent the majority of his life recreating the father/son relationship over and over again now has an actual, biological son-- and one who is even more grim than he is. And this is the status quo in the DCU! It's as if the story has actually moved forward!

So it was with this new found enthusiasm that I opened my copy of Batman and Robin #1.

While this issue didn't blow me away, it did enough to keep me interested. Tomasi and Gleason had put together a great, three issue arc on the early iteration of this title, so I felt pretty good about the creative team. The issue was a bit scattered, though, which is why it didn't floor me. Bruce's decision to no longer mark the day his parents died just didn't have any emotional impact for me, at least partially because I don't think it will stick. I would be shocked if at some point in the next two years another writer doesn't have Bruce Wayne leaving flowers in Crime Alley.

But the Bruce/Damian dynamic was there, and that's what I was looking for. It wasn't particularly illuminating, but I actually liked that fact. It truly felt like this was the beginning of their relationship. The exchanges were appropriately awkward and Damian, perhaps for the first time, understandably annoying. As far as I'm concerned, Tomasi landed the prime Batman writing gig by being able to focus on this dynamic.

While not much is explained about Nobody, I like his design, as well as his seeming connection to Batman, Inc. It makes me wonder if perhaps he's someone that Bruce Wayne recruited, but has decided to rebel.

So you got me, DC: a book I had no interest in going into the relaunch has hooked me for at least a few issues.

Kyle Garret is the author of I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At," available now from Hellgate Press. His short fiction has been published in the Ginosko Literary Journal, Literary Town Hall, Children, Churches, & Daddies and Falling Into Place. He writes comic book reviews here at Comic Bulletin and blogs for PopMatters. He can be found at and on Twitter as @kylegarret.

Ray Tate:

In the new DCU, Batman and Robin stop a nuclear disaster from turning Gotham City into a radioactive hole. Batman also achieves a personal victory of growth.

The three bullets go to Batman. His behavior in Batman & Robin is stellar. He decides to let go of the past and celebrate the memories of his parents. He seems more like a Caped Crusader than a vigilante, and that's in keeping with his appearances in the new DC. Nevertheless, the police and government treat him as an outlaw.

Batman's not entirely squeaky clean. He's hell to criminals. He takes risks. Batman must save Gotham, but in order to do so, he must calculate the odds of injuring a group of innocent swimmers. It's doubtful any law enforcement agency would enact his plan. It's filled with lawsuits and too many things that could go wrong, but this is Batman, and he's prepared for any eventuality, except one.

I can't figure out how three knuckleheads could have bypassed Batman's security to steal the Bat-Gyro: a kind of orb-shaped vehicle that uses the sewer tunnels as a sort of pneumatic tube. Their success seems only to serve the plot, a convenience that allows Robin to deal with the trio. It would have been better had Batman actually intended for the criminals to enter the Gyro. Then he could have hit a button on his utility belt to trap them. It wouldn't take much. A remote control for the door and a password protected control yoke.

The Gyro scenario was a flaw in the overall story, but it wasn't a fatal one. Damian is the reason why I graded Batman & Robin so low. He is a complete sphincter. That blight outweighs everything: Batman's efficiency, his new lease on life, his visionary plans, his friendlier personality and Patrick Gleason's emotionally charged artwork. I just hate Robin. If there must be a Robin, give the costume back to Stephanie Brown.

Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

Travis Walecka:

This may take some getting used to.

Thankfully, the team of writer Peter Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason do a solid enough job in what's deemed a not-so-easy assignment. First off, this Batman & Robin #1 follows a spectacular Grant Morrison-penned Batman & Robin #1 only last year. That run-- which eventually went on to Tomasi with #21-- was arguably some of Morrison's best work. The brains behind much of the current Bat-legacy turned a character many despised in Damian Wayne and flipped him right upside down. The bratty 10-11 year old is now viewed as a sort of cultish figure, so long as he's written the right way.

I'll get to that point in a minute.

As for another reason why tackling the second volume of Batman & Robin is so difficult, well, Tomasi has to let go of a character he had written for years as Nightwing in Dick Grayson for a more brooding, stern Bruce Wayne. I suppose Bruce is a lot cockier these days when his son's not around (see: Justice League #1, Detective Comics #1). Though, I must contest to some naysayers that Tomasi couldn't write this relationship any other way. Having worked with my father for several years, I know how downright strange it can get. The punk-kid underling like myself-- and Damian-- figure they can say whatever they'd like knowing their dad will always be there. The dad wants to make the situation comfortable for the kid, but knows that business is serious. Sorry for all that exposition.

I was definitely one of the ones disappointed that Grayson would be gone from this series and many others. But it only makes sense to seep Bruce and his son through so much discomfort. They're a father and son fighting crime, for goodness sakes.

Now, while that family awkwardness makes for a less entertaining book, these two have no choice right now but to develop a better sense of communication. And maybe they won't. That more than makes up for lack of camaraderie. Thankfully we have the services of Patrick Gleason. Sure, there aren't any of the spectacular double-page spreads fans were accustomed to in Green Lantern Corps, but the swiftness of each panel is lock-on. You know great things are to come from this man.

To sum it up, the new Batman & Robin is either less enjoyable or more interesting with the new father and son dynamic. I say the team's track record speaks for itself, so patience is a virtue when it comes to Bruce and his kid. I know he won't give up on him, so neither should you.

Travis Walecka has gone through more phases than Paris Hilton has gone through tan lines. Or, more apropos, more phases than there are Batman titles. Hip-hop critic. MMA fighter. Furniture mover. Screenwriter. Hollywood bouncer. This guy puts Dean Malenko to shame, or at least Hayden Christensen. Nonetheless, the newfound phase of this all-too-positive "Loose Cannon" (as monikered from various music and film review sites) is simply comics. And it's going on three years strong. After blowing the lot of his savings on graphic novels and stupid "collectible" figurines, Travis decided to leave them all in Boston and head to his next destiny: Hollywood, California.

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