Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Batman and Robin, Volume 3: Death of the Family

 Finally, a bright spot among the otherwise quite shabby "Death of the Family" crossover books.....

 Granted, I haven't read all of them, yet....but the ones that I have were pretty bad, especially the BATGIRL and CATWOMAN volumes. BATMAN AND ROBIN, VOLUME 3: DEATH OF THE FAMILY breaks that trend nicely, though, and it even manages to deliver a truly frightening Joker, something which was sorely missing from this crossover. (Sorry, but I don't think BATMAN scribe Scott Snyder made The Joker scary, just weirder and more effeminate than usual.)

 The bulk of this volume focuses on Damian Wayne, the newest Robin, and longtime Crabby Readers will know that he has quickly risen to the top of my "All-time favorite characters" list. Writer Peter J. Tomasi does a masterful job of making Damian more than just a smart-mouthed kid with Batman-level fighting skills. There's real depth to the character, and a heartbreaking sense of isolation and loneliness, alongside his conflicting desires to be the master of his own fate as well as a dutiful son. The book starts out with a wonderful story that finds Damian sending Bruce "Batman" Wayne and Alfred on a global scavenger hunt, which is really an elaborate ruse to give Damian a chance to see what it would be like to wear the mantle of The Bat. There's a lot going on in this story, and Tomasi brings out some wonderful character beats, making the twisted father/son dynamic work, somehow. And make no mistake, although this is primarily a Joker volume, and a very horrific one, at that, Tomasi keeps BATMAN AND ROBIN a character-driven book. Batman is almost a supporting cast member here, which is fine by me.

 DC wisely includes BATMAN #17, which gives readers who aren't following the main story in BATMAN a satisfying end to the Joker arc. I was surprised by how seamlessly Tomasi's part of the crossover led into the finale, unlike other parts of the crossover, which felt forced and shoehorned in.

 So here's my inevitable "New 52" rant. My head hurts trying to make this new timeline coalesce....Damian refers to his time spent playing Robin to Dick Grayson's Batman...so that happened. But why? Does that mean that Bruce was displaced in time by Darkseid in "The New 52"...? So FINAL CRISIS happened in this continuity...? Wha? Huh...? My brain....

 That said, I enjoyed this volume enough that it kept my mind off of continuity problems until I started writing this review. So that's a good thing, I guess.

 DC Comics provided a review copy.