Think what you may, comic book readers, but there’s no title out there that has as many ‘daddy issues’ as Batman’s. For example, Alfred Pennyworth always struggles in his role as butler to Wayne Manor, but he’s equally important as a surrogate father figure to Bruce Wayne. Additional, Bruce himself has to step up to the plate and do the same for Dick Grayson or Jason Todd or Tim Drake. And lest we not forget that it could be argued that Batman does what he does – meaning: dress up all in black and gray while fighting a life of crime on the streets – out of a psychologically justification to make up for the love lost when his mother and father were shot dead all of those years ago in Crime Alley. Needless to say, fathers have much to answer for in this colorful pages, and that’s what elevates BATMAN AND ROBIN: VOLUME 1: BORN TO KILL to some pretty stellar heights.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, this ain’t it! Instead, I encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
For those of you not quite in-the-know, DC Comics not that long ago relaunched all of their primary titles under the heading of ‘The New 52,’ trying to capture some new creative energy by making old and new fans fully believe this was the perfect jumping-on point for everyone. How the effectiveness of this campaign will inevitably shake out is probably still being tabulated and re-tabulated by DC’s editors on a regular basis; but I’ll be the first to say that, as a long-time fan of their comics (I picked up and read my first one back in 1970), I didn’t exactly welcome it with open arms. I’m a bit older than most readers, so you’ll have to forgive me if I seem a bit more cynical than most (I’ve earned it!). It looked to me like little more than a bloated marketing campaign: tweak a few character histories, give ‘em all some slick new packaging, and voila! Same old, same old, but now appearing fresh and new. Blah, blah, blah.
Feeling the way I did, I decided to wait a while before I picked up anything from DC. I figured, once they started collecting ‘em into trade paperbacks, that would be good enough for me. I’ve recently begun purchasing them, and, if this first Bat-collection is any indication, fans might be in for something special after all.
Peter J. Tomasi (as writer) turns in a pretty nice epic story dealing with Batman/Bruce Wayne now having to deal with the consequences of a dalliance with Talia al Ghul by taking an all-new protégé under the mask of Robin. For all intents and purposes, Damian Wayne is a bit of a throwback to the days of Jason Todd when a smart-mouthed kid took up the red suit and yellow cape and offered up one wiseacre retort after another. There’s countless exchanges of disrespect if not downright contempt between the son-to-father, but, in this story, it ends up working out just fine, if not perfect.
After a somewhat confusing opening (it’s tied in to events predating the whole ‘The 52’ thing with Batman ‘franchising’ out the mantle of the Bat to big-city locations around the world), readers are introduced to a new villain – Nobody – who’s in reality Morgan Ducard, the son of Henri Ducard. Anyone who knows his Bat-history knows that Ducard was one of the original six men who trained a young Bruce Wayne in his preparation to become the world’s greatest detective; but, as fate would have it, Morgan and Bruce have an old score to settle that dates back to an early encounter between the two of them. In order to get under the Gotham City billionaire’s skin, Nobody does what’s necessary to drive an even greater wedge in between the man and his son; and it’s that dynamic that propels this work to some solid introspection on the part of the Caped Crusader.
Gradually, we see the father and the son come to terms with their respective roles. It ain’t easy. It sure as heck ain’t pretty. But, somehow, they’ll come together, even if that means Damian has to oppose his father’s greater rule in order to forge a new identity as his elder’s sidekick. It’s a dark path, indeed, and I can only imagine where it’ll take the dynamic duo.
BATMAN AND ROBIN: VOLUME 1: BORN TO KILL is published by DC Comics. The story is written by Peter J. Tomasi; the artwork is by Patrick Gleason; Mick Gray provides the inkings; John Kalisz is the colorist; and the lettering is done by Patrick Brosseau. For those of you needing to know (shame on you!), Batman is created by Bob Kane. This trade paperback bears the cover price of $16.99, a bargain if you can get it.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. If you like your Batman the way I do, then you’re going to be pleased as punch with BATMAN AND ROBIN: VOLUME 1: BORN TO KILL. It serves up a terrific story about Batman in transition as he’s trying to come to grips with perhaps his most devastating challenge yet: fatherhood to a young, impetuous, downright bratty Damian Wayne (his son from a dangerous liaison with Talia al Ghul). I’ll admit that I’m no fan of Damian’s, but, within the scope of this story by Peter J. Tomasi, he works as a character, providing Batman as well as Bruce Wayne with some of his most difficult opportunities, all within a greater backstory of starting over.
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