Batman & Robin is shaping up to be the darkest of the Batman books. With Batman playing the more direct Dark Knight route and Detective Comics stumbling to find it’s voice, Batman & Robin is set to be twisted title, the one that delves a bit deeper into the violent reality of the Batman. Writer Peter J. Tomasi has taken the old and the new from Batman’s life and combined them into a story that has a lot to do with family. The center of the storm is Batman and Robin #2 we see how he deals with very different elements of his past and present.
The first element is Damian, the prodigal son who is walking a thin line between crime fighter and abusive psycho. This is new territory for Batman and he’s not particularly good at it. His parenting skills are tenuous at best; his lifetime of staying emotionally detached is making connecting to his son difficult as is the guilt he feels over dragging yet another child into his mission. Tomasi writes these scenes with a great sense of dramatic style and emotion. You can feel Bruce’s desire to help his son and his loss at being unable to do something after a lifetime of being able to do anything. The use of silent scenes and dialog works very well in setting the tone of the story. Especially Damian, he’s gone from bratty to scary in just two issues.
The second family element comes from Bruce’s old buddies in the League Of Shadows. Morgan, a league member, has decided to put an end to the idea of Batman Inc, even if it means killing the Dark Knight. Morgan is Batman if he was devoid of compassion and lived for nothing but revenge. Everything between Morgan and Bruce is done via dialog, there is no real action, but it’s still very effective. The scenes involving Bruce and Morgan could be some of the best writing Tomasi has turned out this year. It’s very layered, including the idea that Morgan could be what Damian grows up to become if Batman fails. These are dark themes, ones that help to push Batman beyond just a superhero.
Patrick Gleason’s art is flawless. So much so that I went back and re-read the issue without the dialog, just looking at each panel and letting it dictate the story. I don’t always enjoy a style as economic as Gleason’s, but here it works. The bare character detail and the solid backgrounds really give a dark edge to the entire book. Page 7 could be one of the most powerful splash pages in Batman’s history. Outside of the pencils, I love Gleason’s panel placement. I’ve seen a lot of artists become more experimental with how they place the panels and it really helps the storytelling.
The other heroes in this book are colorist John Kalisz and inker Mick Gray. Gray’s work gives definition to Gleason’s pencils and Kalisz’s colors are impeccable. The dark overtones that are given depth by the flashes of color help push the movement Gleason creates into another zone. It’s breathtaking work. Between Tomasi’s Batman & Robin and Scott Snyder’s Batman, the Dark Knight is once again the most interesting character DC comics has to offer.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 10/10