Review: Batman and Robin #4

Bruce Wayne and his son Damian are trying to have a functioning relationship, but it's not working out so well.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Batman and Robin #4

There’s mutiny on the horizon for Batman, at least there is in Batman & Robin #4. The series, penned by Peter J Tomasi, deals directly with Bruce Wayne’s relationship with his son Damian. It takes some getting used to because the Damian before the re-boot is very different. This is a darker Damian, more akin to the character when he first met him. He’s a born killer, a young boy trained to kill by the same mother who betrayed him. He’s lost and afraid, which is breeding into violent and anti-social.

To guide Damian back to the light takes a strong hand mixed with a sound sense of compassion and empathy, something Batman doesn’t do very well. Whether as father or partner, Bruce Wayne is failing his son and he can’t even see it. It’s a strange world for Batman and that world is the core of what Tomasi is trying to do. The Dark Knight is good at everything, so how can he not find a handle on this. How can he not control and challenge his son without creating so much mistrust? How can he trust his own son when he knows the darkness that dwells within him? Watching Batman playing the part of the lost and unsure father adds another layer to his character.,

Making matters worse is “Nobody,” or rather Morgan Ducard, son of Henri Ducard, one of Bruce’s original teachers. Morgan has decided that Bruce has gone soft and, after a rather violent “intervention,” fails to get Bruce on board the blood-spilling bandwagon, Ducard decides to kill him. Naturally, Bruce and Damian escape, but the damage is done. Now Damian sees his father as human, fallible. Mixed with the lack of communication and leaning more towards how Ducard deals with criminals, the seeds of mutiny are easily planted.

Peter J. Tomasi is dealing with some pretty intense emotions and he handles them beautifully. While the action has to do with Ducard, the story is about a father and his son and the issues that lay within those murky waters. Tomasi leaves nothing on the cutting room floor. He wants all the poisons and secrets and ill will to pour out of this relationship before it finds footing. That kind of dedication to the tale makes Batman & Robin so intriguing. You’re never sure what will come next, especially with Damian. Tomasi writes him so well that he has remained an enigma, never giving in to easy comic book stereotypes. Rare is the book that can be equally adult in tone, deep with emotion and rich with action. Batman & Robin is coming out as one of the stronger Bat books.

Helping tell this tale is artist Patrick Gleason. Not everything Gleason does is perfect – I don’t particularly care for his faces, they look a little too "manga meets Hellboy" for me. However, what he does do well is so good it makes up for it. He has a true sense of action and movement. Between his bold lines and backgrounds, each panel has life to it. Mix this with how he places them and Batman & Robin moves like a motion picture. I also have to give props to Mick Gray for his insane inking work and the rich color designs of John Kalisz. These three visual artists bring into focus Peter J. Tomasi’s opus towards fathers and sons and heroes and villains.