Ben Reilly Happens While You're Busy Making Other Plans

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: Batman and Robin #2 (Mild Spoilers)

Batman and Robin #2 is the most compelling case for de-aging Batman yet. Bruce says and does things here that would have been a hard sell before the relaunch, even when we take into account the way Grant Morrison softened the character. I can't imagine the seasoned forty year old veteran chatting this candidly with Alfred about parenting and mortality, for instance, or letting an old acquaintance get the drop on him in a public setting. But a thirty year old Bruce Wayne lends himself more easily to these unguarded moments, and it makes for good reading.

So does Tomasi's pacing. He slows things down a bit from last issue, but there's more tension than ever lurking beneath the surface. Damian shows restraint with some gunrunners, and this makes for an awkward exchange between Bruce and Alfred about the best way to pay a child a compliment. Bruce goes with "commendable," Alfred prefers "proud." If that seems tame, don't worry. Tomasi and Gleason pull off one of the most chilling reversals I've ever seen, and prove that Damian will always find an outlet for his rage.

Of all the Batman titles, this one feels the most eclectic. It's like throwing Burton's Batman in a mixer with Nolan's, then adding some awkward sitcom Dad and The Omen. It could have been a hot mess, but the result goes down really smooth.

Speaking of Nolan, the promised confrontation between Bruce Wayne and Nobody definitely takes its cues from Batman Begins. I don't think it's coincidence that my favorite scenes in both the Nolan and Burton franchise are ones where Bruce, not Batman, is forced to deal with a supervillain. I especially love the dynamic Nolan established with Ra's al Ghul, who's immune to the big, scary bat because he's the one who built Bruce from the ground up. That doesn't carry over as well to the comics, where Ra's and Batman first met as equals. But Tomasi seems to have found something comparable in Nobody, who turns out to be a fellow student of Ducard named Morgan(presumably the Ducard of the comics, who is not a front for Ra's al Ghul).

I like that Bruce doesn't go into agressive mode here. Maybe it's because he can't play the Bat card with Morgan, but still, it's nice to see him caught off guard. The final scene is such a beautiful touch. It's unsettling in a 'calm before the storm' way, and there's a quiet strength about Tomasi's Bruce Wayne that's more impressive than the invincible Batman ever was.


  1. Yeah, this has been a pleasant surprise, hasn't it? This book seems to be taking full advantage of the re-setting of the DCU, re-humanizing Batman more than any of the other Bat books are. And it's good to see. This is a Batman one can get behind.

  2. Very much agreed--and I loved the "Englehart Drive" reference. It occurs to me that Englehart might be the driving force for that characterization that finds the happy medium between the O'Neil and Miller version.