Love him or hate him, Damian is here to stay. This character’s headstrong, dark, overly mature demeanor has brought about criticism for being too similar to the “bad” Robin Jason Todd, but his disturbing background has never been addressed seriously. Under Grant Morrison, the character’s creator, the bat family regularly poked fun at Robin’s spoiled and cold blooded personality and it was funny and a joy to read and most readers have accepted these traits now. But Peter Tomasi is doing something different; he’s taking Damian seriously.
Abusive childhoods damage children and Bruce’s zero-tolerance and almost robotic behavior is not going to “fix” Damian. The New 52′s “Batman & Robin” has proven that Dick was a far better mentor to Damian than Bruce has been. Bruce has made constant mistakes as a father and his actions have finally pushed his son away in this issue. They’ve pushed him toward Morgan AKA Nobody, who tempts Damian with the chance to learn from him, fight crime, and be the killer he was raised to be.
There’s a lot going on in this issue and you definitely get your money’s worth. There are three stories running alongside each other and it all comes together in the end. First, there’s Bruce who realizes his mistakes as a father and spends the remainder of the issue searching high and low for his lost son. It’s compelling stuff, but the new neon orange Tron-style batvehicle he’s driving is a bit silly looking and distracting. Second, we get Nobody and Robin storming an embassy which houses an ambassador in charge of human trafficking. There’s some great action here and a really cool 2-page spread showing the two bring down all the guards. These two stories look great and use the heavy shadowing we’ve come to expect from Gleason’s art. The central storyline cutting through this issue, however, mostly takes place in the daylight and in flashbacks. These are some of the most vividly drawn panels in the new “Batman & Robin” series so far with richly detailed backgrounds and lively coloring. These flashbacks to Paris, narrated by Bruce as he leaves a message for Damian, describe the truth about his past with Morgan (which he withheld in the last chapter). This segment is great and shows us a young Bruce traveling the world, looking for the world’s most dangerous men to train him. It also gives us our first glimpse of Ducard, who looks strikingly similar to Jean Reno’s (also French) character Leon from the film “The Professional”. I thought it was a nice touch. The full origin story of Morgan AKA Nobody brings up some parallels between him and Damian and even hints at his motivations: Bruce stole the attention of Morgan’s father, now Morgan will steal Bruce’s son.
The pace has definitely slowed down and the action is nowhere near the levels of the last issue, but it’s a very, very good read and a necessary one that builds upon both Bruce’s history and strengthens the character of Nobody, who, if he doesn’t get killed off in the next few issues, could be a great new Batman rogue. I highly recommend this book.