This fell flat with me the same way Batwing #0 did. Damian and Batwing are both characters whose origins have already been told pretty thoroughly in the past couple years and unless you’re totally new to recent events in Bat-History you’re going to be bored by this issue.
Batman & Robin #0 is page after page of a little boy killing ninjas. That’s pretty much it.
It’s also an issue that’s really going to confuse the continuity crowd. I try not to pay that much attention to the time stamps because if I do it gives me a headache. “Batman has been a public figure for 5 years according to Justice League but he’s been Batman for much longer than that…except for in Detective Comics #0 last week when we found out he was still training to be Batman 10 years ago…but then in the Batman Annual it said Bruce had just returned from globe trotting 6 years ago…” It gives me a headache and I’d rather not trouble myself over the times and dates of a make-believe history. It’s especially not worth the effort when these Batman times and dates are destined to be retconned in a few years anyway. But the thing in this issue that throws the timeline off is the incubator. I always assumed from frequent flashbacks of Damian floating in an incubator that a 10 year old Damian in this continuity could be explained by saying he was grown super fast in a tank. But here in issue #0 we see that he was flushed out once he came to term.
What’s the point?
I don’t understand why Damian’s birth has to be so damn complicated. First off you have Bruce getting drugged by Talia to sleep with her (not in this issue, but it was shown in Batman Inc. #2). Why? I think fans would be more than okay with Bruce willingly banging the super hot chick who adores him and calls him “Beloved”. He didn’t need to be tricked into coitus. Then there’s the whole incubator thing. Why isn’t she pregnant the old fashioned way? She’s willing to do everything and anything to take over the world…as long as it doesn’t lead to stretch marks? What gives? Are you saying that she slept with Bruce, ran to a lab, had that fetus taken out and planted in a tank so that scientists could manipulate it to perfection? What’s the point? I’m pretty sure fans would suspend their disbelief here. It’s the child of the Goddamn Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, if the kid comes out of the womb awesome it’ll make perfect sense to me! No need to add extra ridiculousness.
So back to the issue at hand. It has an odd narrative structure that starts out at Damian’s 10th birthday where he’s killing Man-Bats and ninjas and then the narrative jumps back to him as a baby and works its way back to the 10th birthday again. This choice doesn’t add anything at all to the story. In fact, I think if it had been told in a linear fashion it would’ve worked much better.
I found this to be an unintentionally funny book. The bulk of it is about how Damian, on his birthday, would always be tested by his mother. If he defeats her in battle, she will tell him the truth about his father. And I have to say, seeing a grown woman sword fighting a 5 year old is just silly to me. I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to take that seriously. And when the issue takes the reader through each successive birthday and how his mom always said “Happy Birthday, Damian. You lose.” after beating the crap out of her boy at 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 years old I couldn’t help but laugh because it’s so over-the-top. It seemed more appropriate for a Will Ferrell movie.
I have a hard enough time believing Damian as a 10 year old ultra-bad ass Robin but seeing him as an 8 year old sniper camping out in the bush? That’s ludicrous in my mind. I can accept a walking refrigerator, a dude made out of clay, and a man surviving with split personalities and 3rd degree burns on one side of his face, but I can’t believe that a 10 year old boy is going to put the hurt on any grown man. However, I bet that any 10 year old boy picking this comic up might thinkDamian’s violent display is cool and maybe that’s the whole idea. The Robin character was meant to be someone little boys could live vicariously through after all.
Alright, so I’ve spent most of this review ranting about how I dislike Damian’s overly elaborate origin and how I can’t buy his toughness but that’s pretty much all this issue is. If this is not your first foray into comics in the past decade then you’re not going to be stunned by the surprise that Bruce is Damian’s father. Even the final pages are word-for-word from Batman & Son by Grant Morrison. It looks good, both in its quiet moments and more amped up action scenes and it even features one of the most adorable shots of a baby Damian you’re ever going to see. But Gleason is always good.
I think that this is a great issue for those who are just getting into Batman comics and need to know who need an introduction to Damian. But there is nothing here for loyal readers and because of that I was disappointed.