Heartwarming in every sense of the word, Batman & Robin Annual #1 is worth every penny!
No, you do not need to have read any other Batman & Robin comics prior to picking this one up.
Yes, it is a complete story in one oversized issue.
Yes, it is a great example of visual storytelling and YES, Peter Tomasi has found the perfect tone for this series with this issue.
You’ll laugh, you’ll tear up a little, and you’ll just have a really great time. I think we can all agree that the bat-titles have been pretty heavy lately and they should be. Death of the Family is a dark story. But I think overall, ever since the New 52 began the bat books have often tried a bit too hard to be as gritty, disturbing, and edgy as possible. The only escape from all the doom and gloom of the new 52 this past year has been Li’l Gotham and Legends of the Dark Knight so to have a lighthearted book like Batman and Robin Annual #1 that actually takes place in the New 52 continuity come about is a real treat.
Don’t get me wrong, Batman works best when it’s grounded in reality and takes its threats seriously but what we’ve been missing for so long in these comics is a world worth fighting for! We need that glimmer of hope that makes the battle with villain after villain have a purpose. We need to see that the people of Gotham aren’t merely victims or crooks, that there are clean cops, that Bruce can smile, that Alfred does more than bandage wounds, and at the end of the day Damian is just a 10 year old boy. That’s what you get when you read Batman and Robin Annual #1, a reminder of why we care about these characters that goes far deeper than the costumes and the action scenes.
Not only is the book written very well but it looks fantastic too. Traditional Batman and Robin artist Patrick Gleason doesn’t contribute to this installment, but luckily Ardian Syaf and inker Vicente Cifuentes, who worked on the first few issues of Batgirl, deliver a gorgeous looking book that holds true to the style Gleason has established while still showing off an energetic flair of their own. I actually think that the colors by John Kalisz helped liven up the art the most because the over saturation of purple in Syaf’s early Batgirl issues, while giving that title a distinct look, took attention away from many of the tiny details that really come alive here. There are so many great shots and perfect use of the page here that I want to show off but at the same time I don’t want to spoil it for you. Hopefully I can hype this thing up enough that you’ll go buy it and see for yourself!
So what is the story exactly, I still haven’t told you yet. I’m sure many of you can think back to a time when you were just a kid and you had the house to yourself. What did you do? Did you stay up late watching TV? Eat ice cream? Sleep in your parents’ bed? Sneak a sip from the liquor cabinet? Well imagine that Damian Wayne has engineered a situation in which he has the manor all to himself for let’s say an entire weekend. What do you think he’d do? If you said play Batman then you’re absolutely correct and what unfolds is a pretty funny short story about an even shorter Dark Knight. He has run ins with various criminals, a new Detective who I rather liked and hope to see more of in the future, and a gas station owner named Gus who I know I’ll never see again but I really, really want to because I thought he was hilarious (he referred to Gotham as “The ‘Ham” and called the GCPD the “Bat Backup Brigade”– I want to hear more of this everyman’s point of view of Gotham City!). Of course, none of this would be possible if Alfred and Bruce were still around so running concurrently with the Batman Jr. adventure is the global scavenger hunt Damian has sent Alfred and Bruce on. The best thing about the scavenger hunt is that there was nothing mean spirited about it at all, it’s actually filled with some of the most touching moments I’ve seen in a Batman comic, and the most creative. Damian wants to keep his father away but at the same time he is giving his dad an amazing gift and us some great Alfred/Bruce moments! Seeing Alfred talk about his younger days and actually getting the feel that this man has indeed lived a rather full life of his own is very satisfying.
It’s a must read. I think I’ll probably flip through my copy again even before I bag and board it, it’s that delightful of an experience. I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading it and I think that it just might be my favorite comic from this month. Believe me, I’m usually pretty bitter about having to pay five bucks for a single issue but I have no complaints about this one at all. It’s an essential read for fans of Damian and those who love these characters and think that they deserve some happiness in their lives.