Even if you don’t usually read Batman Incorporated, issue #8 is required reading. Like it or hate it, what happens here is going to resonate in all other Batman comics for (ideally) years to come. I tried to stay quiet about what happens in this comic all week. People have even been emailing Batman-News saying we weren’t doing a good job of keeping up with current events but really I just don’t want to post any spoilers so far before a comic comes out and I didn’t like that DC themselves gave a press release on Monday telling the world what was going to happen. So if you don’t know what happens yet, turn back now. Just go pick up the comic and enjoy. It’s an important one. Seriously, get out of here.
See, I didn’t report on the Death of Damian on Monday because I saw it as a pretty cheap marketing gimmick to try and pull in a bunch of speculators into comic shops on Wednesday who would buy up every copy of Inc. #8 and then toss it up on eBay hoping to make a sweet profit. Announcing to the world that Damian would die on Wednesday did a great disservice to the fans of Grant Morrison’s run which has lasted for over 6 years now. You can go to any fan message board online and see countless pages of fan discussion and there are even entire websites dedicated to annotating every issue of Morrison’s Batman! That’s how seriously the fans have taken this complex story and to just give away one of the key scenes right when we’re at the end of it all didn’t feel right to me. But now here we are. Damian is dead and I’m cool with talking about it now.
Damian is a character who basically started out as the Scrappy-Doo of the Batfamily. I wasn’t reading the comics at the time he was first introduced. I saw a news headline about it and then sought out the comic in my University’s bookstore. I flipped through it and rolled my eyes. Annoyed that we were getting yet another Robin and that Batman now had a son. He was only 10 years old but was somehow tougher and smarter than the other bat-allies and I found that to be pretty cheap as well but unlike Scrappy, Damian actually developed as a character over the years and I eventually accepted him. I especially liked the moments where it shined through that he really was just a 10 year old boy at heart. So did I like his send-off in issue #8 of Batman Incorporated? Yeah.
The death itself isn’t exactly the most iconic thing but I thoroughly enjoyed the moments leading up to it. The comic’s opening page shows a first person perspective of Damian zooming toward Gotham in a jet propelled suit and from then on it’s a series of great scenes in which Robin turns the tide in the fight against Leviathan. But it’s not so much the ass-kickery that made this a great final outing with Damian Wayne, it’s the sweet character moments he has with Dick Grayson. If you listened to author Grant Morrison’s recent Fat Man on Batman interview with Kevin Smith (and you should, it’s very good. And it’s FREE) you know that he felt that the Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian as Robin team should have been the dynamic duo of the 21st century and that’s made pretty evident here when he wrote this panel.
Seeing these two fight alongside one another one last time and have fun doing it was terrific. The death scene that followed, while extraordinarily brutal didn’t affect me much though. There’s a few reasons for why this didn’t strike me the way it should have. First, I think a big part of it is probably due to the fact that DC told us all it was happening ahead of time. Then we have to point out that comic book deaths in general are quite meaningless nowadays. If Jason Todd was still dead then yeah, this would’ve been ground-breaking stuff. But Damian’s mom owns a Lazarus pit that can bring him back to life and she has everything she needs to make another clone of him. The cynical part of me knows he won’t stay dead. And lastly, the guy who killed Damian (I’m going to be talking about even more spoilers here) wasn’t interesting enough. What do we know about Heretic? He’s just a big monster who takes orders. There’s no personality there. If he becomes a greater villain in the future who really gets fleshed out by other writers then great, but I can’t see it happening right now. Killing Damian didn’t seem to mean much to the Heretic and I think it would’ve been a far more powerful scene if Talia had killed her son directly.
Other issues with the book would have to include Damian (again) breaking the no-kill rule. It’s just become cliche for him at this point. Had it not already been done with Netz and NoBody then this act would’ve been way more memorable, but when he shot the arrow through Heretic’s chest it felt more like a step back in the character’s development.
- I found it odd that when Damian approached Wayne Tower he saw that the roof was overrun with Man-Bats and something serious was definitely going on up there, yet a couple pages later he brought the fight to the building’s lobby.
- Instead of giving Tim Drake a brief, solo fight scene that time would’ve been better spent giving Tim and Damian one last moment together. These two guys have never gotten along and it’s always been pretty amusing to see them bicker between one another. It’s a real shame not to get one last scene.
- How did Tim Drake end up UNDER the crashed plane when in the panel before it he’s still suspended in mid air and the plane is already wreckage below?
- Dick Grayson went out like a punk. After getting thrown into a display case Nightwing is down for the count. But Damian? He’s tossed into a display case, shot with arrows, broken over a knee, shot, and strangled and he still kept fighting.
- Ellie. Artists Chris Burnham and Jason Masters seem to disagree on how old the secretary should be (she was actually a prostitute way back in Batman #646 before Batman gave her a more respectable job). Masters draws Ellie as a full grown woman but Burnham’s depiction of her looked like a teenager at first and then she looked like she was maybe 8 years old during the Damian/Heretic fight.
But the good stuff in this issue far outweighs those complaints. Besides having some great character moments and brutal fights, the comic also features some pretty stellar coloring. Nathan Fairbairn’s colors pop right off the page starting with the green nightvision of page one and on to the firey red and orange that shatters the panels of blue glass at the story’s conclusion. These unique page layouts by Chris Burnham continue to impress and while I thought that the way he drew Ellie was laughable, everyone else looks terrific. The sense of movement in the Heretic fight and the all-out destruction during the raid on Wayne Tower was a pleasure to look at and fill-in artist Jason Masters did a fine job too with his Tim Drake fight up until the final two panels. Not sure why there would a tank, a giant quarter, and a bunch of display cases full of armor in the same room either but it’s Grant Morrison and he likes to throw back to the cornier silver-age stuff.
It’s probably going to go down as the most important moment in Batman comics this year and it’s pretty touching too. Damian Wayne has come a long way and I have to admit I’m pretty sad to see him go, but at least he went out in style. The talk he has with Dick Grayson before they charge out into the fray one last time is easily one of my favorite moments that either character has ever had. So go pick this one up and join the discussion. And hurry, the more the evening news talks about this, the more non-comic readers will buy them all up and post them on eBay for 10x the price. Ridiculous.