Batman and Robin, Vol. 2 has what is probably the most macabre looking cover to ever accompany the title “Pearl.” This volume also happens to be, in my opinion, the low-point in an otherwise terrific series.
Pearl collects issues #0, 9-14. That means you get:
- The Zero Month story of Damian’s tutelage under the League of Assassins
- The Night of the Owls tie-in that features Damian taking on a Talon
- The Terminus saga
- War of the Robins (this is more of a subplot, unfortunately)
- The Cult of Saturn 2-parter, a really weird zombie storyline that wasn’t all a dream
So why “Pearl”? My thoughts exactly. The pearl in question is actually an end-of-book reveal and one of the high points of this entire collection BUT with “pearl” in the title, it’s in your mind and you can guess how it fits into the story early on. The emotional punch is gone. It was a different experience for the floppy issue crowd. Those of us who read the series month-to-month were a little confused each chapter but then, in the end, when “pearl” came into the story, we were surprised and our hearts were warmed. By using the title “Pearl” the trade-wait readers probably won’t feel that same emotional impact because they’ll be expecting it.
Let’s start with issue #0, it’s basically a quick Damian crash course. Readers who know next-to-nothing about the character will find a lot to get excited about here, but everyone else will likely be bored. Even the final pages are lifted word-for-word from Grant Morrison’s Batman & Son. But with recent events in Batman comics, it’s good to see so much Damian again and this chapter features one of the character’s most adorable moments, hands-down.
The Night of the Owls tie-in has, without a doubt, the best title of any of the crossover issues. Honestly, I think DC made the mistake of calling this collection “Pearl” because clearly they would’ve sold more copies had they went with the issue #9 title “Robin Hears a Hoo”, which was unfortunately shopped out in this graphic novel! A real damn shame, that. All you’ll see in this book is Robin flying away framed in all-black letterbox. What else is a shame is just how tame the Damian Wayne vs. Court of Owls issue is. In this instance, the Court of Owls is out to kill a Major General during military exercises. The whole platoon is present. And with Damian Wayne, the blood-thirsty samurai sword-loving Robin helping trained soldiers fight an attack from undead assassins you’d think we were in for the most brutal, action packed episode ever, right? Wrong. Only one Talon is sent and the army of soldiers prove to be as inept as the “red shirts” that make up the Gotham Police department. It wasn’t about showing how bad ass Damian can be when he’s finally allowed to cut-loose, it’s about showcasing his tactical abilities. Watching a 10 year old bark orders at a bunch of Gomer Pyles isn’t the thrill I was seeking.
Then there’s Terminus, what is likely one of the most disappointing storylines of any of the bat-titles because of the greater story it overshadowed: War of the Robins! That’s right, there was a sub plot in which Damian goes after Tim, Jason, and Dick in a campaign to prove which bird is the best, a terrific idea reduced to a sub plot. These segments are terrific fun and the big reason for checking this particular book out. Any bat-fan is sure to have a great time watching the Robins fight. Not only are these scenes usually pretty cool action moments, but there are a lot of big laughs that come from it all as well. Unfortunately, these scenes are few and far between. Instead, readers are treated to a story about an Ivan Ooze meets Juggernaut look-alike who teams up with buffoons who have suffered bat-gadget related injuries in the past. It only gets more ridiculous from there with the introduction of a giant worm monster, a nuclear warhead, and Batman donning an Iron Man suit (seriously, one panel looks exactly like Iron Man’s face).
As for the zombie storyline… it’s honestly something I tried to block from memory.
Besides the emotional ending, the uproariously fun War of the Robins subplot, and its variety Batman and Robin, Vol. 2: Pearl‘s greatest strength is its artwork. Even during the fill-in portions of the zombie storyline, the artwork is quite good but, man do Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray do a fantastic job laying out these pages and illustrating them so that all the emotional beats hit home and the action, no matter how ridiculous it is in the story, looks awesome. There are some really great covers here and some of the most memorable and iconic images of Damian Wayne you’re likely to see for a very long time.
Much like with Volume 1: Born to Kill (which is the superior book), Pearl comes with some pretty great bonus features. First, there are several pages of Peter J. Tomasi’s script for Batman and Robin #0 with a side-by-side comparison with the unlettered pages. Secondly, we have some wonderful sketches by Patrick Gleason. It’s really cool to see all of his notes and quick doodles as he hashes out the perfect idea for a page. There are also some great character designs for the “freaks” who were injured by Batman’s gadgets and several un-inked, uncolored, finished pages by Gleason that are just gorgeous.
Value: Sale Price
There is some stuff worth checking out here, but not for the full price of $24.99. Some nice artwork, attractive bonus features, and an all-too-brief Robin subplot just isn’t enough entertainment for that much money and it certainly doesn’t possess high re-readability. I would wait for this book to go on clearance. Even the current Amazon price of $18.36 is too steep in my opinion.
It features a solid issue #0 for people who don’t know Damian, a really fun War of the Robins subplot, and superb artwork, but in the end the stories collected in Pearl are a huge step down in quality from last year’s Born to Kill Saga. Between the radioactive worm and cannibal cultists, Tomasi’s Batman & Robin simply became too ridiculous and the series suffered. On the plus side, Batman & Robin will recover in Volume III, which includes some of the best issues Batman and the Boy Wonder have had in this or any other bat-title this year.