The title may be “Batman and Robin” but it’s The Boy Wonder who steals the show and makes the book his own. Batman and Robin, Vol. 3: Death of the Family features some of the best moments Damian Wayne has ever had, but it’s also only 4-issues long (not counting the final chapter of Snyder & Capullo’s Batman: Death of the Family, which is also included) making it a very quick read that should be purchased at a sale price.
This hardcover by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Mick Gray features issues #15-17 of the New 52 ongoing series as well as the title’s first Annual and Batman #17, the final chapter in Death of the Family. So if you haven’t read the complete saga in Batman, then I suggest you tackle that first. While it’s necessary to add that chapter to this volume, it’s also something better enjoyed with its preceding episodes. And since many readers will have already picked up Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family, I imagine many will skip over it and finish this book in no-time at all since it only collects four Batman & Robin comics. Now, before I get into the meat of this story I want to go ahead and point out that I think the unused cover for Batman & Robin #15 would’ve made a much, much better dust jacket for this graphic novel. Not only is it one of the coolest looking covers, but it drives home the subtitle “Death of the Family” all the more.
While the content of this graphic novel might be brief, it does feature two of the best issues the series has ever had, The Annual, which kicks off this collection and issue #17, which is a full-issue dream sequence that deals with our characters being haunted by the aftermath of Death of the Family. These stories are must-reading because they capture what I believe to be the perfect tone of this series. It’s heartwarming, adventurous, and the visuals by Patrick Gleason and guest artist, Ardian Syaf, are at their very finest. Although “Death of the Family” gets all the attention on the book’s cover, I think that the Annual is far and away the highlight of this collection. In this done-in-one, over-sized tale we see Damian manufacture a situation that sends his father and Alfred on a wild goose chase around the globe, thus leaving The Son of Batman home alone. Unlike other children, who would stay up late and eat sweets in the absence of their parents, Damian takes this opportunity to don the cape and cowl himself and hit the streets as Gotham’s pint-sized Dark Knight. It’s a story that’s as funny as it is emotionally engaging and not only is it one of this title’s best installments, but it’s one of the best Bat-comics of the year. For a full review, check out my article on Batman and Robin Annual #1.
Following that playful story comes something much, much darker. Issues #15 and #16 tie directly into the Death of the Family storyline and there really isn’t any setup for it. Tomasi doesn’t ease the reader into what’s happening with this event and expects readers to already be well aware of this giant crossover and everything involved. Quite simply, you’re going to get the most enjoyment out of these comics if you’ve already read Scott Snyder’s saga. Otherwise, the transition from the lighthearted Damian-in-a-batsuit story to Leatherface, maggots, and a missing Dark Knight will be extremely jarring. Damian’s confrontation with the Joker starts out strong and artist, Patrick Gleason, came up with far-and-away the most creative uses of Joker’s detached face. I mean, we’re talking serious nightmare fuel, here. However, the second half of Tomasi’s contribution to the crossover really drags as we must sit through more of Joker’s monologuing and an overlong fight scene that’s very forgettable. For my full thoughts on these issues look at the reviews for issue #15 and issue #16.
Since the vast majority of you will have already read Batman #17, a chapter that slipped its way into this collection, I’ll just skip over it– as I imagine many readers will. It’s nice to see a resolution to all of the Joker material we saw in issue #15 and #16, and it definitely belongs in this volume but if you’ve already read it then you’ve already read it. Let’s turn back to what’s left from Batman and Robin.
The final chapter of this graphic novel is Batman and Robin #17, which is a highly visual story with sparse dialogue. You could easily read through it in a matter of minutes, but I implore you to take the time to really examine the artwork as it’s quite exceptional. These three, short dream sequences focusing on three of your favorite characters is an incredibly entertaining experience with moments that will make you laugh, cheer, and maybe even tear up a little. If you are a reader who knows what’s to come for the Batfamily in Batman and Robin, Volume 4 then this episode will definitely bring your emotions to the surface. My full thoughts on this installment can be found at the following link: Batman & Robin #17 review.
You can usually count on Batman and Robin having some outstanding supplemental material. This volume includes some extraordinarily frightening sketches by Patrick Gleason, who really put in some time trying to come up with creepy ways to utilize The Joker’s mangled face. There’s a drawing of Joker’s profile that’s especially startling! The following 10 pages are made up of un-colored pages and even some un-inked pages and, finally, a few examples comparing the original script to the illustrated results. There was one piece of bonus material I didn’t like, however. I’m disappointed in the presentation of the unused cover of issue #15. It looks like a poor-quality jpeg that was blown-up and printed. As I said, that cover is a favorite of mine so it’s a real shame to see it in such poor resolution.
Value: Sale Price
I feel that it’s overpriced. It’s a good book and I definitely recommend it, however, the $22.99 cover price just ain’t right. One of the great things about these collected editions is that they are almost always cheaper than what you would’ve paid for the individual floppies month-to-month. But with Batman and Robin, Vol. 3? There are three $2.99 comics, a $4.99 annual, and a $3.99 issue of Batman, which many readers will have already read. That’s a value of $17.95 (not counting tax). Look for this one at Amazon, where it’s currently on sale for $14.54.
This is a must-read for fans of Damian Wayne and it features some of the most imaginative and horrifying imagery to spin out of the Death of the Family crossover event. The book opens and closes strong, but there is one particularly weak chapter in the middle where the tie-ins to Joker’s saga drag on a bit too long and it feels too familiar to every other crossover comic that was released that month. But besides that section, this is a good read, albeit a quick one. Volume 3 only features 4 issues of Batman & Robin at a premium price so you might be better off waiting for a softcover version. I also highly recommend that you read Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family before picking this one up.