I’m pinch-hitting to catch us up for Robin: Son of Batman, so I feel I have to make a few confessions up front in the interest of full disclosure:
- I read the first issue of this series and immediately dropped it (more about why in a minute).
- I’ve never been a fan of Damian to begin with (there are entirely too many Robins and half of them have been brought back from the dead, which is never much to my liking).
- Initially on opening this book tonight, I thought to myself: oh Lord, what did I agree to?
But it’s okay: I not only read through this book in a quick and easy sweep, but I actually mostly enjoyed it.
The Whys and Wherefores
So let’s talk about why I originally dropped this book. Partly it’s because, as I just mentioned, I’m not a great fan of Damian. Damian with Batman? Sure! Damian solo? Meh. I also have a bias against the world that Morrison built for Damian, the Al Ghul dynasty, its politics, and the pastiche of fantasy, magic, and philosophy that goes with it. It’s all very Shakespearean, and don’t get me wrong, I like Shakespeare (and Morrison, generally, for that matter), but again: not really my cuppa tea.
Worse still, I was deeply offended by the portrayal of the creature character Goliath. This, more than anything because otherwise the book is helmed by an able writer who knows how to make Damian sympathetic. But enslaving a sentient bat-gryphon thing was unconscionable to me and, frankly, in this day and age of über-political correctness, I was staggered that an editor was okay with this as a premise.
So yeah, I ditched the book.
Ironically, “Year of Blood” Part 6 deals with this very issue, alongside exploring Damian’s relationship with Talia now that the two have been reunited.
Question is: does it deal with it successfully?
The story begins by telling the tale of how Damian came to have Goliath: by slaughtering the baby creature’s mother and siblings in a quest he was sent by his mother, Talia. Yeah, this doesn’t make the whole slavery thing better. Not. One. Bit.
Heartstrings duly tugged
But not to fear–it all gets better.
One of the things that writer Patrick Gleason does so effectively in this book is to juxtapose Damian’s pompous, self-aggrandizing, self-important speechifying with simple childlike things that often succeed in reminding him that he is, after all, a child.
His pre-teen rage is well-illustrated here as Talia takes power in Bialya and Damian challenges her over his death. It’s not a poignant scene of closure–it opens more wounds than it closes. But it deftly pushes the plot forward, establishing this new dynamic between mother and son. Damian is a product of both of his parents’ strengths and weaknesses. He may not be prepared to accept that, but I found Talia’s truths interesting food for thought in light of his fury.
Then there’s Maya from whom Damian is seeking his own forgiveness.
And that brings us back to Goliath.
The book ends with Talia gearing up and Damian gearing up and everyone is gearing up: War is coming. It’s going to be epic!
The credits say Gleason does pencils for this book, with Mick Gray and Tom Nguyen on inks (mostly Gray but for two pages). The book is very dense and talky during the two critical conversations, which always makes for a challenge to the artists, but it’s handled well here, again, allotting for nice spacing and pacing in the quiet moments. Gleason’s especially good and conveying a lot of information in panels that open scenes (like below). We get everything we need to know by seeing what Maya’s up to (and without a lot of annoying blabby exposition that’s not important to the immediate action).
It’s a whole mini-comic on its own!
Where the conversation isn’t dense, the book is packed with action. Gleason really keeps the characters moving when there’s no need for them to talk or be still. And it’s all well-motivated action that doesn’t overstay its welcome (no filler here!).
I’m not crazy about the art style or the character designs, but it’s very consistent and, again, the use of space is expertly handled. Despite a lot of noisy action and garish colors in the opening sequence, it’s never difficult to follow the action. I do kind of think colorist John Kalisz could tone things down a notch (the use of magenta especially recalls to my mind the horrors of 90’s comics), but again, that’s a style choice and at least it’s a consistent one.
- You like Damian in his more thoughtful moments.
- You want to see Goliath’s origin!
- Talia taking Damian to task for his anger issues would please you.
This is a smartly written and carefully paced book. Since it’s something I don’t typically read and a character for whom I don’t have much enthusiasm, I was more than somewhat pleasantly surprised to find myself engaged and even moved by the action and dialogue. I don’t hate Damian, but I do struggle with his cockiness (he’s unworthy of the Bat, I often think). Here we get to see another side of him. He’s still got a long way to go, but it’s a very nice start. He’s in wonderful hands with Gleason for the time being.