Batman vs. Robin #3 runs like clockwork, efficiently setting up an easy to track sequence of events that deliver fun action while also digging into the core dynamics of the Bat family. Art duties are split between Mahmud Asrar and Scott Godlewski, who both turn in solid work without a noticeable shift in quality. However, Waid’s script tends to litigate well trod dynamics, particularly in Bruce’s relationship to his various Robins and the ethics behind creating “child soldiers”.
The structure of the issue is immediately apparent from the start. Damian equips Tim, Stephanie, Jason, and Dick each with their own powerful, magic weapon to take on Batman himself. Once again, Waid does a great job of simplifying the magical stakes at hand, with each weapon giving a fairly simple ability. Tim gets invisibility, Jason control of water, Stephanie control of plants, while Dick’s weapon carries the most unique ability. What works less is that once Batman arrives at Lazarus Island, it becomes extremely predictable that the vast majority of the issue will consist of Batman taking down his mind controlled protégés like marking names off a checklist. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the clear structure Waid utilizes, but the dialogue within them is also wholly a retread of common “arguments” against Batman.
Bruce first fights Tim, who admonishes Bruce for choosing Damian over him for the Robin mantle upon his return. Bruce then retorts by claiming he knew Tim didn’t need him since he was doing fine on his own. This is a common view by not just Bruce, but fans themselves who consider Tim Drake to be the most “put together” of all the former Robins. However, Bruce narrates about how deep down that he felt like he could have done better by Tim. This same fight, self doubt then triumph routine carries onto the next fight which puts Bruce up against both Stephanie and Jason. It’s an obvious ploy to get Bruce to question himself, while also weakening him physically as each fight takes a toll on him. What saves these sequences is the energetic art that puts Bruce through the wringer. Asrar’s art continues to deftly ride the perfect balance between high detail and clarity of purpose. One panel has Batman leap forward which is sold by the expressive figure work, but the falling branch behind him splinters into several bits of wood and leaves without muddying up the composition. Jordie Bellaire’s colors maintain vibrancy without rendering the jungle as a garish mess of green and earth tones. A later sequence with Bruce and Dick is beautifully rendered as the nighttime gloom is literally cut through by Azrael’s fiery Sword of Sin, which Dick wields. Scott Godlewski’s pages can be jarring as his figure work is generally more cartoony and less detailed. However, his pages pop up with a change of scenery, which displays that the entire production is well attuned to each member’s strengths.
Back at the bad guy hideout, Nezha continues to drain magic users of their abilities and to store it for his own purposes. I don’t think we really needed yet another scene of this happening, but the best wrinkle is added in the form of Zhu Bajie, a giant talking pig who has a connection to Nezha’s past. Known as Pigsy to his “frenemies”, our new addition reveals that Nezha’s master plan is less about taking the offensive against Earth, but rather preparing for the arrival of his son who apparently has a gear to grind. Not exactly a major game changer, but it’s good to have some sort of shake up occur within the villain’s ranks. Damian has a near revelatory moment of lucidity as he talks to Pigsy alone, which also hints at a possible redemption for the corrupted Nezha. This is of course interrupted, but the chance of another ending to the story beyond just killing our lead villain is welcome.
Back to Batman, his final showdown against Dick, armed with Azrael’s sword, is the most striking part of the issue. The art fires on all cylinders, capturing the savagery of Dick’s attacks upon Bruce and the eventual sacrifice that ends the fight. Before we get to spoilers, the final few pages are hugely effective, although potentially disappointing to some fans for reasons better left unsaid.
- You don’t mind some old Bat family grudges being utilized.
- Devil Nezha and his origins are of interest to you.
- Bruce and Alfred’s relationship is something you want more closure on.
Batman vs. Robin #3 threatens to stagnate the series with a routine structure that offers very little surprises until the last few pages. Mahmud Asrar and Scott Godlewski turn in solid work that captures the blend of magic and pure fisticuffs on display in the action. However, Waid’s gambit to dredge up old festering wounds sets up a truly affecting final few pages. Bruce’s despair and past regrets are tastefully managed, while also paving the way for a redemption deeper than just defeating a monstrous villain.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.