Batman vs. Robin #4 is an action packed, emotionally resonant penultimate chapter that expertly brings together various threads from the series into a satisfying brawl. Mahmud Asrar and Scott Godlewski turn in excellent art that deliver the high stakes goods, while also deftly handling Waid’s melodramatic tendencies.
The first three pages clearly establish the current stakes, which is welcome given the sheer amount of magical chaos that ensued over the past few issues. Most importantly, Nezha is now fully juiced up with Lazarus Pit energy. His plan to have Damian kill Bruce is in full effect, and his own son is prowling around for an opportunity to attack Nezha personally. Waid’s scripts have done an excellent job of distilling the current stakes to make them easy to follow, which is particularly helpful in a monthly series. It doesn’t take long for Bruce and Damian to fight, offering a sense of surprise early as it leaves more room for later developments.
A highlight of the entire series has been Batman’s narration as he works through both physical and mental obstacles. His emotional state is touched upon as he struggles to accept the fact that his son has been turned against him after a lifetime of trying to pry him away from his destiny in the League of Assassins. However, equally gripping is Batman noting every fighting style Damian utilizes against him as he tries to take Damian down despite being worn out on his journey to the hideout itself. The focus on narration also allows the fight to play out without unnecessary, and potentially cheesy, banter between Bruce and Damian. The majority of the fight plays out silently, making the fight feel more intense, as if both combatants are heavily focused on taking each other down instead of making quips. There’s a truly fantastic page where Godlewski uses three smaller horizontal panels to track Damian’s attacks as Bruce narrates the techniques, which ends on a closer up panel of them in a stalemate. It looks great, makes the action easy to track, and perfectly captures how the two are evenly matched.
The art in general is extremely strong with the transitions between Asrar and Godlewski noticeable, but well placed as Asrar tends to handle the bigger emotional beats and twists, while Godlewski handles more of the actual fights. The only thing that fully betrays the inconsistency between the two artists is that Godlewski draws Mother Soul much younger than Asrar, to the degree where I actually got confused who she was at times. Jordie Bellaire once again turns in excellent work, injecting a sense of lushness to the underground caves that could very easily be a barren setting. The cave walls are always cast in shades of green, but heavy shadows create depth and texture that make the backgrounds more than just a blur of rock. Lastly, Scott Wands’ letters are subtly perfect, especially as the large amount of narration panels requires careful placement to lead the eye.
After the obligatory Batman versus Robin showdown, the supporting cast takes on a larger role as Talia arrives to even the odds against Nezha and Mother Soul. There’s a fairly convenient off-panel plot point where Batman narrates that he had previously scouted the cave and freed Talia. Nonetheless, the action ramps up once Batman takes possession of all the magic Nezha has stolen by putting on the helmet it was stored in. From this point on, Waid turns up the melodrama as several threads come into play all at once. Batman is unable to fully embrace magic as it requires “submission” but the “voices of all the magic users Nezha has defeated” guide him as he uses their power on their behalf. It’s a great moment that gives some agency to the magical characters that were taken out somewhat unceremoniously in the first issue. Another highlight comes when Talia and Damian both confront Mother Soul on the edge of a giant chasm. It’s a great moment where Damian must choose between the fiery anger of Talia who wouldn’t hesitate to murder Mother Soul, or extend mercy to her as Batman would. The final result is perfectly executed as Mother Soul twists the knife in a unique way, leading Damian to process the outcome on his own terms.
Asrar handles most of the final pages where sacrifices come into play and the drama reaches its peak. Even before the final third of the issue Waid delivered several emotional highlights, so pulling off even more in the final pages is a feat in itself. Simply put, this is a fantastically paced comic book full of action, drama, and the type of heroics befitting Batman and his allies. Nezha’s son is the biggest question mark as of now, and while he makes an appearance and fights Nezha himself, his inclusion hasn’t done much beyond extending the theme of troubled father-son bonds to the villain as well.
- You’ve been waiting for Damian and Bruce to have one last fight.
- A fully magic powered Batman fighting Nezha appeals to you.
- You don’t mind another examination of Damian’s ties to both Talia and Bruce.
Batman vs. Robin #4 is a thrilling and emotionally resonant comic that is sure to excite fans on multiple levels. The art is epic in scope without losing sight of the more tender moments ripe for exploration in a classic father-son showdown. Waid’s script is well paced while the art team fires on all cylinders, resulting in the best issue of the series and one of my favorites of the year.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.