When Batman and Robin debuted in June 2009, it had a lot to do to win readers over. Many were angry over the shake-ups to the Batfamily, from the loss of Bruce to the new prominence of Damian Wayne (who, strange though it may seem, was pretty unpopular back then). By the end of issue one, it had completely won me over. Suddenly, I liked Damian, I loved Dick Grayson as Batman, and I desperately wanted to read more. Just a little over two years later, the new Batman and Robin is in the same position. Readers are upset about losing Dick as Batman, worried about the changes to the Batman world, and need to be won over, fast. This issue has the added challenge of appealing to new readers, many of whom may not even know that Batman has a son.
I don't think this issue will win over readers in the same way. Damian's dynamic with Bruce lacks the spark that he and Dick had, and I suspect most new readers won't walk away from the issue as Damian fans. At the same time, it's a step up from what writer Peter Tomasi was doing on the title before, and this issue may help to lure back readers who lost interest in Batman and Robin after Grant Morrison left. There were years worth of good Dick and Damian stories left to be told, but there's plenty of potential in the relationship between Batman and son, and I hope that Tomasi is able to bring it out.
Damian is a character that Tomasi's struggled to write in the past. In his previous Batman and Robin issues, Tomasi seemed to focus on Damian's bratty behavior while ignoring the reasons for it, and the character's best traits were rarely showcased. There's a little of that here, but as a whole, this was a much stronger take on the character. He's certainly regressed since we last saw him, but I think that makes sense. There's a lot of resentment wrapped up in Damian's feelings towards both his parents, and the departure of Dick Grayson, who has been more of a parent to him than Bruce or Talia ever was, probably stings. His line about Bruce being easier to look up to when he wasn't around rang very true, and was very similar to the way Damian reacted when he finally met his idol Cassandra Cain. The problem is that this take on Damian will turn off many readers who don't know his history and who will only see him as an obnoxious kid. My hope is that Tomasi will work at strengthening the relationship between Damian and Bruce, and will show off Damian's considerable charms.
Bruce was the character whose dialogue felt off to me. I appreciated the message behind a lot of what he was saying, but thought the lines themselves were often very strange. The message of Bruce's speech in Crime Alley is a great one, and builds off the development Morrison has given the character, but the lines were overwrought to the point where I appreciated Damian's sarcastic interjections. Maybe the intention was to show that Bruce feels like he needs to put on a show for his son, but I don't think it quite came through, and it definitely impacted my enjoyment of the book. He did have a few nice lines, and I'm really hoping this won't be a problem in future issues.
This issue runs with everything that came before, including Bruce's Batman Inc. initiative, and could have easily been published as Batman and Robin #27. The status quo change is left unexplained, but I believe this is the fault of the Batman Inc. delays and not this particular issue. I wouldn't say that this story is mired in continuity, but this isn't as accessible as many of last week's offerings. Much like Batwoman and Green Lantern #1, this isn't really a rebooted book- it's just a renumbered comic. Brand new readers should be able to follow what's going on, but may be left with several questions about the events in this issue.
The villain introduced in this title, Nobody, has a lot of promise. I like the juxtaposition of Nobody trying to erase all that a person is against Bruce really finding himself again. He's creepy in a very old school, Alan Grant way, especially in the scene where he dissolves the bodies. Batman already has one of the most impressive rogues galleries in comics, and it'll be interesting to see how many of these new villains have real staying power. While I appreciated his scenes in the comic, I felt like he broke up the issue's pacing in a way that hurt the main Bruce and Damian tale. This may be something that reads better in trade.
Patrick Gleason's work on the this book has rarely gotten the credit he deserved. Artists like Frank Quitely, Frazer Irving, and Cameron Stewart are a tough act to follow, and I hope the title's fresh start will allow him to appreciate his art on its own strengths. His action scenes are full of energy, and he does a great job with the book's quieter moments. While the dialogue in the Crime Alley scene didn't quite work for me, Gleason's panels were pitch perfect and added some lovely atmosphere to the scene. I think he's continually improving as an artist, and I'd love to see him experiment with his style more in the months to come.
This is a title that is good, but not great, and may lack appeal for those less familiar with what came before. If 're only looking to read one Batman title a month, I'd suggest next week's Batman over this one. I recommend this book for to Damian Wayne fans, people looking to read a whole lot of Batman, and those who are really interested in learning more about Bruce Wayne. If this issue piqued your interest in Damian or in Batman Inc, try checking out Batman and Robin 1-16 as well as Batman Inc., which will conclude its first season December 21.