Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: Batman and Robin, Volumes 1 and 2

I know, I know. I promised to write this review a long time ago, but things keep happening in my life. No, not anything nearly as dramatic as what Richard (I can't bring myself to call him "Dick") and Damian live through, but enough to keep me from writing a review on this blog. At least up until now.

I borrowed these two graphic novels from my local public library (I love should, too) and read through them in a few evenings. Not exactly peaceful and calming material to go through right before bedtime, but they inspired some truly entertaining dreams. But what are they about, anyway?

The story of this Batman and Robin, starring Richard Grayson as the heir apparent to the "Mantle of the Bat" and Damian Wayne, the unlikely son of Bruce and Talia al Ghul, is set in the period of time when Bruce Wayne is struggling to return to the present after Darkseid's Omega beams sent him slamming back across the time line to the days of "Alley Oop" (almost). How will this dynamic duo fair as Gotham's protectors in the absence of the original Dark Knight?

Actually, just about as you'd imagine. Not all that great.

You'd think that with all of the experience Grayson had, first as the original Robin and then as Nightwing, he'd be a better Batman, but it seems as if he's intimidated by the cape and the cowl. If anyone could fill Bruce's "bat boots", it should be Richard, but he just doesn't act like they're a very good fit. Contrast this with Damian Wayne, all of ten years old, and yet he acts like he could be Batman right now. This is the part that was tough for me to swallow. I don't care if the little punk was raised by an assassin's league and his grandfather is Ras al Ghul, he still should have gotten his ass kicked on a more or less regular basis, right from jump street.

Actually, there were plenty of times Robin did eat the pavement and at one point, even got his back broken (sound familiar?). However, the little jerk always managed to bounce back and get into trouble again. If there was ever a Robin I wanted to see get a bullet in the brain, it was Damian. Even "Dick" wasn't this much of a "whiny bitch" when he first put on the "pixie boots". Frankly, it would have been better for Batman to team up with the Red Hood (Jason Todd).

Nobody loves this new Batman and Robin. Even casual observers on the GPD can tell it's not the "real" Batman, and Gordon tolerates them only because of his faith in the first Robin turned Batman (or maybe his faith in the return of the first Batman). Everyone was waiting for them to go "ker-splat" including me, while I was reading Volume 1. I know that Damian really is supposed to be a bad-ass, but I kept remembering myself at age ten and even if I had the attitude of a rattlesnake and the best ten-year-old body in the business, One good punch to the gut or a knife across my throat would have ended my crime fighting story before it started. It's hard to imagine Damian being ready at so young an age. He acted more like an "emo" 14 year old than a junior grade assassin. He even had the balls to call Alfred "Pennyworth" and to treat him like a "servant", which is something his father never would have done.

As it turns out, Richard never does (at least in the first 2 volumes of this series) get comfortable with being Batman. So much so, that he tries to resurrect what he thinks is Bruce's body by putting it in a Lazarus pit. Too bad it was a half brain-dead clone of Bruce that he gets a hold of instead (remember, Bruce is very much alive and leaping across the pages of history like a dark caped version of Sam Beckett in an extended episode of Quantum Leap) of the real Bruce. The "bat thing" that comes out of the pit is just about too much for our "dynamic duo", especially since Damian is trying to recover from the experimental surgery that put his spine back together and (covertly) turned him into a remote controlled pawn of his mother.

Amazingly, the two of them, with the much needed assistance of Alfred, manage to put away "Bat-zombie" before he makes them permanent residents of the land on the other side of the Styx. Little by little the two start to meld into a team as Damian begins to see what it is to truly take on his father's values, and Richard realizes that Bruce isn't coming back to save him. Richard takes his biggest step to becoming the next Dark Knight when he realizes he must become Batman, because there's just no one else.

Damian finally turns a corner when his mother uses him to try and assassinate Richard, and Grayson turns his own corner when, by the final page of Volume 2, he demonstrates his own detective skills in discovering the true identity of the heretofore mysterious Oberon Sexton.

Oh, it was kind of "cute" when Richard tried to hit on Batwoman not knowing that she'd have more interest in Barbara Gordon or Dinah Lance. Oh well, welcome to 21st century relationships, Dick.

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