By: Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Pere Perez (artist), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: Boy and Girl Wonders meet again as Batgirl and Robin team up—so to speak—to track down a band of child kidnappers.  Plus, Robin in a moon bounce!

The Review: It has truly been the year of Damian Wayne.  After first penned into being by Grant Morrison, he disappeared from the books, only to return for sporadic (and brief) guest shots.  But ever since becoming the Robin of Batman and Robin, it seems that DC writers just can’t get enough of him.  One thing that stands out is how consistently Damian’s character remains across different portrayals: pretentious, arrogant, and obnoxious, at times unbearably so.

Bryan Q. Miller’s version of the kid ninja is probably the most enjoyable of all.  Damian in B&R tends to embrace his moody side and over on Teen Titans he’s a little too obviously out for blood.  Writers tend to fixate on his antisocial personality, but the cleverness of Miller’s take revolves around how beneath all his deadliness, Damian’s just another spoiled brat with a sheltered upbringing.  And what’s the fun of sheltered brats?  Exposing them to your average, everyday life experiences, which is exactly what Miller does, revealing intriguing layers to Damian’s character in the process.

The magnitude of Damian’s loneliness and sincere desire to be appreciated (dare I say, loved) by his father has been written before, but here, all of those things come out in a very natural, nuanced way.  There are no big dramatic scenes, but Damian’s bafflement toward the concepts of schooldays and field trips, his overblown boasts about all the responsibilities Batman has supposedly given him, and his inability to goof around, even when goofing is part of the mission—all of these will make you feel, for the first time ever probably, just plain sorry for him.

The most outstanding moment of this issue has to be Damian’s choice of pseudonym while blending in with some other kids at a science museum: “My name is…Bruce.”  In just four words, Miller manages to give Damian a heart and convince me that this is a kid worth caring about, and seeing how he’ll turn out.  If you don’t manage to feel even a smidgeon of pity for the kid after reading that scene, well—I don’t think you and I can ever watch Up together.

And there couldn’t be a more perfect guide for Damian to the real world than the fun-loving, witty, and hapless Stephanie Brown.  As taken as you are with Damian, Miller makes sure Batgirl remains the charming star of her own title.  Her cheerful (im)patience with her younger partner shows how deftly she handles the kid—I mean, who else could have wrangled Damian into wearing shorts and a T-shirt with not one, but four smiley faces on it?  Their banter plays so well that even when they’re not doing much of anything from panel to panel, you’re always kept zipping along, enjoying their squabbles and repartee.  Unfortunately, their opponents come off as just about the dumbest and less threatening group of thugs ever, but that’s the price paid for such tremendous character work on the heroes, I suppose.

Miller’s strong story gets great treatment from Pere Perez’s art, which do much to heighten the emotions of every scene, whether it be thrilling, sentimental, or hilarious.  Perez’s facial expressions, especially for Damian, does as much work in revealing character as Miller’s writing.  The slightly forlorn looks Perez gives Damian speak volumes about what he’s really thinking underneath all his brashness.  At times the lines appear somewhat distorted, but mostly Perez does a fine job.

Conclusion: Still one of the—I’m just gonna say it—funnest products from DC nowadays, Batgirl lets you into a sunnier side of Gotham.  The inclusion of Damian Wayne into the mix offers one of the best characterizations of him yet, and adds a whole ‘nother level of entertainment to the issue.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

 

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