By Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Patrick Gleason (pencils), Mick Gray (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Patrick Brosseau (letters)
The Story: Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Robin (his son Damian Wayne) mark the anniversary of Thomas and Martha’s death before being called out to work: someone is attempting to steal nuclear fuel rods from a Gotham power plant. And that someone could prove to be far more dangerous than even that terrifying crime implies.
What’s Good: Although there is clearly a story arc that needs to be set up in this first issue, the key to this #1 for me was in seeing how Tomasi chose to handle the interaction between Bruce and Damian. A great deal has been written about how good the dynamic between Damian and Dick Grayson was (and I agree), so I was very interested to see how the Batman/Robin dynamic would change in the DCnU, and how that would affect the feel of this book.
Aside from a few issues which I’ll discuss below, it actually works quite well. Rather than the old Dick/Damian ‘bright and happy vs. dark and brooding’ clash, the new dynamic duo seem to be establishing an interesting ‘old guard vs. new guard’ competition that has the potential to be very interesting indeed. While I think having Damian essentially disrespect Bruce’s parents might have taken the antagonism factor a bit far for my taste (I found myself wanting to smack him for that, which is not a reaction I’ve had to the character before), it was effective–if not subtle–in establishing where the two characters stand with each other.
As for the plot itself…nothing to complain about, but nothing special yet either. Once again, Tomasi gets a little over-enthusiastic in establishing character, as our villain gets a big (and–at least in my opinion–unnecessary) kick the dog moment at the end. Still, the setup is interesting enough that I’m firmly on board for the rest of the arc, and look forward to seeing how this plays out now that the lion’s share of the exposition and general character establishment have been taken care of.
What’s Not So Good: While I like the general dynamic being set up between Bruce and Damian, I think it’s weakened considerably by the father/son relationship that necessarily runs under every line and interaction they share. It makes Damian come off as a petulant child talking back to his father, rather than a brilliant and brash young independent hero with a (somewhat understandable) superiority complex. It lessens both of them as characters, and undercuts the schools of thought that Tomasi is setting them up as representing. This isn’t the fault of the book or the writing–Tomasi is clearly doing what he can–it’s simply an unavoidable side effect of the way characters have been placed in the DCnU. And while I think there is great potential for excellent father/son interaction down the road, right now, it feels like the family angle is simply in the way.
Conclusion: Not a spectacular beginning, but good enough that it’s worth sticking around for at least an arc or two to see how this develops. I hope Tomasi is able to find a way to balance the Wayne’s family relationship with their crime fighting partnership more effectively in future issues.