By: Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Patrick Gleason (penciller), Mick Gray (inker), John Kalisz (colorist)
The Story: Not one of your typical father-son bonding times, but to each his own…
The Review: Since family has been such a prevalent motif in this series, it got me reflecting on the special relationship between our titular stars. It then suddenly occurred to me how the parent-child duo is getting increasingly common in comics nowadays, what with Cyclops-Hope, Mr. Fantastic-Franklin and Valeria, Animal Man-Maxine and Cliff. This is an important trend, since family remains a largely untapped mine of stories in this medium.
Once you read through this issue, you can clearly see why: the world of vigilantism is a rather sordid place for a kid to hang around. Innocence doesn’t stay unstained for long, and sooner or later these younglings will run into some very gray situations that even grown-ups struggle to deal with. Plus, no matter how you look at it, there’s something a bit disturbing about either exposing the child to such danger or having them adapt, even take to it.
And that’s pretty much the big reason why Damian as a character is so off-putting and yet completely engrossing. I suspect you have the same feelings toward him as you would a ghost-child; while horrified about what they’ve become, you remain invested in their fate, hoping that somehow, they might regain the purity you expect from them. Tomasi has made it very easy to believe the ship has sailed on that point for Damian, and the opening of this issue felt very much like a seal on his destiny as a remorseless assassin, Nobody’s empty gun be damned.
All that does is add another cord of tension humming through the story as you barrel towards the climax of this motherlode of father-son issues. As it turns out, the anger Morgan Ducard holds against Bruce not only involves a “favorite sons” resentment, but also a good dose of wounded pride as well, not only for himself, but on behalf of his father as well. You have to remember, though, that Bruce left the Ducards over a conflict of principles. That Morgan well-nigh hisses about Bruce’s “only child” mentality indicates he has a deeply-rooted insecurity, in spite of the front of professionalism he tries to employ (“I don’t believe in fanfare or a signature style…”).
Ultimately, that insecurity plays into Nobody’s swift and violent reaction to Robin’s—spoiler alert—betrayal at the end. Our boy’s too much his father’s son to indulge in emotional monologues, so he offers only this very simple, and very perfect, explanation for cleaving to Batman in spite of a deep animosity towards his rules and attitudes: “Because he’s my father you idiot.” If you’re wise, you know you don’t really need a better reason than that. Considering Morgan’s daddy had little of what we might call paternal loyalty to his son, Nobody can’t help seeing this devotion between Bruce and Damian and not want to destroy it.
Gleason makes no real attempt at realism in his art. He creates his own sense of proportion and physics, and makes the world he draws function in line with it. That’s why, in spite of the outrageous shape of his characters, the wild use of perspective, the uncanny special effects, it all looks completely convincing and real. And let me just say, the man knows how to work a close-up; we get plenty in this issue, and rather than feeling claustrophobic, they ramp the tension to breaking point. Kudos to Gray and Kalisz for excellent support, making the already affecting even more effective.
Conclusion: It’s a very different kind of drama and Batman story Tomasi’s telling here, but a powerful one just the same, very much the rival of Scott Snyder’s acclaimed work on Batman.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – If Damian survives this, at least he’ll have added a very valuable technique to his skill set. Putting someone out without killing them using only two fingers seems like a pretty handy thing to know; I can immediately think of several individuals in my life on whom I’d like to try it—even with mistakes.