By: Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Patrick Gleason (penciller), Mick Gray (inker), John Kalisz & Guy Major (colorists)

The Story: Son, what say we leave this cadaver and play some catch?

The Review: Over the years, Batman has been built up in both competence and legend that he’s attained a mythic status well in keeping with the fact that he hangs with the most powerful beings on the planet without question.  Yet we should never make the mistake of seeing him as invulnerable—and I’m not talking physically.  Everyone admires the feats he can achieve with his mortal frame, but people don’t give him nearly enough credit for his emotional honesty.

Bruce may not wallow in his feelings, and it make take something rather drastic to push him to express himself (i.e. the near-death of his son), but he does not lie nor understate his emotions.  In that respect, Damian really is his son.  This young, would-be assassin is so tough he only reveals his vulnerabilities when pushed to the utter limit, but when he does, he surprises you.  His faint murmurings about protecting “our castle…our kingdom” reveal a romantic view to the world he lives in: he is the prince helping his king-father defend Gotham from their enemies.

Tomasi just does this kind of thing so well: sincere character moments that resonate with you despite their outrageous context.  For any guy—and girl, for that matter—out there, who hasn’t had a moment when he feels the crushing weight of disappointing his father and begs for understanding?  And who hasn’t felt the rush of relief and comfort when his father simply picks him up and carries him home?  If you can connect with that, it hardly matters that both father and son are bleeding and leaving a corpse-strewn, flaming wreck of a boat in their wake.

Having gone through one of the greatest tests such a relationship can take, it’d be preposterous if Bruce and Damian didn’t come out of the experience without better understanding of each other.  Tomasi does not shy away from hard conversations, but he also doesn’t overplay them, which is why the Waynes’ sober conversation about killing feels so genuine.  Bruce couches his stance mostly in moral platitudes, and Damian admits he’s not entirely convinced, but both admit their sympathy for each other’s views, and that’s a huge step.

It shouldn’t surprise you their exchange is gruff and formal, but the underlying emotions are so clear you can feel just how profound and important this scene is for both of them, even if they don’t acknowledge it outright.  Robin says, “And here I thought we didn’t like each other.”  Bruce corrects him.  “We don’t understand each other.  There’s a difference.”  That’s as close to a profession of love as you might get for these guys.  And then you can always revel in the warmth when Bruce finally gets his “mundane” moment.  It’s a great, lovely scene, even thrilling because of how rare and therefore precious such a moment must be for these characters.

Gleason’s emotional work is plainly amazing in this issue.  You will probably never get tears from the characters we’re working with here, but even without them, Gleason conveys very clearly how moved they are.  Damian simply has never seemed so human before, and that’s all Gleason.  I especially love the resemblance between father and son when they spot the bat signal in the sky: the identical tilt of their heads, their furrowed brows, and even their expression.

Conclusion: Tomasi delivers what so few writers do: a satisfying conclusion to his story, where you feel a real sense of accomplishment, of major development.  The emotional rewards from this arc feel like good compensation for your time and interest indeed.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Alfred is de facto one of the greatest medical practitioners in the DCU by now, right?

– I’m gonna say it again: I freaking love dogs.  Watching Bruce stumble on his butt from pulling a baseball out of Titus mouth is probably one of my favorite moments ever.