By: Peter J. Tomasi (story), Patrick Gleason (pencils), Mick Gray (inks), John Kalisz (colors)

The Story: Don’t be so surprised, Batman; almost everyone hates family pictures.

The Review: There are a lot of reasons to like Batman, but the one I think is fundamental to his mass popularity over the years is his particularly aggressive form of crime-fighting.  On paper, we appreciate heroes who seek justice without compromising principle—which Batman does, only he toes the line a bit more.  He may stop short of killing criminals, but he has no problem doling out a lot of pain in the process, which appeals to the side of us that wants vengeance.

However, as the old maxim goes, violence breeds more violence, or something similar, and this issue demonstrates that all of Batman’s efforts may have exacerbated Gotham’s crime situation more than anything else.  We open on a round table of Bat-victims, a mixture of petty criminals and minor villains who have all suffered injury by the Dark Knight and now seem even more crazed and out for blood than before.  These are some seriously scarred people here, riddled with melted flesh, deformed faces, and a lot of Batarang mishaps.

How fitting, then, that this issue dives into the streak of violence which runs hotter in some of the Bat-family than others.  It stands to reason; each of them got into this biz not just to make up for their past tragedies, but also as a kind of catharsis.  So for all the Robins, past and present, toeing the line where their methods may go too far is a trait they collectively share, almost like it was inherited from the man who fathered them all.

Instead of recognizing this relationship, the younger Wayne men fixate on their differences, more interested in separating themselves than coming together, which definitely throws a wrench into Bruce’s plans.  His hope to bring the whole family together may seem uncharacteristically sentimental, but remember: just recently he nearly lost Damian and he has his own experiences of losing loved ones before their time.  If he wants to “memorialize” the important people in his life now, it may be a sign he expects to lose some of them at some point.

I’m betting my money on either Tim or Damian, and likely both at the same time since they’re probably going to kill each other at some point.  Damian insists on creating friction between him and the other Robins for no reason, but the heat between him and Tim has really gotten out of hand.  That said, their raging fight in this issue seems like a necessary scene; it hints that Damian’s challenging behavior is his always particular way of gaining acceptance.  The response of each Robin is telling: Dick’s baffled why Damian needs to prove anything, since he’s already accepted his former sidekick; Jason’s face-in-palm has all the weariness of a guy who can’t believe he still has to deal with this nonsense even when he’s not really part of the family anymore; and Tim scoffs in a way that shows he’s both amused and threatened by Damian’s antics.  None of them may know it, but they are exhibiting real brotherly interaction here.

How did I perceive all that from just a few panels?  Gleason’s exaggerated sense of the human body has the effect of making character expression doubly more potent.  Looking at the reaction shot of Dick, Jason, and Tim to Damian’s warning, their individual body language and facial features are so true to each of their personalities, yet equally hilarious.  Gleason gives even Titus more character than a lot of human figures we’ve seen from some supposedly great artists.

Conclusion: A downtime issue for the Bat-family that’s actually not down most of its time, but with more family than you might think.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Methinks Alfred has gotten all too comfortable about his job security.  To Bruce’s idle threat to fire him, he responds, with perfect indifferent composure, “Not in this lifetime, sir.”