By: Peter J. Tomasi (story), Patrick Gleason (pencils), Mick Gray, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen (inks), John Kalisz, Allen Passalaqua, Hi-Fi (colors)

The Story: You know, some people would kill for their brand to get this viral.

The Review: Much as people like to make a big deal about Tomasi’s sensitive style of writing, the fact that he has a Batman ongoing under his belt means he must resonate with the essential darkness of the Dark Knight in some way.  The last arc of this series definitely mixed these two forces together, exploring Damian’s murderous instinct with chilling starkness and clarity, but also drawing out its pathos, turning our horror into a kind of sympathy.

This issue offers plenty more examples of Tomasi appealing both to our compassion and disgust, but let’s start with the opening.  Now, a part of this is Tomasi’s scripting, and a part of it Gleason’s artistic choices (more on that later), but the moment when we realize the significance of Damian leaving the crowbar on Jason’s pillow—it really is kind of sick (“tasteless,” as Damian himself admits).  But that crowbar and all the meaning attached to it may be the only thing that gets you to feel something like pity for Jason, who’s rather unlikable across the board.

At the same time, I’m not so sure Damian’s actions here are entirely mean-spirited.  Yes, he wants acknowledgment from his brethren, but as we saw in his fight with Tim, he wants to get at something more integral within them.  Why else would he play so hard on Jason’s hypothetical feelings of betrayal regarding Bruce?  Jason may claim that he’s way past that hang-up, but his vitriolic recollection of the facts say otherwise: “Your dear old dad pretended to love me like a son and then let the Joker get away with blowing me up—“

This all leads to my crazy theory: rather than creating conflict within the fractured Bat-family, he may actually be trying to bring them together.  He knows he’s a divisive factor with Tim, so he forced Tim to confront the possibility that they have something in common.  He knows Jason is as much at fault for his outcast status in the family, and he pushes that point while the two duke it out.  And how about the fact that if Jason wants revenge, he’ll have to go after Damian in his place of residence—where Bruce is?

And if Damian does all this, it no doubt has everything to do with Bruce saying last issue, with Batman-style wishfulness, that he wants a memorial of his whole family, together, such as it is.  And we all know Damian will do anything to please his dad.  So when Batman yells at him to remember his “failure” with Nobody, Damian obeys not necessarily out of regret over what he did, but because he failed his father’s orders (and he points out Jason failed to do the same).

Oh, yeah, we also have some plot happening in this issue.  I don’t mean to belittle that part of it at all, but Tomasi’s human drama writing just packs so much to it that you can’t help fixating on that.  But meanwhile, you have this monumentally large-scale conflict happening between Batman and Terminus, who in two issues establishes himself as no mere rogue, but as a nemesis worth remembering.  Indeed, it may be the fact that his death is imminent (“Terminal status: point of no return.”) that he goes all-out in his challenge, one Batman can’t ignore.

As mentioned earlier, Gleason’s direction of the second page, where you see in the background blood-red flashbacks (thanks, colorists Kalisz, Passsalaqua, and Hi-Fi) of Jason’s fall to Joker’s merciless attack, just makes that moment so incredibly gripping.  It’s almost like you freshly experience Jason’s trauma as he does.  And Gleason just puts in that same substantial amount of thought into everything he draws.  The man will draw the reflection of a woman surrounded by Bat-branders in a rearview mirror depicted a quarter-inch large on a page.  That’s commitment.

Conclusion: A worthy read from top to bottom, which only lacks so far in knowing exactly where the original source of all the tension comes from.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Gordon: “Been driving long?”  Robin: “Since I was eight.”  Gordon: “Oh, good, that’s a relief.”  Commissioner Gordon, how I long you were real so I can just buy you a beer and a brat.