By: Peter J. Tomasi (story), Patrick Gleason & Tomas Giorello (art) Mick Gray (inks), John Kalisz (colors)

The Story: Some fathers and sons go fishing; others repair spacecraft in planetary orbit.

The Review: Among the many kinds of storylines superhero comics tend to neglect, they seem most skittish when it comes to writing about kids.  Aside from the Fantastic Four, I can’t think of a single hero of any prominence who’s managed to have children without inviting disaster.  Simply not writing them into the story may be the only way creators can avoid the bummers that logically come with the vigilante business, but it saps the superhero universe of its diversity.

I think that’s another reason why so many of these kids get into costume sooner or later; it’s the only way to keep them included in the hero’s life without spending too much time away from the actual superhero stuff.  The side-effect is it’s incredibly difficult to have genuine parent-child moments in the middle of the some bit of comic book ridiculousness.  I also think there’s a tendency with many writers to equate kids with humor and cuteness, leaving little room for them to have serious sides of their own.

Maybe that’s the secret of Damian’s appeal.  You can take him seriously as a character because of his many complications, and you can grow to love him because he started from such an angry, unsympathetic place and only now has begun to reveal a softer, more childlike side.  If you look at the Damian in a bodysuit who threatened his upended father in #0 with a katana, that’s a very different lad than the one in a hoodie, dozing against his big dog’s flanks.  Watching him regain a morsel of his innocence has been a heartening experience for us all.

In the same way that Damian has grown into a more dimensional character, his relationship with Bruce has achieved a kind of legitimacy that seemed unfathomable when he first appeared on the scene.  Although Batman’s prepared for most things, fatherhood probably wasn’t one of them.  That said, Bruce has stepped up to his duty as always, but only in this issue does it seem like being a dad is starting to come a little more natural to him.

Tomasi has done such a careful job of making the titular characters and their bond come across as genuine that you can believe that they’d have an intimate father-son moment in a rocket ship shadowed by a solar eclipse.  It’s a lovely backdrop to a lovely scene, where Damian asks some of the questions a motherless—so to speak—child always wants to ask his father, and where Bruce quietly and honestly answers, the way every father should.  This is an enormous sign of trust from the Dark Knight, as much as him telling Damian to learn how keep his satellite in order, “[i]n case anything every happens to me.”

Tomasi has always been stronger at these personal bits than devising compelling plots, but the latest set of foes have an interesting thing going for them with their creepy reverence for the legend of Saturn devouring his children.  What gets confusing is the intrusion of plot points from other Batman titles, like the return of Joker in Batman and the bounty on Robin in Batman Inc. Kudos to Tomasi for being sensitive to his co-workers’ storylines, but it does make it unclear whether the newest danger comes from Joker or Talia or some independent baddie altogether.

Gleason’s art has no right being as moving and beautiful as it is.  The way he exaggerates form and shape should take you out of the reality of the issue, but every moment feels totally immersive and convincing.  This talent allows him to nail any shocker of a moment he draws; villainous ambushes actually quicken your heart a bit.  Giorello, not so much.  I can’t tell if his problem is he goes too big or not big enough, but he can’t pull off the strange (i.e. flesh-eating cultists) the way Gleason does.  Besides, there’s a strange haze over all his art that stands in stark contrast to the clean, polished look of his co-artist.

Conclusion: A solid, emotionally-driven read complicated by the presence, however slight, of other storylines.  The pick-up art towards the end also tarnishes an otherwise visually sound issue.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Damian is proving a real animal-lover, isn’t he?  First Titus, then Bat-Cow, and now Spotty the sewer rat.  Although I would’ve enjoyed it had Tomasi named the rat Ben instead.