By: Peter J. Tomasi (story), Patrick Gleason (pencils), Mick Gray & Mark Irwin (inks), John Kalisz (colors)
The Story: A Robin by any other name would still kick as much butt.
The Review: As this very series has shown us, there have been many Robins over the years, and each one—with perhaps the exception of Jason Todd—has his own set of believers. While Damian Wayne has taken center focus in the DCU as of late, many readers still consider the true Robin to be the first. It’s true that Damian is, in both biology and personality, Bruce’s son, but the eldest son always has a special place in a father’s heart—even if he’s an adopted one.
But there are other reasons why Dick is the most appropriate person to finally break Bruce out of his funk. He’s always been the most well-adjusted member of the Bat-family, somehow maintaining his easygoing playfulness despite the work he’s chosen for himself. That go-with-the-flow attitude has worked out very well for him, especially when it comes to dealing with Bruce’s craziness. Instead of stopping Bruce’s relentless attempts to simulate a scenario where he saves Damian’s life, Dick cheerfully joins in: “This a two player?”
Dick explains to Alfred that he knows it’s no use talking Bruce out of it anyway, and in so doing demonstrates a lot of wisdom about the art of compassion. Instead of trying to cut off his mentor’s grief, he shares in it. While the other members of the “cavalry,” as Bruce calls them, tried to forcibly lift him out of the darkness, Dick isn’t afraid to wade into it himself. He knows he can always find his way out, allowing Bruce to follow.
In this case, the light at the end of the tunnel is the realization that a person does not overcome pain by isolating himself, but rather by reaching out to others. The fact that Bruce finally succeeds in saving Damian with Dick’s help, whereas he constantly failed on his own, cleverly proves him right and wrong at the same time; yes, it’s true that he could’ve prevented his son’s death, but only by relying on help.
You may think it’s futile for Dick to lend Bruce his help on realizing what is ultimately a fantasy, but there’s some fruit borne from this. Even after achieving the best possible result in the simulation, it has all the empty thrill of a fanfiction: the joy of seeing Damian survive and revel in saving the world must give way to the cold, hard reality that he in fact did die and will not come back, and no amount of imagination will change that. It’s an important realization for Bruce, but for us as well—at least those who had any kind of attachment to the late Boy Wonder.
Before he departs, Dick has one final lesson to impart to Bruce, one that comes from his own deep relationship with Damian. Much as Bruce blames himself for what happened, Dick points out another hard truth:
“Damian knew he was a soldier—he was trained for this war in body and mind from the moment he was born—trained more than any of us—even you.”
Bruce only half-believes this, but, as Dick says, this is perfectly natural. No one can expect a truly loving father to fully absolve himself from his son’s death. But Dick, despite being half Bruce’s age, has the emotional maturity to recognize that redemption doesn’t come from trying to change the past, but from finding a better future. Making up with an equally devastated Alfred is a good start. Nothing is right in the Bat-world if Bruce and Alfred are on the outs.
I’ve said it before, but Gleason is one of the most underrated artists in the DC army of artists. I imagine this is because it’s too easy to look at his sort of ungainly art and dismiss it. But that would be overlooking the breakneck energy pulsing through his work, the passion and fury which exudes from every movement the characters make. Gleason can also bring the emotion as well, going beyond the blunt forces of happy and sad to more complicated expressions: regret, tenderness, indignation, suspicion, sauciness. I couldn’t possibly tell you which is which, but one of the inkers definitely keeps Gleason’s lines tighter than the other, who leaves some figures looking a bit fuzzy. But over it all, Kalisz brings his trademark monochromes to enhance the energy level of every scene: hot for violence, cold for tragedy, and gold for warmth.
Conclusion: The issue reminds us that you can’t bring back what’s lost, but you can always repair what’s left. While Gleason gives life to a wishful fantasy, Tomasi gently guides us towards the last stages of Batman’s grievance cycle.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Don’t you love the cocky expression Damian has as he perfectly mimics his dad’s voice? Endearing and heartbreaking.
– So…what is Internet 3.0 supposed to be again? Just virtual reality, basically?