By: Andy Kubert (story & art), Brad Anderson (colors)

The Story: Hey, at least his dad managed to survive until his adolescence.

The Review: I may not have loved the idea of Damian Wayne at first, but I grew inordinately fond of him over time, thanks to the efforts of both Grant Morrison and Peter J. Tomasi.*  I was thus very sorry to see him go in Batman Incorporated.  His death seemed cruel on a lot of levels, not only because he was so young, but also because it cut short his sweet, painful efforts to become a better hero and a more devoted son.

I’m probably not alone in admitting that the question of what might have been had Damian lived is haunting enough to drive me towards even a work of such dubious quality as this one.  DC’s artist-turned-writer campaign has produced quite a mixed bag of results, and Kubert is not a stupendous artist to begin, besides being untried at writing.  It seems extremely unlikely that DC would entrust a story that would have even the remotest chance of realization in continuity in such hands.  So Son of Batman functions more like a What If…? or Elseworlds-type series than a portent of Damian’s possible future.

For that, we must be grateful, because if this is the future Damian has to look forward to should he return to the living, then he was better off dead.  From the first page, Kubert immediately demonstrates that either he has no grasp on Damian’s character whatsoever, or he’s deliberately ignoring the portrayals lovingly done by Morrison and Tomasi.  This older Damian has not aged well, apparently, having lost much of the stoicism, intelligence, and wit that made his younger self appealing.  Most of the time, it appears as if Kubert confuses Damian’s voice with Jason Todd’s, loud and uncouth:

Damn! The body count is high! Most are vagrants and homeless.  Which explains why there were so few missing person reports. Ack! The smell is making me retch…”

Batman comes across no better.  Preachiness really doesn’t suit him, and neither does the curmudgeonly father routine.

“The were flesh and blood, Robin.  People with lives and souls.  We need to capture the monsters responsible. Stay sharp! …Focus on the mission, young man!  This is no time to start playing games!

The missteps in character work are only the tip of the problematic iceberg, however.  Kubert simply makes one bizarre storytelling choice after another in merciless succession, sinking your heart further with every scene: the death of Batman—by exploding fish;** Damian’s visit with his mother and grandfather, who merely repeat his own origin to him; his subsequent vendetta against every villain in the city who even claimed to have done the deed (“…It didn’t matter if any of these morons were telling the truth…I’d take ‘em ALL OUT.”); a completely cliché and badly sold scene where he takes confession and rejects the counsel received from ex-Commissioner Gordon, whose priestly status comes across like a lame attempt at cleverness.

If Kubert thinks he can redeem any of this with Bruce’s last-page appearance, he’s wrong.  If this is merely a delusion, prompting Damian to come to his senses and fulfill his legacy, then it’s not only trite, formulaic, and predictable, but it means that Batman really did die by exploding fish, and there’s really no way you can move on from that.  If this is really Batman come back to life, then it means that he faked his death in an appallingly drastic move to force Damian to either take on the cowl or to suffer needlessly.  It’s a lose-lose situation (for Kubert) either way.

Kubert’s art has none of the understated elegance or dignity of his father’s, nor does it possess his brother’s sleek, mainstream style.  While not at all unpleasant to look at, the art is grossly unsubtle, overdramatizing the already melodramatic material in the script.  Kubert’s very fond of tight shots, always getting right into the characters’ faces, which seems unnecessary, considering the overacting he puts them through (watch the spittle of milk flying from Damian’s mouth as he snaps at Alfred).

Occasionally, the expressions don’t even suit the tone of the scene, like Alfred’s harsh, accusatory face as he attempts to persuade Damian that Batman’s death isn’t his fault.  Posture is also awkward at times: Batman standing perfectly upright, with an unnatural twist of his neck and torso to flash a light upon the grisly homicides before him, his other arm pointlessly raised, the hand clawed up for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Conclusion: A misguided story in almost every way, practically its only value is in convincing you that Damian saved himself a lot of heartache by dying.  There are worse things than death, as this issue demonstrates.  Dropped.

Grade: D+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * We also shouldn’t sneeze at Damian’s excellent guest appearances in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl, the only title that could convincingly turn him into a comical straight man.

** Dear Lord, I wish I was kidding.