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

The Story: This is one father-grandfather battle that won’t get settled at family court.

The Review: Speaking of characters who’ve been around so long that you’ve taken their rep for granted, doesn’t it strike you as odd that Ra’s Al Ghul is considered one of Batman’s mortal enemies—heck, one of the most formidable villains of the DCU—and yet when was the last time we saw him actually do anything threatening himself? As head of the League of Assassins, he has a right to delegate the dirty work, of course, but that does nothing for his own street cred.

If nothing else, this issue allows Ra’s to unleash his skill against Bruce, and the resulting match is quite impressive. The only downside is, for all its intensity, it feels all too brief. We’re talking about a showdown between Batman and an immortal assassin, with years of hatred and the biggest possible stake—Bruce’s son, Ra’s’ grandson—spurring them on. This should be a battle for the ages, and what we get falls sadly short.

But of course, this issue is ridiculously exposition-heavy, taking up the entire first act with pure chatter while the parties stand off over the Lazarus Pit. Besides a minor interruption from Frank regarding the dark origins of Nanda Parbat before it became a magical paradise, Ra’s does almost all the talking, running through explanations on the special properties of Nanda’s Pit, the crystal he uses to activate it, and his own motivations:

“I can think of no better revenge for all the pain you have brought to my family than forcing you to witness your own son and his mother standing beside me, completely under my control, as we wipe the world clean and lay a new foundation for the Al Ghul legacy to build upon.”

That was all one sentence, by the way. A lot of the issue is like this, and not all of it is necessary, much less entertaining. Even by the standards of superhero comics, it all comes off as a bit much.

I think we can all agree it would’ve been preferable for Tomasi to cut the talk short and just let the issue be what it is, which is all-out warfare between tribal wendigoes, ninjas, and man-bat assassins, with Batman, Ra’s, and Frank thrown in for good measure. As good as it gets at some points, there are definitely missed opportunities here, such as Frank covering Bruce’s back by facing the onslaught of Ra’s army himself, only for us to cut away and see his prone body tossed onto the Bat-plane, pages later.

Yet all this, crazy as it is, is only the build-up to one of the better WTF moments in recent months: the sudden, explosive opening of a Boom Tube and the arrival of Glorious Godfrey with a squadron of minions fresh from Apokolips. In DCU past, Batman had a surly history with Darkseid, but how and why the New Gods figure into his life now, I have no idea. I’m telling you, Batman and Robin may stand in the shadow of Scott Snyder’s epic Batman run, but it is doing everything in its power to step out. If Tomasi can manage to create a sensible plot out of this, which honestly isn’t his strong suit, he may very well succeed.

I should hope that Tomasi thanks his lucky stars every day for getting someone like Gleason to be his artistic collaborator, because I can think of very few artists who can emphasize the outrageousness of this issue’s events yet remain entirely credible. Gleason will drag you deep into the story, with looming close-ups that allow you to appreciate every leathery, wrinkled fold of Frankenstein’s flesh, then he’ll just as suddenly thrust you out again, just in time to watch breathlessly as Frank charges down a flight of stone steps, massive broadsword upraised over his shoulder, the shadows of his enemies flickering against the wall while his own shadow towers over them. There is not a single panel here that feels rote or mechanical; Gleason’s thought and care is present in each and every one.

Conclusion: One of the rare occasions when less substance and more action would’ve profited the issue, but it’s a good adrenaline rush of a read all the same.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “Salutations from Apokolips!” may be one of my favorite greetings, ever.