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

The Story: Another heartwarming Bat-family reunion.

The Review: The Super-family may have the reputation for being the brighter, friendlier gang of heroes, but it’s the Bat-family that’s gotten tighter over time. Part of that is the changes from the relaunch; the Supers are no longer on intimate terms while the Bats have preserved all their past history with each other. But I think the difference also comes from the fact that the Supers have less need of each other by virtue of their powers; to keep Gotham running, the Bats must rely on their collective strength.

So things haven’t been quite right since Death of the Family drove a wedge between Bruce and the others, one that he exacerbated in post-death of Damian grief. The reconciliation between him, Babs, Jason, and Tim—the three he hurt the most during that period—thus comes right on time, premised on an excellent promise on Bruce’s part: complete and utter truthfulness.

Right away, he makes good on his vow by admitting he wants them to do him a favor, now that he’s going to fetch Damian’s body. Instead of asking what we’re all expecting, however, he simply requests that they carry on his good work if he doesn’t make it back. They all protest, and to be honest, Tomasi lays on their renewed loyalty a little thick.

Jason: “Your buddies in the League turned you down—we’re coming with you.”

Tim: “You’re not doing this alone.”

Babs: “We need to this with you, Bruce.”

Dick: “Just say the word, and I’m at your side on Apokolips until the bitter end.”

Still, these are heartwarming assurances, and more likely than not, they’ll come through for him anyway, despite his insistence on going it alone. Even Luthor sees the suicidal nature of Bruce’s personal mission, going so far as to give a last-minute upgrade to the Hellbat before Bruce Boom-Tubes it out of there.

There really isn’t much meat to this issue. If you’ve read #33 or Robin Rises, most of the information Bruce has to divulge to his family is very familiar if not tediously repetitious. There isn’t much action either, as he tricks his way into the Watchtower for the power suit. The real strength of the issue is, as always, Tomasi’s character work, particularly the warmth among the Bats, even Jason. “Alfred,” he says, “have a nice home cooked reunion meal waiting upstairs, now that we’ve kumbaya’d?”

“The oven is cold, Jason, but there is some peanut butter and jelly in the pantry, if you’d care to indulge,” replies the butler dryly.*

Tomasi even gets a great handle on the Bruce-Luthor dynamic, which he portrays as one of mutual distrust and respect. Luthor describes their affinity this way: “[W]e’re in the same club, you and I. Just two incredibly rich mere moral boys playing dress up in the end.”

“I don’t play at anything, Luthor.”

That could be your problem.” There’s an effortless chemistry here, which makes it an even bigger pity that the two men are so diametrically opposed to each other.

The dialogue is natural enough as is, but Gleason’s use of body language and facial expression is what turns Batman and Robin into one of the most credible mainstream superhero books around. He has as much understanding of each character’s psychology as Tomasi, and he proves it with images like Dick’s acrobatic leap from the shadows, so different from the way Bruce often reveals himself. Dick’s limbs are open, playful, showy, just like he is himself, and if you never saw him before, you take an instant liking to him. Gleason conveys so much in the tiniest gestures: Bruce’s rueful smile, Alfred’s finger in the air, the anxious way Babs pulls back on her hair. This kind of realism is enhanced by Kalisz’s use of lighting. He’s not afraid to let the major source of light dominate the palette of a scene, whether it’s the blue-green of the Batcave’s computers or the wrathful scarlet of the Hellbat.

Conclusion: Great art and some lovely character moments, but substantially a bit thin, especially for committed fans.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * But of course, all it takes is for Bruce to say Alfred’s name and immediately it’s all, “A stack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches coming right up, Master Bruce.” Why you hating on Jason, Al?

– Since when was Tim taller than Jason? I was under the impression Tim was kind of a smaller guy in general from the other Robins.

– I kind of love that Bruce doesn’t feel the need to find a distraction for Captain Cold. It says so much about the status of Cold on the League.