Any comic book geek worth his salt has wondered what would happen if Gotham had the kind of superheroes that Metropolis and Central City does, and the conclusion is Gotham probably wouldn’t be a crime-infested disaster for long. This would definitely be the case if Bruce were somehow to gain superpowers. You know he’d figure out every application of every ability, no matter how minute, and he’d whip that city into shape faster than Justin Bieber makes an asshole of himself.*
Tomasi confirms all of our suspicions by having Damian use his new powers to gather up a passel of Gotham’s biggest offenders into a neat package and threaten them into submission, all within the first five pages. The scene is played for comedy, what with Bruce flying in to give Damian a fatherly glare as if his son had just ridden his bike outside the one-block radius. But it’s also a warning about how easily Damian can upset the whole integrity of the Bat-universe if Tomasi’s not careful.
You suspect that’s the reason why, in addition to Bruce giving the “With great power comes great responsibility” talk, Tomasi already writes in signs that this is an unstable, probably temporary situation. The sudden falter of Damian’s strength right as he’s savoring his moment of glory in the troposphere, foreshadows an Icarus-like fall if he’s not careful about controlling the new level of confidence his recent resurrection and powers have given him. Bruce is quick to clarify that Damian didn’t beat death, only put it off for a while.
So Tomasi kills two birds with one stone by taking Damian out of Gotham and to the Justice League satellite, where he can wreak havoc elsewhere with folks who aren’t intimidated by what he can do. Although Damian’s not as cool about the excursion as he tries to pass off, his efforts to act unfazed by the likes of Superman and Shazam are a great reminder of why you ever liked the brat in the first place. It’s a delicate ballet act, acting the douche and still being likable, but Damian somehow pulls it off. Maybe it’s because you know he’s not being mean so much as covering up his real feelings with prickliness, not unlike his dad.
I’m especially excited by the team-up between Damian and Billy, who are equals in both power and age. Before DC had its relaunch, Damian had worked with a lot of its young heroes (most notably Stephanie Brown as Batgirl), which helped mellow him out a lot. In this new universe, he hasn’t had that luxury, but Billy is a good start. Billy seems to take Damian’s acerbic personality in stride, either because he started out as a jerk himself or else he’s just too self-involved to notice, and Damian gets to play a bit of straight man to Billy’s juvenile ramblings.
Batman and Robin has always been more bombastic and willing to cross into outsized superheroics than other Bat-titles, but all this League action takes it to another level. Chalk that to the sheer wackiness that brought this storyline about. In speculating on how Damian came by his powers, Bruce goes through this long, nonsensical rigmarole that basically boils down to that he subconsciously wished it to happen, and it did. Trust me, Tomasi didn’t really think through the how and why of this so much as he fell in love with a great idea and made it happen by any means necessary, logic be damned.
And just when is Gleason going to get the recognition he deserves already? Considering the rush you get watching Bruce and Damian do their regular crimefighting thing, it’s a given that Gleason will make Damian’s superpowered action absolutely electrifying. At the same time, Gleason undercuts it with good humor, nailing gags like Bruce, upside-down in the Bat-plane, sternly telling off Damian, who looks away with a nonchalant expression that can’t completely hide its chagrin. And man, there are some great emotional moments in the issue: Damian’s look of wonder as he walks through the League HQ, the way he fiddles with his cape as he tries to cover up his excitement, Billy’s sour expression as he recalls getting punched by Bruce in front of everyone, the list goes on. Kalisz brings out the best in Gleason’s art every time, sometimes by keeping things bright and vibrant, other times with cool, placid colors. This is a veteran art team that knows how to work with each other, and it shows every time.
* On second thought, that’s a gross exaggeration. No one can do anything faster than that.
– The nice thing about younger, less square Superman is he has the freedom to be kind of pissed at a little kid.
A very different kind of Batman story that’s a little shaky, idea-wise, but which the creative team’s enthusiasm manages to sell anyway.