I suppose there is some law, somewhere, or at least a statistical probability, that any discussion of English-language storytelling will sooner or later end up at William Shakespeare. And, arriving at the Bard, it is very likely that the discussion will segue to Hamlet. Let us then satisfy probability by quoting the Danish prince’s advice to the players that they suit “the action to the words, the word to the action.” It is not given to comic book creators to follow that rule very often, as words and actions, or rather words and images, usually come from the work of different people. In the case of Robin: Son of Batman, we see what happens when one person, in this case Patrick Gleason, really can create both script and art.
Issue #3 of Gleason’s book is visually busy to the point of chaos. Panels crowd nearly every page, with almost every page presenting a different layout. The result is a book crammed with so much visual information that many pages need a couple of quick scans before the reader can grasp the flow of the action. The torrent of visual data is matched by the flood of verbal exposition, which likewise rewards repeated reading.
Luckily, Gleason has already established something of a pattern for the series. Damian’s quest to atone for his year of blood by undoing the evil acts he performed during that al Ghul rite of passage provides the continuing structure the series requires. The particular quest in this issue involves returning a crystal stolen from a race of winged humanoids dwelling in a remote peak in Iceland, a task that allows for some spectacular aerial acrobatics.
Further structure comes from Damian’s continued rivalry with the younger Nobody, a rivalry that erupts in an amusing hand-to-hand duel in this issue. This is a strong secondary plot, but frankly one that Gleason plays strictly by the numbers. It is an enemies-becoming-friends storyline that could have shown up in any major entertainment medium over the last twenty years or so. Right on cue, the two antagonists settle down to share experiences with demanding legacies, not to mention difficult fathers, and let slip small but important personal details. The young Nobody tells Damian her real name, Maya Ducard, while Damian reveals the biologically improbable but extremely ironic fact that he still has his primary teeth.
However, while this very predictable set of developments unfolds, several chaotic factors threaten to make life very interesting for the two young heroes. First of all, Maya decides to pull out of an agreement her father had previously entered into with an unknown party. It turns out that said party was Slade Wilson, Deathstroke, and he is not pleased at having a contract arbitrarily cancelled.
But Damian has an even greater complication headed in his direction. His mother, Talia al Ghul, has been revived by a mysterious, apparently subterranean, sect known as the Lu’un Darga. She has escaped from them and is making for the surface through a mystical obstacle called the Lazarus Heart. Her memories seem to have been partially expunged, except her hatred of her father, and her love for Damian.
Gleason's story continues to be interesting, but with this issue it is treading water. We understand Damian's goal of atonement, and more-or-less see the pattern of his relationship with Maya. Now the plot needs to show major movement in a linear, as opposed to a cyclic, direction. The appearance of Talia may promise such movement. But it is a promise as yet unfulfilled.