To read Robin: Son of Batman is to enjoy a story assembled with the habits of a visual artist. Writer Patrick Gleason, known primarily to this point for his drawing, has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the last year. His mastery of character, particularly the character of Damian Wayne, has proven sure and refreshing. His themes have been interesting, his plots intricate and well-designed. Still, one definitely sees patterns of visual thought in the construction of his stories. He proceeds image to image. The story of Robin: Son of Batman #6 is framed by captivity and freedom: the literal captivity and freedom of Goliath the dragon bat; the metaphorical, because moral, captivity and freedom of Damian as he overcomes guilt and self-loathing.
Gleason can write sharp, insightful prose. Perhaps the most pointed line of dialogue in the entire series to this point comes when Damian, incidentally drawn with a dusky skin color much more appropriate to his ostensible Chinese and Arabic heritage, point my asks Talia al Ghul, “Why did you kill me, Mother?” The answer isn’t very good, but then it’s likely impossible to provide a good answer to a question like that if you are a talent this side of Euripides. Rather, Gleason has Talia say that she doesn’t know, that it was as if she was under a malign influence. He then reaches for his inevitable visual metaphor as Talia produces a black pearl that contains her evil nature and offers it to her son.
Generally, though, Gleason should not be faulted for reaching too far to address powerful questions. His main problem comes from loading the narrative with exposition until it groans beneath the strain. The exact nature of the war between the al Ghuls and the Lu’un Darga remains convoluted, as is the relationship of the Lu’un Darga to Damian’s Year of Blood. The long speeches on family and redemption read as forced and unnatural. Even Gleason’s sure understanding of character cannot always overcome his poor mastery of dialogue.
The story ends as Damian returns the pearl to his mother, giving her freedom to choose her own path even as he frees Goliath and dedicates himself to the ideals of Robin, the vision of life and redemption against ruin and corruption and death. He then heads for Gotham, prepared for ROBIN WAR, and possibly for the events chronicled in GRAYSON #12. The Year of Blood was long ago. The Year of Salvation continues.