Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Batman & Robin, Volume 6: The Hunt for Robin Review (Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason)

Batman’s given up his grief-driven quest to resurrect Damian and finally laid him and Damian’s mother, Talia, to rest. But crazy old Ra’s Al-Ghul has dug up their corpses and plans to bring them back to life himself! Ooo, Batman’s so mad! He’s gotta get Damian’s corpse back from the demented bastard before that happens – but wait, even wackier hi-jinks ensue once visitors from another world arrive! What’s a Dark Knight to do, eh?

After Grant Morrison killed off Damian, Peter Tomasi’s Batman & Robin series basically became Batman Team-Up as the Caped Crusader was joined by a different character in each issue. So it continues in The Hunt for Robin as Batman’s joined by Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Frankenstein (what a good sport Frankenstein is too – Batman was literally dissecting him a couple books ago!). If you enjoy that format, you’ll like this book too but for me this volume felt like it kept repeating itself and took a long time to get anywhere worthwhile.

For example, in each team-up, Bats + 1 is chasing Ra’s who’s always one step ahead. They encounter some things to fight and beat them. The issue’s over. Do it again next issue. This is basically the entire book. It’s so formulaic and generic there’s nothing to hold the interest, particularly if you’ve read a fair amount of superhero comics and have seen these scenarios play out a thousand times before.

The dialogue is trite at best with Wonder Woman making the belated observation after yet another pointless fight “We rushed in without assessing the situation” – but that’s what they ALWAYS do and they never learn any different! And that’s what this book is far too full of: Big Dumb Fight Scenes, the most overused genre trope. Characters fight until they stop, then decide to go at it again. It’s so tedious especially as nothing is ever resolved this way. 

The Hellbat suit is introduced in this volume and it essentially transforms Batman into Iron Man (and is maybe there to prepare audiences for the robot Batfleck headed our way next year). I’ve never liked that idiotic argument about how Batman’s lame because he doesn’t have any superpowers like the rest of the Justice League and this attempt to “correct” that seems like a misstep away from the true character. It also means Batman has to be less imaginative in his fights as he can just stand there, letting the armour take the hits, and then fire his tank-like arsenal instead. He’s supposed to be a ninja!! 

Post-Forever Evil, the Justice League line-up here is different and the Watchtower is back up though the story behind all that is covered in Justice League, Volume 6: Injustice Heroes. You don’t have to read that to get what happens in this book, I just mention it in case there are some readers wondering when all that stuff happened. There’s a summary of the last decade or so of Batman comics in the Andy Kubert-drawn bumper issue which is boring if you already know it all, but I guess it’s useful to new readers who don’t.

Patrick Gleason, Andy Kubert and Doug Mahnke’s art is fine as always but nothing too special – the usual superhero art quality. No pages or panels stood out for me. I suppose that panel where Ra’s henchmen were overwhelmed by thousands of tiny crabs (not that kind) telepathically controlled by Aquaman was pretty funny!

Tomasi’s The Hunt for Robin is overly repetitive in structure with a much-too-heavy reliance on superheroes fighting to pad everything out. The storyline is far too thin for a full volume and I would’ve preferred a lot of it to be compressed to at least half its length. The ending looks very promising (particularly if you’re a Jack Kirby fan) and it’s a shame we’ve got to wait until Volume 7 to see what happens next when, if all the stupid fighting had been edited out, we’d have gotten to it in this one instead.

Oh well. Hopefully the next volume will be a new high point for this title when Robin… returns?

Batman & Robin, Volume 6: The Hunt for Robin

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