Friday, 21 August 2015

Batman and Robin, Volume 3: Death of the Family Review (Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason)


This is the shortest collection in Peter J. Tomasi’s Batman and Robin run - two standalone issues bookend it with a three-issue Death of the Family arc in the middle (one of which is Batman #17 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo which I’m almost certain anyone picking up this volume will have read at least once already); essentially it’s four B&R issues long. 

But it’s also surprisingly good and one of my favourites in the series so far! Ironically the Death of the Family arc is the weakest part so let’s get that out of the way first. Damian tracks Joker to the Gotham zoo where he has to fight a Joker toxin-infected Batman for Joker’s amusement. Tomasi’s been hitting the father/son relationship angle pretty hard in this series and that continues in this book with the way Damian defeats Jokerized Batman. 

It’s an average story that, like the other Death of the Family tie-ins, didn’t really need to be told but I didn’t hate it. By far the best part was Patrick Gleason’s rendering of Joker who, remember, cut his face off and is wearing it as a mask. I’ve seen a number of artists draw this and not one has come close (even Capullo) to showing the true horror something like that would look like - until I saw Gleason’s depiction which was utterly chilling. Page after page of real Hannibal Lector shit - hats off to you, Mr Gleason! 

The other two stories are inconsequential but quite pleasant. If you like Damian Wayne, you’ll like them, and I love Damian. Damian sends Bruce and Alfred on a wild goose chase around the world with Bruce discovering previously unknown moments from his parents’ lives while Damian puts on the 666 outfit and becomes the Batman of Gotham for the first time (I call it the 666 outfit as future Damian/Batman debuted in Grant Morrison’s Batman #666 and was AWESOME!). 

Tomasi revealing a softer side to Bruce while giving Alfred more of a story presence was great, like reuniting Alf with the English stage and his ex-fiance - you want to make me a happy Batman reader, write Alfred well, and Tomasi does. But the callback to Morrison’s nightmarish devil future of Gotham with Damian as Batman? Aw, man. So good! DC NEED to make a future Damian/Batman series happen (I’m ignoring Andy Kubert’s fucked up Damian: Son of Batman miniseries). 

The final story, Life is But a Dream, is especially poignant if you know what’s around the corner for poor Damian. After a hard day’s night, Bruce, Damian and Alfred go to sleep, perchance to dream. Alfred’s dream was the best but his face after he wakes up, realising it’s a dream, right before he drifts off again, was so good. Alfred, man, he’s such an overlooked character but he’s brilliant. 

Given the poor quality of the other Death of the Family tie-ins, I wasn’t expecting much from this one but I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable it turned out to be. If you like Damian Wayne, his story with Bruce, and lots of nice little things that you rarely see in Batman, you’ll be charmed like I was with this short volume.

Batman and Robin, Volume 3: Death of the Family

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