Monday, 13 November 2017

Batman and Robin, Volume 4: Requiem for Damian Review (Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason)


Set in the wake of the dramatic events from Batman Incorporated, Volume 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted, Batman mourns his son’s death. And then goes mental trying to bring him back to life! Someone should’ve told Bruce to chill – superheroes never stay dead for long!

I know, I’m real late to the party on this one! Maybe if I’d read this at the time I’d find Batman & Robin, Volume 4: Requiem for Damian more moving, but, now that he’s been back in the DCU for a while now, I found the sorrow a bit overwrought and tedious.

That said, B&R #18 aka “the silent issue” was still quality. Writer Peter Tomasi hands the storytelling reins over to artist Patrick Gleason who absolutely knocks it out of the park with one powerful image after another of Batman dealing with the immediate grief of Damian’s death. I wasn’t terribly affected but I still appreciated that the issue was well done.

Most of the book sees Batman fruitlessly try to find ways to bring Damian back. In a couple of mediocre, pointless and alarmingly uncharacteristic episodes he hunts down and dissects Frankenstein before teaming up with trigger-happy Red Hood (aka Robin #2, Jason Todd). I guess he’s a grieving father so his mad behaviour is somewhat excusable. I did find it weird though that throughout all Batman’s resurrection efforts no-one mentioned Lazarus Pits – I mean, Damian’s granddad is Mr Lazarus Pit, Ra’s Al-Ghul!

It’s appropriate that in the same book that Bruce acts like Frank Miller’s cold and brutal Goddamn Batman that Carrie Kelley makes her New 52 debut. And what fortuitous timing! The Robin post has just been vacated so Carrie can step in, right? Wrong! The whole thing is a red herring as Tomasi instead makes Carrie Damian’s dance instructor(!) and dog carer. Her story arc is so forgettable and pointless – a completely wasted opportunity (a criticism which could be applied to most of the New 52).

By the Batgirl and Catwoman issues, I was just tired of the repetitive nature of the storytelling: Batman’s pissed, his friends reach out, he blanks them. It didn’t help that the Batgirl and Catwoman stories were the most boring and needless here. 

The book closes strongly though with Batman and Nightwing reliving Damian’s death in that fateful final battle against Leviathan through the magic of the most advanced VR headsets ever (hey, it’s superhero comics)! It’s still a powerful scene to re-read years later – which says more about Grant Morrison’s writing than Tomasi’s – though Alfred’s reaction brought back the waterworks.

Requiem for Damian is a mixed bag. It’s got a couple of brilliant issues sandwiching a handful of middling-to-crap ones, while the art of Patrick Gleason, who drew most of the book, is fantastic throughout. It would’ve been a fitting farewell to Damian, the best new Batman character of recent years, had his popularity not demanded a swift and inevitable return, undercutting the emotional send-off. It’s still better than most Batman books though!

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