BATMAN AND ROBIN #16 (DC, March 2013): I’ve been reading here and there around the fringes of the “Death Of The Family” storyline and avoiding the main BATMAN title, preferring to read it in one fell swoop once the trade paperback is released. Just because I’m curious I pick up a Bat-related title here and there and find most of them to be non-essential to the main story. However, the BATMAN AND ROBIN “Death Of The Family” crossover stories are really good and feel directly linked into the main plot. You’ve got to admire what scripter Peter Tomasi has done with the son of Batman. He’s really developed Damian in a realistic fashion well beyond the original template by Grant Morrison, and probably created a warm spot in our hearts for what was originally set up to be a completely heartless character. Issue #16 is a prime example. Robin goes up against a Jokerfyed version of Batman and rather than defend himself by killing him, he tries to avoid serious injury while attempting to overcome the suggestions implanted by Joker = “kill Robin.” Robin has also been subjected to some of the Joker’s serum and tries to resist its influence by quoting Sun Tzu. As good as Tomasi is, artist Pat Gleason is right on par. The facial expressions he draws out of the characters and the great body language he details really help communicate the intensity of this situation. In a disturbing side incident, is that the missing Alfred under the Joker’s makeup? I hope not. This is the other Bat book you should be reading.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #17 (DC, April 2013): Events here occur following the conclusion of “Death Of The Family” although as I read the opening pages I wasn’t entirely sure of that. I thought for a moment (with great concern) that Robin was still a captive of The Joker and experiencing delusional events while under the influence of his mysterious serum. I’m not going to spoil this story for you by telling you that Bruce, Damian and Alfred all retire to bed after a hard day and all experience vivid realistic dreams that incorporate all the concerns and dreads that they have been experiencing recently. But dreams of fear can also morph into dreams of wish fulfillment and hope, and the issue concludes with a very warm message. Damian worries - - is there a dark side to my father? The joyous last days together of the Wayne family (Thomas Wayne, Martha Wayne and young Bruce) and the tragic “death” of that family trio left a powerful imprint that is the core of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Does Damain fill a void in Bruce’s life and bring some light to the darkness? I choked up as I got near the end of this issue. Wonderfully imagined by Peter Tomasi and brought to life by Pat Gleason’s illustrations, this is another Bat book that you should pick up. (I must seem like a broken record).
BATMAN AND ROBIN ANNUAL #1 (DC, March 2013): If you want a single sampling of Peter Tomasi’s contributions to the Batman mythos, this annual is the perfect one-shot. There is so much put into this story I’m amazed by how smooth it is to read. There is more character development of both Bruce and Damian, plus some insights into Alfred’s background as well as the Wayne family. All this is wrapped around an intriguing main story involving Damian’s persuading his father to engage in a global scavenger hunt so that he can put on his modified suit and play the role of Batman during night patrols. Damian’s various encounters with thugs and armored villains, as well as his communications with Commissioner Gordon and associates = is worth the price of admission. The only thing that could have made this even better for me would be if this issue was illustrated by the great Pat Gleason. However, artist Ardian Syaf does a very commendable job. Some of the panels are delightful to look at. I’m not a big fan of Syaf, but feel that this issue may be the absolute best of his work that I’ve seen so far.
DETECTIVE COMICS #17 (DC, April 2013): I’m amazed at the creative talents of John Layman on his signature book, CHEW, but thought him an odd choice to take over the scripting chores on DETECTIVE COMICS. Forget about it! This is great! It’s just a stand-alone story but it’s chock full of good stuff. We Batman fans are blessed to have Layman join Snyder and Tomasi as the triumvirate of Bat-scribes. Layman takes a different approach - - he remembers the title of the book and actually incorporates some mystery solving and deduction by Batman into his story, as well as show us that’s he’s no stranger to deep psychological probing of characters, especially villains. The Merry Maker and The League of Smiles are great creations. There’s also a subtle message about hero worship of flamboyant criminals in the mix that takes a wry jab at modern society and media. Finally, the backup story is linked directly to the main story and provides further fascinating detail on the origins of The Merry Maker. This tale ends with an unexpected twist that I didn’t see coming and loved it. What a finish! Artists Jason Fabok is a good detailer and will remind readers of Tony Daniels. Andy Clarke illustrates the “Doctor’s Orders” back-up story with some interesting line detail and great colors by Blond. I’m going to be checking out some future issues of DETECTIVE COMICS for sure.