BATMAN AND RED HOOD a.k.a. BATMAN AND ROBIN #20 (DC, July 2013) BATMAN AND RED ROBIN a.k.a. BATMAN AND ROBIN #19 (DC, June 2013)
After the heart and soul was cut out from this book, you might think that the creative team would just meander around after its’ central theme was so abruptly removed. Surface appearances (the cover logos with changing titles monthly) would certainly indicate that BATMAN AND ROBIN has been reduced to a simple team-up book with a new guest and new quest each month. That is not the case with the creative team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason (assisted in Issue #20 by Cliff Richards). They have ramped up their game, and certainly appear to be up to the challenge to keep this an engaging and meaningful book in the Bat-family. I fear too many readers have dropped this from their pull list after the death of Damian. They are missing out on what remains one of the best Batman titles in a long time.
The heart of this book remains Damian Wayne; and it deals with how the body continues to function after the heart has been removed. Rather than just move forward and bury the memories of that fatal event (as so many comics titles seem to treat the death of core characters) Bruce Wayne continues to grieve for his son, to revisit old memories, to turn a little harder and isolate himself a bit from the outside world, and to seek outlets for his rage against those who plotted to bring down a young boy. It’s gripping drama; and it’s done very well. The art team heightens the mood with somber shades of gray, black and aggressive red. Throughout most of Issue #20 we never see Bruce’s eyes - - they are buried in pools of black or gray.
Issue #20 sees the return of the quick-witted and perky Carrie Kelley, Damians’ former tutor, who encounters a blunt and abrupt Bruce when she comes to return part of her retainer and ask about Damian’s welfare (she’s lied to). She seems to charm both Titus (the great dane) as well as Alfred, and gets a job offer from him. I have a feeling she will be playing a bigger role in future issues. (The new Robin? That could be interesting.) There is plenty of action this issue as Batman enlists the help of Red Hood/Jason Todd to disable a nest of international bounty hunters and then takes him on an unexpected side journey. (Batman using bullets? You’ll have to see for yourself.) Upon finding out the purpose of this, Jason feels used and vents his hurt feelings to Bruce. This leads to an angry back and forth confrontation that reveals the core of Bruce’s current actions and motivations and is sure to lead to some interesting stories as he pairs up with other Bat-family members in future issues. This is leagues removed from the standard team-up book. You should continue to read this title.
The cover to Issue #19 poses a teaser question and then flips open to the inner side (a two-page cover) to reveal the surprise (lending further credence to my speculation above). The opening pages of this issue also feature the Shakespeare-quoting, fun-loving Carrie Kelley. There is an incredibly ironic moment (which I cannot spoil) when Bruce visits the Kelley residence to pay her bill.
There’s an unexpected but very effective meeting of Batman and Frankenstein that reveals the reason for Batman’s current isolation (even keeping his whereabouts and movements away from Alfred). The grim look of determination on the unshaven face of Batman helps to reinforce the sentiments. Red Robin does make a presence this issue but not in the way you might expect. A further appreciation for the wonderful invention of Mary Shelly’s imagination occurs as a side benefit of the creative way that Tomasi weaves that classic tale into the webbing of Batman’s current endeavors. Two misguided intellects. So sad.
It bears repeating. You should continue to read this title.