Like a boat in the storm, Batman and Robin goes up… and then it goes down. The entire first run of the series featuring Batman and Robin battling Ducard has some moments of real genius and some moments that dragged on forever. Now we’re into the next story arc and the same up and down waves have happened again. There are two parts to Batman & Robin #11, one that’s up and one that’s down.
The up part is writer Peter J. Tomasi’s kick on making Damian Wayne an absolute douche. Call me the nude house of wacky people, but I think Damian is headed for a bad fall, maybe even a permanent one. The focus of that seems to be Batman Incorporated, but Tomasi is still throwing in his two cents. Damian’s latest act of unnecessary bravado has to do with proving to all the other Robins that he is the best there ever will be. In issue 10 Damian made the challenge and then went head to head with his longtime nemesis Tim Drake (Robin 3).
Issue 11 opens with Batman’s bratty kid throwing down the gauntlet against Jason Todd (Robin 2). I’m all for some Jason Todd beatings because I hate that his character was brought back from the dead. Jason and Damian trade a frenzy of barbs and fists before the latest Robin beats Todd with a sucker punch. I found that a little odd. As combative and confrontational as Damian is about being the best, the sucker punch feels beneath him. I guess Tomasi is trying to effectively script a deadly ten year old who might see any win as a win but as much as Damian tosses around his League Of Shadows pedigree the cheat felt outside the character.
Where Batman and Robin # 11 falters is the major story-arc involving a rather bland villain named Terminus. Apparently our man Terminus has created an army who are attempting to brand civilians with the Batman symbol for reasons that are less than clear. At one point it seems as though Terminus is using the blood of the victims to try and regenerate himself but then he commits last minute suicide before turning into what appears to be a giant robot with the Bat symbol on it. Sounds cool right? It would be except Tomasi plays it a little too close the chest. As a reader you’ll spend more time re-reading to follow the plot than enjoying it. There were also some questionable Batman lines such as “If it's fear you want to spread, let me show you!” or when Batman cries out “Leave my city alone!!” As I said, the ship goes up and the ship goes down.
One thing I will give Tomasi, you never know what he’ll do next. One month its Robin and Batman trying to work out their domestic troubles. Then they go after a killer, then Robin kills, then he challenges other Robins and then there’s a big Bat-Bot wreaking havoc. Love it or hate it, you have to give Tomasi full kudos for being inventive. I guess with any art form there has to be risk. It might not work, and sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does, Tomasi’s issues are some of the best out there.
Patrick Gleason holds down the art duties fairly well as always. I’m still not a fan of how he pencils faces, they all have the same look to them, even the expression tend to be repetitive. On the action front Gleason shines. I love his use of mini-panels within a page to demonstrate the lightening fast moves between Jason Todd and Damian. I also like his more grizzly images such as Terminus finally melting away to nothing. Gleason has a flair for the dramatic., which is a plus when drawing Batman.
Perhaps my favorite talent of Gleason is that he makes Batman scary. The use of shadow is key to this. Oddly enough one of the best drawings is for one of the stupidest lines in the series. When Batman is bellowing about sharing fear, Gleason makes him look like a demon. It reminds us why the criminals fear Batman to begin with. The entire issue is riddled with great pencils of Batman. I also have to give a nod to colorists John Kalisz, Allen Passalaqua and Hi-fi. They do some off the chart work on issue 11.
Batman and Robin is a trip, a venture into uncharted sections of Batman’s world. Moving through uncharted waters can lead to disaster and genius. It’s always fun to see which Peter J. Tomasi will bring to us.
(Story: 2, Art: 4)