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Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews Peter J. Tomasi’s third Volume in the Batman and Robin series, a tie in to the titular Death of the Family, with artwork from Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray – featuring Bruce Wayne as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin. This is published by DC Comics as part of their New 52 Relaunch.
“An excellent swansong to Damian Wayne – Tomasi has made me care about the character a lot more than I would have otherwise. He proves that he’s a strong and gifted writer and whilst this series may not always receive as much attention as Snyder’s Batman Tomasi proves with this collection it’s certainly worthy of it.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Story: Peter J. Tomasi | Art: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Ardian Syaf | Cover: Patrick Gleason | Publisher: DC Comics | Collects: Batman and Robin #15-17, Batman and Robin Annual #1, Batman #17 Price: $22.99
A direct tie to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Death in the Family” Batman story comes the disturbingly creepy and psychological thriller of Batman and Robin by the all star team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.
The Joker returns to test Batman and the extended Bat-family but when he squares off against Batman’s son Damian aka Robin! With Batman’s life hanging in the balance, The Clown Prince of Crime pushes Robin to his limits and beyond. And with the 300th anniversary of the founding of Gotham approaches, tragedy strikes the Bat-family.
I’ve never been Damian Wayne’s biggest fan. In fact, he probably ranks the lowest of all the Robins in my view – with a Pre-New 52 Tim Drake right up there with Dick Grayson at the Top. Carrie Kelly falls in the Top 3 as well – mainly because of The Dark Knight Returns animated movies that I recently watched – but there’s no way Damian would have been anywhere near the Top – partly because I’m not a big fan of the whole Batman’s Son concept – but also because from what I’ve seen of Damian in several issues, he’s just a brat. However - whilst I’ve only read #1 of this series before jumping in with the Volume (and #18 onwards, but they don’t feature Damian) I can safely say that the character is starting to grow on me. Most of the DC Comics Universe will know that Damian died in the Batman Incorporated series by Grant Morrison – and reading this trade afterwards somehow made me connect more to the character. It’s like watching Serenity or Torchwood: Children of the Earth but knowing that a character who you love will not make it out at the end of it. Whilst I didn’t really love Damian before going in – Tomasi certainly turned the tables and made me actually feel sorry for the character.
The hardcover collection of Batman and Robin carries the “Death of the Family” banner, collecting all of the tie-ins to the event from Scott Snyder. This henceforth brings up a problem that’s not Tomasi’s fault, but DC’s – the hardcovers should be released a lot quicker in comparison when the storyline wraps up. We’re well into Zero Year now in the main Batman comics and all of the other series that tied in to the event have had the vast majority, if not all of an arc done already – so it doesn’t really feel like anything new here. This also means that in order to understand what’s going on you’ll have to be following Snyder’s Batman series – something that will annoy readers who don’t like his work but are fans of Tomasi’s. And to top it all off, the third Volume of Death of the Family is remarkably brief for a DC trade – collecting just three issues and an Annual, as well as the Batman #17 issue which seems to be reprinted in just about every Batman Vol. 3. So in short, if you’re looking to save money then I recommend that you don’t buy this collection in hardcover. Wait til the trade or just snap up the single issues if you can. Just $22.99 isn’t really worth the content – at least in my opinion, but if you can get it for cheaper than go for it. However – none of this should be held against Tomasi, because for what it’s worth – Batman and Robin Vol. 3 is a cracking read. Whilst it’s not quite at the level of Snyder’s Batman or even Layman’s Detective Comics - it’s still a very good book that should please readers looking for some interaction between Bruce Wayne and Damian – something that even when Damian was alive, the other Batbooks (Incorporated aside) were short of.
All the stories inside this collection capture the tone of the series perfectly. Patrick Gleason is a strong artist with some great visuals and Ardian Syaf – who did the first Volume of Gail Simone’s Batgirl - impresses with the Annual which kicks off this collection. It’s an over-sized tale that sees Damian leading Bruce on a hunt around the Earth leaving him alone in Wayne Manor. This sees Damian given the chance to hit the streets as a miniature Dark Knight – in a story that proves to be one of the best Batman single issues of the year. It’s easily the best part of the graphic novel and it’s the Annual that made me for the first time start to root for Damian as a character. It’s a playful and fun storyline but don’t expect it to last – as soon as it wraps up, we’re thrust into the grimdarkness of the Death of the Family. However this doesn’t feel out of place and a jarring switch – instead, it works. Bearing though – it’ll only work if you’re familiar with what goes down in that Volume – otherwise the switch won’t work. The second half of the book feels more like the stuff of nightmares than the lighter tone of the Annual, but whilst the first portion of the crossover works the latter stages – where we witness Joker’s monologuing, don’t. Tomasi doesn’t really make the character as intimidating as Snyder did and as a result the final act seems quickly forgettable, which is a real shame because about 90% of the content of this graphic novel is amazing. I just wish that Tomasi had been able to wrap this up better.
Batman #17 is a nice resolution to Death of the Family but as most of the readers will have already read it it doesn’t really feel worthy of its inclusion. I was reading a lot of the Death of the Family trades myself and this issue got repeated in every single one – by the end I was starting to get incredibly sick of it which was a real shame because when I read it for the first time I really enjoyed it. Now it’s lost some of it’s impact and I won’t be returning to read it at least for a while. I guess though it’s my fault for binge-reading all of the tie-ins at once – If I spread them out then I wouldn’t be tired of reading it by the end.
Overall then, Batman and Robin Vol. 3 is a great book let down by a few shortcomings and the fact that it’s overpriced. Don’t buy it for the full asking price – get it off Amazon or wait for the TBP. Or even see if you can get the single issues – the content when brought individually is actually cheaper than the main Volume as a whole. But overall – it’s a solid read. Don’t pass it up because of its price. Fans of Death of the Family, Damian Wayne or the current Batman and Robin series should find something to enjoy here.
DEATH OF THE FAMILY: Batman Vol. 3 by Scott Snyder | Batgirl Vol. 3 by Gail Simone | Nightwing Vol. 3 by Kyle Higgins, Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 3 by Scott Lobdell | Teen Titans Vol. 3 by Scott Lobdell | Suicide Squad Vol. 3 by Adam Glass | Detective Comics Vol. 3 by John Layman | The Joker: Death of the Family by Various Writers