After a brief stand-in mini arc by Paul Cornell, the reins have been handed over on Batman and Robin, the batbook that Grant built, to great success. Batman and Robin #20 really feels like the start of something beautiful. There were many reasons to be excited for this run, helmed by Peter Tomasi, previously an excellent Nightwing scribe, and his partner in comics, Patrick Gleason, and this issue totally lives up to those expectations. The writer slips back into the character with ease and Dick Grayson hits a perfect balance between levity and gravitas. Gleason does his part, his lumpy distinct style upholding the nightmare cartoon feeling that Frank Quitely layed down for the book and that the other artists kept up.
The meat of the storyline seems to be about inverting the Angelic, Transcendent and the light into things Earthly, Human and off. That seems to be the right tone for the book, built on the idea of taking the wacky hallucinogenic but child-friendly aesthetic of the silver age Batman and turning it the wicked and seedy. As Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne ride Man-bat around the city surrounded by a hoard of glowing white light bats, there’s a palpable sense of the mirror house, of hysteria, as someone seems to be taking the Dark Knight’s vampire turned hero myth and turning it on its glowing evil head.
But even aside from the success of that story, which is just beginning, the issue wins you over with an early sequence that feels pitch perfect, as all of the Bat-boys sit together to watch the movie that inspired Bruce. In this simple three page sequence, Tomasi justifies the title of this book as well as the current status quo as all the Batmen and Robins sit together in a scene that feels neither false nor cliche. In fact, it feels right. There’s a strange sense after you’ve been reading Superhero comics for a while, something about the crossroads of your addicted cravings and your weariness of repeating storylines, that you aren’t enjoying yourself as much as living in a recurring dream, one that at any moment can slip between horror and joy depending on the competency of the author and artists. The wonderful thing about this new terrain is that it feels as if the world has actually shifted forward: Bruce is inspired by something other than his original mission, as are all of his sons down to Damian. In having them all watch Zorro together, Tomasi points us directly at this: the family is now a unit nobly urged on by their own positive myth, not one empowered by the traumas of their leader’s youth. On a side note, it makes me a bit sad that Tim Drake’s father was killed off, as the Robin with his own father spurred by his own dedication and nobility rather than tragedy would seem to fit in really well with the current state of things.
Tagged: Batman and Robin · Dick Grayson · Patrick Gleason · Peter Tomasi
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