(DC Comics, 2014)
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils by Patrick Gleasno
Inks by Mick Gray
Color Artwork by John Kalisz
First of all let me just comment on how nice it is to have a series actually called Batman and Robin again because as regular readers of this series know, that has not been the case since Damien Wayne’s untimely demise during which time the book was called Batman and everyone from Ra’s al Ghul to Frankenstein. Over the duration of this Robin-less period the narratives have centered largely on a father’s grief and obsession with bringing his dead son back; in fact the only arc that strayed from this premise for any length of time featured a re-tooling of Two-Face’s origin. However one thing these stories do share is a depth and complexity that has become series writer Peter J. Tomasi’s standard. Tomasi has been writing some of the most poignant and emotionally hard hitting stories featuring Batman and related characters for several years now and has really come into his own on this current Batman and Robin series. This issue certainly maintains the high standard Tomasi has set with some seriously intense action and drama as well as lots of sophisticated character development.
As hinted at in the last issue, Bruce decides to take his battle to Apokolips but not alone. After the divisive events of Death of the Family and what seemed like an eternity, the Bat Family finally is able to move past their respective emotional scars and begin the process of healing, with the aid of a stack of Alfred’s peanut butter sandwiches and a mega-dose of unconditional love. Tomasi’s handling of this long awaited reunion is nothing short of magical. This was the moment many of us Bat-Fans have been waiting for and the anticipation made it even sweeter. It’s not heavy handed or sappy in the slightest. Instead, Tomasi chooses to focus on the familial bond that exists between the members of this very extraordinary group of individuals, the center of that being a patriarchal plea for harmony in a time of severe crisis. The scene plays out perfectly, there is a poetic bitter-sweetness to the entire moment that makes it all the more poignant yet there is an undeniable exciting sense of satisfaction seeing these beloved heroes together again.
Tomasi also does a magnificent job exploring the chemistry between Bruce and Lex now that the paradigm of their relationship has been so drastically altered. Lex understands Bruce’s obsession better than perhaps anyone else could; both men are extremely intelligent, driven and successful. It is these similarities that spur Lex’s sympathetic inclinations toward Bruce and his decision to undertake such a seemingly rash course of action. There is a wonderful juxtaposition here that serves to better define these two iconic characters; it is precisely when they are contrasted that they somehow strangely seem the most alike. The only other person as single-mindedly focused as Bruce and able to cut through all the surreptitious and superfluous details that could potentially hinder his plan is Lex; and Tomasi explores that aspect of their relationship in a concise and direct way that strips away all pretense and allows us to see these two giants, who are so diametrically different, as being cut from the same cloth.
Patrick Gleason brings a depth of emotion to the visuals that work perfectly with such weighty subject matter. His understanding of dramatic posing and lighting of each individual panel and scene elevate the mood and lend a cinematic sensibility to the work; even the quiet moments are tense and exciting. His portrayal of the anatomical elements and facial expressions are meticulously rendered; Gleason is able to speak volumes in the slightest smirk, tilt of the head or placement of a hand on a hip. This story is very deliberately paced to add gravity and suspense and Gleason’s storytelling approach makes that even more effective. His page composition, use of panels and dynamic splash pages all work together like a symphonic movement to convey the story on an epic scale. John Kalisz’s theatrical use of color and lighting heighten the sense of realism and provide an amazing degree of dimension.
Batman and Robin has been one of my favorite books since its pre-New 52 inception when Grant Morrison was at the helm. I have watched the series change and grow and been impressed with just about every step taken by Tomasi to further the Bat mythology and develop the characters to an even deeper degree. This issue is indicative of just why I love this series so much; the complex narrative full of pertinent details and plot progression and the realistic characters who speak genuine dialogue, even when the action is out of this world these characters appear grounded and real. This issue contains great art, a substantial story and I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone even remotely considering themselves Bat-Fans. (4.75/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.