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After the previous issue of Batman and Robin dedicated its entirety to explaining the Absence’s origin, this issue gets back to the action and our heroes. The story is still great and the artwork has unfortunately remained horrendous, but has its moments.
After a cliffhanger in Batman and Robin #18 the Absence has her hands on Vicki Vale… or is it just an elaborate trap to capture Batman and Robin? Unfortunately for them it turns out to be the latter with Batman and Robin having three minutes to live. Paul Cornell’s trap with drills coming closer and closer to Batman and Robins’ heads is reminiscent of Saw (just without the puppet and famous phrase “Live or die, make you choice,”). The trap successfully creates tension and brings a real sense of danger. The characters do not add to this, though.
Damian never really takes the threat seriously and while it’s funny and very like Damian to immediately blame Batman for their situation, everything else he says is not. Cornell tries to make him funny but I just could not get into his attempt at humor. I wanted more of a grim tone that fit with the mood of the series. Instead there are half-baked jokes and Batman trying helplessly to stop the drills coming at him. It makes Dick seem like a failure as a Batman, since Bruce Wayne could probably get out of the situation in a matter of seconds with either words or another one of his gadgets.
The characterization of Batman and Robin was pretty poor overall. The character of the Absence which was well crafted in the previous issue, comes back even more interesting and sadistic than ever. After reading this I look forward to seeing her again soon. If Cornell’s main goal was to show a unique villain created in a way by Bruce Wayne rather than Batman, she is a great character that deserves to be in Batman’s gala of villains.
The Absence is also the only person drawn well by artist Scott McDaniel. The gunshot she has in her forehead is often used as a porthole view where you’re able to see Batman through her head with an awesomely subtle reminder of the Absences’ condition. Everything else, like the expressions on character’s faces and even whole panels are poorly drawn without much detail. When the artist does put more effort in his panels the art still comes out as mediocre heading towards messy.
The cover is one of DC’s new series of covers with the main characters on the cover and a simple white backdrop. It just seems like a lack of effort on the cover artists’ part. The variant cover is pretty awesome, further showing the lack of detail the original cover has.
The entire story arc “The Sum of Her Parts” was a decent attempt by Cornell to continue the grim atmosphere of the series, but after being written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frazer Irving any other issues in Batman and Robin will pale in comparison. Especially (in this case) the artwork. The Absence is a great addition here and hopefully she won’t be cast off into the shadows like so many other underrated characters and come back soon to cause trouble for Batman, Robin and Bruce Wayne.
Story – 9.0
Characters – 7.0
Art – 6.0
Overall – 7.3