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Since the "earth shattering" events of Batman Incorporated, Batman and Robin has been featuring a cycling cast of guest stars working with Bruce on his self-destructive grief. It's been... interesting.
So while the flagship title, Batman, has gone back in time, like so many before it, to A YOUNG INEXPERIENCED BATMAN (yawn), this remains one of the few comics featuring a Dark Knight in the current New 52 (are we calling it Nu52 now? Is that a thing?). So does this hold up the weight of the Bat or does it crumble under pressure?
Bruce Wayne has never been good with tragedy. As a child, when his parents were murdered in front of him, he started his fateful obsession with stopping all crime in Gotham by himself, and where most people would move on, Bruce actually carried on with it. Of course, over the years he let people into his life and a family, a Bat Family, grew around him. However, one thing never really changed. Bruce has a tough time with tragedy.
So since -- BAT-SPOILER -- his son and current Robin, Damien, died he's been more sulkier than usual. More obsessive. A bat on the edge.
When Catwoman comes a callin' talking about needing his help kidnapping a spy from a Chinese embassy for the JSA (which Batman has a hard time believing Catwoman is apart of), he's a more than a little chilly. With some prodding, however, he eventually agrees and the two are off to spring some spies.
Patrick Gleason's art. Hmm. It's just not for me. It's not the worst art DC's putting out there. There's been some good visuals over the run, but mostly it just seems... off.
It's probably the faces. There are some weird faces up in this and it takes me out of the experience. Examples? Of course!
The dead eyed Kelly studies her prey
Something about Squinty Bruce and his Impossible Hand
Batman and Robin has been a solidly written run. Peter J. Tomasi is doing a great job. It has had some really powerful moments and some clever plotting. For my money, it easily holds its own against Snyder's work with Batman.
But it's a choice here that makes the book notable. The choice to have a light moment. Not to spoil all of it, but:
It's a light moment, yes, it's a little cheesy, yes, but it's a scene we need. Batman is a dark character living in a dark world, but there's good in him. At his core, he's a kind man looking to help the innocent. We don't see that a lot, mostly just him down in the muck breaking thugs and getting dirty, and it's good to be reminded of his ability to be kind.
We need light to understand the dark. Lows mean nothing without highs. For a long time now, it's been a competition to see how dark and gritty Batman can be, and problem is that if we get too many dark scenes, if ALL we get are dark scenes, then the darkness looses meaning.
In one of the best Batman works ever made, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Bruce is on his way to becoming Batman when he meets an old flame. And for once, he's happy. Like ready to let go of the anger happy. It's a high moment, a good moment. But it goes bad and pushes Bruce into the cowl. It's more powerful than if Bruce just went straight into Batman because it's a dark, epic moment defined by a warm, high moment.
It's a wise choice by Tomasi to include such an uplifting moment, one I'm grateful for. They are sparse, appearing only a couple times in Snyder's entire run, but they're important.
Batman and Robin #22 is an issue worth checking out. It meets the bar set by the New 52 Batman titles and is a fitting appetite sate-r while Batman works through "Year Zero."