When I got back into comics in 2011 after a long hiatus, Batman and Robin was about Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin. I only got to read a few issues before the New 52 initiative came in and had Dick go back to being Nightwing and Bruce once again being the only Batman of Gotham. Interestingly, Batman and Robin in the New 52 era appeared to be a book where Batman finally grew while Damian regressed a bit. Batman’s growth, much appreciated as I’ve mentioned in reviews before, revolves around his finally coming to terms with his parents’ murder. Now that his son is in his life on a regular basis, he’s learning what it’s like to be a father. For once he’s having to lower his barriers to let someone in emotionally. And after who knows how many years in-universe, it’s time for him to come to grips with the fact that he’s now working for a higher purpose and not to avenge his parents. With Damian, I think the regression has to do with the fact that Dick treated him a bit more with the respect he wanted. I think this came from the fact that Dick knew what it was like to work as a Robin as well as the fact that Damian wasn’t his child. So Damian felt he had to act out to get his father’s respect.
So as this arc ends, we see father and son coming to terms with these facts. After all, as we now know, Damian allowed Nobody to think he was cahoots with him, but his loyalty lay with his father. However, he does still see Bruce’s insistence on a lack of killing to be a weakness. I think Bruce has also learned that he needs to change tactics with Damian if he’s going to keep him in check. I don’t know if this is planned, but I’d love to see Bruce and Dick compare notes on how best to deal with Damian.
I went back and forth on how I felt about Damian’s composure in this issue. On the one hand, some of his dialogue seemed forced and against his character. On the other hand, when I remind myself that Damian’s just a kid (albeit one with a unique upbringing) who’s mostly posturing for a father who most consider to be legendary, it makes sense. In fact, looking back on the first eight issues, he’s always had this tension between showing love and affection for his father and demanding to be respected as an equal. He wants to be a kid, but also holds that idea in disdain.
All the New 52 books except for a few (like Snyder’s Batman) are finishing up or have just finished up their first story arcs. DC’s strict enforcement of one issue a month (Detective Comics was coming out biweekly before the New 52) has made these stories take forever. It’s a year into the New 52 and I’m still not sure which of the books I’m still collecting monthly I will want to continue reading. Batman and Robin is definitely in that situation. I love what Tomasi has done so far, but I’m curious what kinds of adventures he imagines for the Dynamic Duo going forward. It would have been great as mini-series, but I’m not sure how well it continues going forward. I don’t think we really need four Batman books (five once Batman, Inc) comes out. Surely Damian could just be incorporated into some of the missions Batman has in the other books. In fact, it’s weird that Nightwing has appeared more often in Batman books than Damian has in the other Batman books. Some of the others make it seem as though Bruce and Alfred are the only ones at Wayne Manor. So we’ll see where Tomasi takes us going forward, but this was a great issue and a great end to this arc.