Wednesday, November 19, 2014

'Batman and Robin Volume 4: Reqiuem for Damian' review

I've made it clear I could barely stand Damian Wayne when Bruce Wayne's brat was in the Batcave and Wayne Manor.

And in the last bunch of months, I've come to realize I can hardly tolerate the New 52 version of Batman. (For what I consider "my Batman" and what I love about the Caped Crusader, follow this link; I'll be here when you get back!)

Given all that, the way Wayne/Batman acts after his biological son is killed is even more distasteful.

Granted, Batman always has been hard-headed, obsessed and driven — making him hard to like and even more difficulty to identify with, especially given how the character is written at times. But when writers take that characterization one step further and make Wayne/Batman detached and unresponsive to what others have to say — even when they're speaking from their heart and telling him the truth, the character goes from being the Dark Knight to the simply the full-on "A**hole Batman."

And this is what writer Peter J. Tomasi gives us in BATMAN AND ROBIN Nos. 18-23 (collected in the trade paperback BATMAN AND ROBIN VOLUME 4: REQUIEM FOR DAMIAN).

Wayne isn't just a broken man in mourning for the son he barely knew. He's a tormented, Dr. Frankenstein version of himself hellbent on resurrecting Damian — no matter the consequences.

Damian Wayne in his uniform as Robin
Wayne is so traumatized he doesn't recognize four obvious things: 1) First and foremost, how ridiculous his quest his (enlisting the actual Frankenstein monster — really?!?) 2) that Damian died a hero by sacrificing himself, 3) that he's gone darker than the way he was shortly after The Joker murdered Jason Todd and 4) that Alfred Pennyworth too is mourning Damian's death.

How else can you explain that Wayne simply can't tell Carrie Kelley, Damian's drama tutor, his son is dead — even if it means coming up with a bogus story of his demise to protect everyone's secret identity?

Why else would Batman enlist Todd's help to take down some snipers suspected of hunting down Damian — only to take Todd, now the Red Hood, to the place of his death? Is Wayne that uncaring and cold that he doesn't know doing so would pain Todd and would elicit a fight?

It's bad enough the story jumped the comic-book shark when Batman tries to enlist the aid of the Frankenstein monster. It's much worse — not to mention cringe-inducing — seeing the Dark Knight take apart the monster after he refused to help resurrect Damian. For good reason. Reeeally, Tomasi?!?
Batman imagines he has Damian beside him on patrol

When Batman orders Batgirl out of the Batcave unfortunately confirms the "A**hole Batman" of the early to mid-1990s is back.

Batgirl only tries to show him how dark his soul has become — and is going to get if he keeps acting like "a machine — an iceman" when he hits the streets. Babs tries to talk some sense into Batman, but he yells at her. It's now wonder Babs took the Batsymbol off her costume for a time.

Tomasi's Batman goes too dark for my taste. This Dark Knight is so distasteful I can't be anything other than relieved to know I'm not reading any current Batman titles. What's there to like about a distant, hardened, out-of-touch and unlikable character?

Aside from the heart-wrenching emotion in the wordless BATMAN AND ROBIN No. 18 (grade: B+), these six issues epitomize why I have "Dark Knight fatigue" — that is to say, I can't stand this New 52 characterization; he's an asshole. There's no way around it. And I don't associate with assholes by choice. Grades — Story: C; Art: B-

I'll consider reading current Batman issues when he's more compassionate and likable. On a consistent basis.

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