Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Ardian Syaf
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Here’s a novel idea, “Let’s make comics fun again.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the facial puppetry and emotional turmoil embedded in Death of the Family. My Gen X cynical sensibilities are also all about the deconstruction of the superhero mythos. I like my comics dark, but even I sometimes require a brief respite from doom and gloom to renew my faith that the world is not just an exercise towards entropy and that life is something to revel in, not just get through.
BATMAN & ROBIN ANNUAL 1 has no dissent amongst the bat-clan, there are no heady moments of distrust towards Bruce, nor silver platters dripping with blood. Whether this is canon or not, (and I do have questions in light of Death of the Family), I don’t really care. Because when a comic takes my favorite Robin and infuses it with a little John Hughes Home Alone action, the result is soul-lifting comic gold.
Damian Wayne won me over day one. His petulance, emotional baggage and haughty attitude made him a damaged youth you couldn’t help but love. When he came on the scene, Daddy was finding his way back home from his seeming one way ticket to nowhere at the end of FINAL CRISIS. Damian became Dick’s problem, and for a year or so Damian tested Dick’s patience and decisions at every turn. Any character becomes dull without growth, Snyder did a bang up job in DETECTIVE by making the wall of aggression between the two Robin’s slowly erode and form some semblance of respect and dare I say love. The dynamic between the two was so delicious; I’m on record in quite a few reviews requesting DC never bring Bruce back. Dick and Alfred couldn’t rear the young lad all the way though, Damian’s arrogance would only truly allow for Bruce to guide and instruct him. Especially since Bruce wasn’t a living being, merely a specter of myth and legend as told by Talia and…well…the world.
When Bruce did come back, I was worried that he would put the young lad’s head through plate glass after one well misplaced “tt” of annoyance. Especially since the moments before the DC Reboot, Morrison had portrayed Batman at his darkest. It looked as though Father would shun his responsibilities in favor of a life in the literal and emotional shadows. Damian would have no hope of ever going beyond his surly and homicidal ways.
The New 52 changed everything though, and one of the greatest changes was a Bruce Wayne ready to be Batman and a Father. Wisely, writers didn’t have Damian just jump in Bruce’s lap and snuggle. Their maturation process together has been long and slow as each learns their role in a new family dynamic. Bruce has worked diligently to wipe away the killing machine to make Damian a true purveyor of justice and an actual 10 year old boy — very akin to the life of Dick Grayson in the silver age; Robin by night, normal kid by day.
BATMAN & ROBIN ANNUAL 1 is the perfect culmination of this Father/Son evolution. Of course a kid that runs around fighting crime will never be “normal.” But between Bruce’s love and patience, additions of four legged bat-friends Titus the dog and Bat-Cow (oh sweet sweet Bat-Cow), and a fair amount of work on Alfred’s part, Damian has now become what I will Grandfatherly call a feisty little scamp. His ability to go from fierce to adorable in one mere panel makes him simply one of the most unique and endearing characters in comics. Especially to Fangeezers like me who stand on the precipice of procreation.
So anyway Home Alone. In a clever turn of selfish altruism, Damian concocts a scheme to get Alfred and Bruce out of the country – and it actually works. Once Bruce and Alfred are following clues across Europe with Damon green screening himself one step ahead of them updates, we finally get to meet Bat-Boy, Bat-Brat…oh hell with it…Bat-Mite!
The new Cute Crusader starts to hits the street of Gotham in pursuit of a gas eating monster and his ultimate master. Honestly this isn’t what stuck with me. What I remember are the moments of Titus as acting Alfred confidant. Damian’s pint-sized frame harnessing the horsepower of the Bat-Mobile. The sheer joy in seeing a young man unfettered from the constant lessons that come with any Father and Son…engaging in anything.
Bruce’s story also pulls at the heartstrings when we discover Damian’s mystery is a step-by-step journey chronicling the courtship of his Grandparents. Alfred’s no slouch here either as he abandons the chase in pursuit of a little thespian time with some ole’ mates at The New Globe.
Morrison may have spawned this relationship, but Tomasi is the right writer for now. Morrison is a master for hooking fans with his trippy ideas, but eventually his weirdness overshadows his characters. Tomasi knows humanity, not trip above it. This isn’t a judgment on either man, just a fact. Also, Syaf does an amazing job with this book, particularly Titus and European locales. Both were equally majestic. This story deserved nothing less.