Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DAMN Good Comics -- BATMAN AND ROBIN #18

Comic book deaths, especially ones involving superheroes, rarely get the treatment they deserve.  They're often reduced to little more than cheap shock value or quickly brushed aside in order to move on to the newest status quo.

When Damian Wayne, son of the Batman and the latest to serve as his partner Robin, was abruptly killed off two weeks ago in the pages of Batman Incorporated (vol.2) #8, there wasn't much of an emotional impact.  One minute, Damian is there and the next, he's killed off by his overgrown genetic clone. 

Hunh.  Okay.  Oh, and thanks for spoiling it in advance for everyone, New York Post.

So in a series of follow-up stories known as "Requiem," it's up to the other Batman titles to show how Damian's death has affected the Batman Family.  The best of those released this week is easily Batman and Robin, appropriately enough, considering the series regularly featured Damian more than Batman himself.

In an entire issue without dialogue, writer Peter J. Tomasi constructs a powerful story titled "Undone" that is just filled with sadness, grief and raw emotion.  Bruce sits with Damian's dog Titus inside Damian's room and discovers small pieces of his son's life that were left behind.  Faithful friend and butler Alfred Pennyworth grieves privately over an unfinished painting of the Wayne family.  And after donning his Batman uniform, Bruce is reminded over and over of the time he spent with his son fighting crime.  This quickly becomes too much for Bruce to bear, causing him to lash out in a completely unexpected manner that reveals how deeply this latest death is affecting him.

With a silent issue, the heavy lifting naturally falls to penciller Patrick Gleason, inker Mick Gray and colorist John Kalisz.  To say their work here is effective would be a tremendous understatement, because this story wouldn't have nearly the same weight without such a talented artistic team.  Gleason's style is very clean and refined, even a bit animated at times, but his heavy use of shadows and silhouettes help to make each heartbreaking sequence feel like a solid punch to the gut.

All of this results in the strongest issue of Tomasi and Gleason's Batman and Robin run and "Undone" will probably find its way into several Greatest Batman Stories Ever lists and collections many years from now.  If you're a Batman fan, or just find stories of loss and grief compelling, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.

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