It’s almost too easy to talk about this issue and throw out the cliché adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. In fact, I’m willing to bet in the next couple of a days that a few reviews actually use it. So, I won’t say that but I will say this – Batman and Robin #18 is the best issue of the “Requiem” mini-arc.
This issue has had a lot of hype surrounding it, not only because of Damian Wayne’s death in Batman, Inc #8, but also because of the announcement that it wouldn’t feature a single word. No dialogue, no sound effects, nothing. Now while Tomasi and Gleason found a clever way to get around that, the issue being all art is one of the most powerful and emotional Bat-books in a while. Without a single word of dialogue this issue manages to present imagery that is both striking and moving. This leads the reader to infer a great deal about Bruce Wayne’s struggles, not just regarding the loss of his son but also the cost of being Batman.
Some have tried to downplay the significance of Damian’s death based on his role as Robin, because Robin has died before. The thought of approaching a major character death with such disregard and cynicism is ridiculous, and will really take most of the enjoyment out of reading a comic. This wasn’t just Robin, it was the son of Bruce Wayne. A character which has grown by leaps and bounds since his introduction in Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son, and who really started to become a fan favorite due to this development. This also sort of makes you realize what an evil genius/bastard that Morrison is for knowing that he was going to kill the kid the whole time.
There is an absolutely beautiful juxtaposition of Damian Wayne and Jason Todd’s respective Robin costumes. So yes, this is the second time that Dark Knight has lost a Robin, but it makes it sting that much more. Twice now Bruce is overwhelmed with grief and an inescapable feeling of responsibility for the death of his loyal sidekick. Couple this with the panels of Bruce gearing up in his Batman gear solo, while picturing all of the times that he and Damian prepared for battle together, and this issue weighs very heavily not just on the reader, but the protagonist as well.
Batman’s agony isn’t just apparent in the panels with him brooding and reminiscing of scaling buildings with his son, but also when Tomasi and Gleason show us just what he’s been up to after leaving the Bat-cave. There’s the Bat-mobile crashing into a light pole followed by a beautiful splash page with the outline of his cape acting as the boarders and showing the reactions of several criminals facing the Dark Knight. After that we see Gordon and Gotham P.D. going to the Bat-signal to find dozens of foes that Batman has apprehended. It’s as if Bruce has been overly active in his pursuit of justice to distract him from dealing with the loss of Damian. There is a very strong Kübler-Ross model feel to this issue and it is excellently done.
There is only one problem I have with this issue, and it isn’t the fault of Tomasi or Gleason, but rather a publishing decision that doesn’t sit well with me. The idea of advertising arcs within arcs always seems a little redundant and silly to me, but the decision to promote the “Requiem” issues in Batman and Robin #18 results in a full page add with the cover of Batman #18 (Robin’s boots with the namesake bird perched atop). Its placement took me out of the events of the issue, because my first reaction was that it was something that Bruce was seeing, until I noticed all of the DC promotional text. Like I said, nit picky, but still seemed like they could have done a better job with the placement. Also – I still hate the Channel 52 back-up feature.
So how do Tomasi and Gleason cheat the system of delivering a wordless comic book? With a large panel of a letter written to Bruce by Damian before he took off to fight, and die in battle against, Leviathan. The letter is short, but delivers a huge impact and is the catalyst for catapulting Bruce into the anger stage as he smashes the glass cylinder containing Damian’s Robin outfit and cradles the costume recalling the images of Batman holding the bodies of Jason Todd and Damian Wayne.
If you’re a fan of Titus, be warned – this issue is going to suck for you.
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