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Arts in Review

Book Review: Batman & Robin: Born to Kill by Peter J. Tomasi, illus. Patrick Gleason

Out of all four main DC Comics series revamped with the launch of the New 52, Batman & Robin has proved to be the most prosperous.

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By Jeremy Hannaford (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: September 19, 2012

When DC Comics revamped their universe with the launch of the New 52, so began a new lineage of the Batman comics. Out of all four main comic series, Batman & Robin has proved to be the most prosperous. The first volume, Born to Kill, written by Peter Tomasi and inked by Patrick Gleason, follows Bruce Wayne/Batman as he battles a new danger with his contumacious son, Damian, who fights alongside him as Robin.

The entire story is a battle of nature versus nurture, as Bruce persistently tries to direct his son’s moral compass away from what his assassin mother, Talia Al Ghul, burrowed into his mind since infancy. His son’s brutal techniques and lack of compassion concern Bruce as he fears that Damian will not comprehend why he never takes a life. All the while Mr. Nobody, a threat from Bruce’s past, has appeared in Gotham to slam a wedge between Bruce and Damian, hoping turn the boy to his killer instincts.

Mr. Nobody is not a gang-lord or criminal; he too is a vigilante, but he has no problem with torture and killing. It is his mentality that attracts Damian to him and to his cause and it is this battle of loyalty and instinct that Peter Tomasi constructs. Mr. Nobody doesn’t want to just beat Batman psychically; he wants to destroy him by making his own son betray him.

This comic’s story arc has been done for many years, but it continues to be very entertaining. Like Anakin Skywalker, torn between choosing the way of the Jedi or that of the Sith, Damian is trapped between his loyalty to his father and the promise of his desire to exact punishment on criminals from Mr. Nobody. In a scene where Damian is easily performing a routine training exercise, Bruce Wayne converses with Alfred as they watch how he wants to “fix” what Talia has done to their son. Alfred responds stating that Damian doesn’t need a mechanic, he needs his father.

The Batman & Robin series was introduced by Grant Morrison and continues its level of quality storytelling and artwork. Patrick Gleason keeps things simple but sleek. He draws Batman in a way that resembles how David Mazzucchelli drew him many years ago in Frank Miller’s classic, Batman: Year One. However, he still gives a nice new flair to the suit and surrounding detail. It is with Mr. Nobody that Gleason really gets be creative. With a helmet mask that resembles the eyes of a spider, Gleason plays with reality and nightmare with this villain and presents him as both mysterious and incredibly dangerous.

Mr. Nobody is truly the hallmark of this comic. While his introduction is similarly cliché to that of other spontaneous Batman villains, his mark on Bruce Wayne’s past is unique. It goes all the way back to his days of training with Henry Ducard. Mr. Nobody’s existence in the comic isn’t placed merely as a plot device the way female interest Golden Dawn was used in David Finch’s The Dark Knight series. He is a driving force that draws the reader in and makes them question whether the morality of Batman’s one rule is justified. While it is commendable that Batman doesn’t kill, this usually only delays their return to crime in Gotham. Nobody’s brand of justice is merciless, but his is also condoned considering some of the criminals in question.

With the second volume nearing completion, the anticipation for it is very high in the DC Universe. Tomasi and Gleason prove that they are the true contenders for top mantle when it comes to crafting tales about the Dark Knight in this new age.

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