Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: BATMAN AND ROBIN!
The Concept and Characters: Batman AND Robin. They probably swing around the city and fight crazy folks, like you’d expect, but this dynamic duo is a bit different than the old one. The traditional Batman and Robin team has centered around Bruce Wayne as a father figure to a young man raised as his ward. From Dick Grayson to Jason Todd, and with the Tim Drake Robin of the Modern era, Batman was playing that role, and helping to raise the boy(s) into young adulthood.
Now, though, it’s Damian Wayne in the sidekick role, so it’s a literal father/son team-up comic, and the duo gains a whole new dynamic out of that relationship.
Damian has been playing the Robin role for the past couple of years, and in the previous incarnation of this series, he was the sidekick to Dick Grayson’s Batman. But what’s notable about this new series is that it’s the first time, for any extended period, that the “real” (i.e. Bruce Wayne) Batman will have teamed up with his own son. Regular comic readers know that Damian is one of the best new characters to appear in DC comics over the past half decade. Lapsed readers may not know that this son of Batman was conceived in a previously out-of-continuity graphic novel from 1987 and raised by Talia al Ghul and trained by the League of Assassins. As written by Grant Morrison and the writers who followed on both the main Batman series and the recently-cancelled version of Batman and Robin, Damian has been brash, lethal, and rude, but also hilariously sardonic and committed to winning his father’s respect.
We don’t yet know any of the details of this series, other than the identity of its two protagonists, and the vague PR about the duo battling “the Gotham underworld.” Still, it’s a Batman and Robin comic, so it’s easy to guess the kinds of trouble they will get themselves into. Only this time, there will be a bit more emphasis on family, and the Wayne family is as dysfunctional as you can imagine.
The Creative Team: Peter Tomasi writes and Pat Gleason draws. It’s the same creative team from a) a well-regarded run on Green Lantern Corps, during the peak of that series as it was leading up to the “Sinestro Corps War,” and b) the earlier incarnation of Batman and Robin, sort of.
Tomasi and Gleason were announced as the new, regular creative team on the previous version of this series in 2010, following Grant Morrison’s departure. But then they didn’t take over right away. And when they did slide into the role, they only completed three issues before leaving the book to Judd Winick and a rotating crew of artists.
Now it appears that their disappearing act had something to do with longer-range planning on what we now know as the DC relaunch. They were presumably pulled from the old series to focus on launching this new version, and now we’ll get to see what they had planned. (Although the original series featured a Dick Grayson and Damian team-up, so whatever long-term plans the creative team may have had will surely look quite different with Bruce Wayne back in the cape and cowl.)
Tomasi, former editor of Geoff Johns turned Johns collaborator and legitimate-writer-of-good-comics (in addition to his Green Lantern Corps run, he has done strong work on The Light Brigade and The Mighty) did a nice job on his single Batman and Robin arc from the previous version of the series. He’s identified himself as a character man more than a plot guy, and this series success will hinge on the character work between the Bat-father and the Bat-son.
Gleason has a distinctively bold style, one that served him well as he illustrated the strange alien landscapes and space police officers in Green Lantern Corps, but his first run on Batman and Robin was a bit unsteady. I’ve enjoyed his work for years, though, and I think he’ll settle into Gotham City quite nicely, once he gets a few more issues drawn.
Recommendation: Buy it, if you’re looking for a second dose of Batman each month. Tomasi knows how to balance characters-in-conflict with unusual external threats, and Gleason has the potential to become a vigorously dynamic Batman artist. While the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman series will be the go-to Bat-book, this comic will make a nice companion piece. I anticipate that it will be a comfortable monthly read, consistently enjoyable, even if it’s rarely surprising. If it does end up filled with a few surprises, even better.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.