With the “Batman and Two-Face” extended story having come (for now) to a conclusion, Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have returned once more to an earlier storyline: the theft of Damian and Talia’s bodies. In doing so, the book has shifted back to a different guest star/team up each issue. First out of the gate? “Batman and Aquaman.”
I’ll admit that by this point, Damian Wayne’s been out of the picture for so long that it actually feels a little odd for this storyline to have returned. There’s at least a nod to the previous story with Two-Face having occurred, but still, this comes across a little out of the blue. Once the issue gets going, though, it works well enough.
The best part of the story for “Batman and Aquaman” #29 is probably the big ideas that Tomasi comes up with for the visual half of the story. He throws all sorts of things at Gleason to pencil here, and they fit in well with what we already know about Ra’s al Ghul, Batman, and Aquaman. This could have been an incredibly standard story, but once the monstrous foes appear this issue, it definitely takes a turn for the disturbing.
And oh, the drawings that Gleason and inkers Mick Gray, Mark Irwin, and Norm Rapmund give us — from misshapen children to a whale performing a belly flop, Gleason draws everything larger than life (both figuratively and literally). It’s the children who have the best reveal in the issue; without giving anything away, let’s just say that their particular bodies make that splash page startling even if you know it’s coming. They’re twisted and warped, and Gleason takes that idea and runs wild with it.
I also really like his take on Aquaman. He’s normally drawn very sleek, which makes sense if you’re modeling him on the classic idea of a swimmer’s body. Here, though, he’s still got some impressive upper body bulk. Think less of a triathlete, and more of Olympic level swimmers like Michael Phelps. He’s got rock solid muscle in his arms and pecs, something that he’d need to keep pulling himself through the water, and it’s a great interpretation of the character. And as silly as it may sound, I think this sort of depiction could help in the continuing rehabilitation of the character. Aquaman should look physically dangerous at a glance, and that’s exactly the feeling you get when you see his first appearance in “Batman and Aquaman” #29.
This is a good enough start to the search for Robin storyline, and now that things are moving again I expect the intensity to pick back up a bit. As an opening salvo, it does what it needs to do. With Wonder Woman next up in the co-pilot seat, the next issue promises to be entertaining.