Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz and Carlos M, Mangual join the “Death of the Family” event in “Batman and Robin” #15. As all of the Batbooks fall in line with Scott Snyder’s sweeping mega-story, each title is left to leverage its strength to distinguish itself from the other Bat-titles while maintaining the general flow and notion of Snyder’s “Batman.”
The difference maker in “Batman and Robin” #15 is Patrick Gleason. While he has always balanced between cartoonish absurdity and dizzying detail, Gleason raises his game with this issue. Choosing an innovative presentation for the Joker’s big splash in this issue, Gleason delivers the scene that would have moviegoers gasping, jumping or wetting themselves with brilliant clarity. Maggots, flies and worms wriggle through the page virtually adding texture to this comic while magnifying the creepiness of Peter J. Tomasi’s story. That’s not all Gleason brings, however, as he pits Damian against a pack of hyenas in the Gotham Zoo, but never once depicts the detailed hides of those animals. The three-page sequence is all red and shadow, depicting the comfortable collaboration between Gleason, inker Mick Gray, and colorist John Kalisz. With only twelve words but dozens of sound effects, there is no mistaking what goes down and what the situation truly means to the current Robin.
For his part, Tomasi paces this tale quite nicely, teasing the reader towards inevitability. That conclusion, however, is anything but final as the Joker toys with Damian, assessing his pint-sized foe in a most unusual manner. Tomasi’s dialog for the Clown Prince of Crime is almost sing-songy. The thoughts bounce from the Joker’s brain to his mouth and right out like the most manic super ball unleashed in an elevator. There are bits that would be funny if the situation weren’t so grim. That stark outlook gives the reader pause enough to make page turning electric and each subsequent revelation truly surprising. Through it all, Tomasi adds credence to Damian, giving me the faintest of reasons to latch onto the character. The fact that Damian seeks advice from Titus, his loyal hound, adds a hint of absurdity to the younger Wayne’s mind while also making him a completely believable youngster. After all, among us pet owners, who hasn’t ever talked to their pets, especially when they want to have affirmation that their predetermined choice IS the right answer?
All of that sets “Batman and Robin” #15 in motion and gives the reader quite an adventure to enjoy. This may not be the spine of the “Death of the Family” event, but it certainly is a strong story that stands well on its own, but gains so much more severity in the context of the larger narrative. Now’s a great time to be a Batman fan. Or a Robin fan. Or just a casual reader looking for a compelling Joker story.