“Batman and Robin” #0 gives readers a chance to balance out the goings-on that led Bruce Wayne to meet his son Damian to make acquaintances in the post-“Flashpoint” DCU. The story opens a year and a half ago with a ten-year-old Damian battling ninjas before falling from the skies during a battle with a Man-Bat ninja. Before the fourth page, there are four lives taken and young Damian is splattered with blood from his fallen foes.
As Damian falls, writer Peter J. Tomasi cracks open the memory banks for the current Robin to reveal his birth and upbringing under Talia al Ghul. Tomasi depicts Damian as driven with curiosity to learn the identity of his father from the age of five and uses his training to mold himself into a foe capable of finding the answer to that question. Through Talia, Tomasi poses the challenge to Damian that the only way to acquire that answer is by besting his mother in combat.
That challenge makes the story fun and provides thirteen wonderfully conceived and keenly executed pillar-like panels drawn by Pat Gleason, inked by Mick Gray and colored by John Kalisz. That sequence is narrated with Carlos M. Mangual’s captions boxes featuring dialog from Talia and punctuated by Talia repeatedly saying, “Happy birthday, Damian. You lose.” Those panels are so compact yet brimming with detail that they truly only work in to the full effect in print to become a microcosm of this entire issue.
While Gleason has proven himself to be a masterful artist time and again, his rendering of five-year-old Damian borders on being overly cute almost to the point of sacrificing believability. Almost. Gleason is crafty enough, however, to balance the cuteness with vicious levels of detail throughout the rest of the story, including the beautifully hideous Man-Bats that remind me how awesomely gruesome Gleason’s art can be.
As chief architect of a fabulous creative team, Tomasi displays in “Batman and Robin” #0 exactly what the zero issue concept is all about: telling an origin story that serves as an introduction to a broader universe. From here, I want to see more of Talia and Damian training. I want to see the first few days of Damian testing his father’s patience. I want to see Gleason drawing Man-Bat — a lot. I want more of this book, from these creators, regardless of what I knew or didn’t know before coming in to this story. Being totally honest, I’ve never been a fan of any of the Robin characters as Robin. Batman, to me, is a much more compelling character when his adventures feature him flying solo. That said, I hate Damian, but Tomasi has at least made him an entertaining character.