As (I believe) the last major pillar of the new “Batman Incorporated” initiative, this is a pretty highly anticipated issue. Tomasi and Gleason were a fantastic team on “Green Lantern Corps,” but whether or not they could translate to a book that probably couldn’t have a more different tone if it tried was still a major question mark. So, did they pull it off? The answer is… sort of.
Tomasi opens the issue with an almost instantly iconic scene that sums up this new era of Batman perfectly. Bruce has gathered Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, Alfred, and Dick Grayson to watch “The Mark Of Zorro” on what I’m just going to assume is Blu-Ray. Aside from it being a great callback, obviously, to Batman’s origin, it also gives Tomasi a chance to showcase his greatest strength on this book: character detail. The banter between Robins, especially when it involves Home Theater tech, is fantastic and is carried through in the interaction between Dick’s Batman and Damian’s Robin (and also in a great little moment between Jim Gordon and Robin. It takes a village…). Granted, this is only the beginning of the storyline, but the issue falters when it starts in on its actual plot. That’s unfortunate. It certainly has room to flesh itself out in future installments and make more sense, but at this early point it’s more infuriating than intriguing.
As much as I’m a fan of Patrick Gleason’s work, his art doesn’t help matters in the closing moments. His depiction of the action, while stylish, is at times almost impossible to parse out. (I think maybe there’s a panel spread across two pages that’s rendered sideways for some reason?) Alex Sinclair does his best to make things a bit clearer, but naturally “Batman & Robin” was always going to be a literally darker book than “Green Lantern Corps,” so a style that thrived among bright colors and wild alien design may have a little trouble getting used to working in the shadows.
Overall, this issue is a bit of a shaky start. Dick and Damian are certainly well delineated from previous Batmans and Robins, even though the tone isn’t necessarily consistent from this run to Grant Morrison’s previous one. Following up one of the best Batman comics ever though is no enviable task, so I think I’ll give this team, which proved itself admirably on previous ventures, a few issues to — in the parlance of the acrobat — get their footing.