It’s a little hard to believe that the death of Damian Wayne in “Batman Incorporated” #8 has spun into such a long storyline within the book formerly named “Batman and Robin.” Or, more importantly, that Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray have made it so compelling. With “Batman and Ra’s al Ghul” #32, the storyline prepares to enter its final phase, with July’s “Robin Rises: Omega” one-shot leading into “Batman and Robin” #33. But first we need to get through this month’s issue. And as it turns out, there are some surprises ahead.
Part of the comic feels a little straightforward, as Batman and Frankenstein catch up with Ra’s al Ghul at the site of what the villain calls the purest of all Lazarus Pits. We learn why this Lazarus Pit is so much more important than the rest, and what Ra’s plans to do with his daughter and grandson within it. But where it goes from there — especially for those eyeing the title of next month’s one shot — isn’t the obvious solution. That’s part of what makes the comic fun, as Tomasi plays with our assumptions.
But more importantly, Tomasi’s take on Batman, Ra’s, and even Frankenstein is compelling. Watching Batman go through the various stages of grief and shift from someone desperate to resurrect his son to merely wanting Damian to rest in peace has been believable and fun to read. Those aren’t two adjectives you’d normally apply to a story about a superhero grieving the loss of his son and trying to stop a grave-robber. If nothing else, who knew that Batman and Frankenstein could be such a fun duo? (And is it too wrong to hope that Frankenstein becomes the new Robin?)
Gleason, Gray and colorist John Kalisz deserve a lot of the credit for the strength of this comic. The scenes around the Lazarus Pit are amazing, with Batman’s silhouette acting as a perfect contrast to the intense detail on Frankenstein’s face with all of the wrinkles and stitches. Kalisz bathes the images in a series of intense greens; it would have been easy to just slap one or two on the page and call it a day, but instead he modulates the hues so that we get a full spectrum within a single color. It’s wonderfully eerie and it grabs your attention. When the action explodes to the outside, all three make sure that it’s a visual eruption on the page; Batman pushing through the show with the cargo on his back looks great, and the conflict between him and Ra’s is intense.
And then, the final page hits — and it’s a great “gotcha” moment. It’s out of the blue, even as it seizes your attention. Weren’t interested in “Robin Rises: Omega” yet? I bet you are now. It’s another strong usage of the cliffhanger format of a serialized comic, and all parties involve know just what they’re doing. Good stuff.