The establishing shot of “Batman and Robin” #40 shows Robin flying into battle in formation alongside Superman and Shazam, with the Batplane trailing close behind. Writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason have done so much with this book that that opening scene isn’t as surprising as it would have sounded thirty-nine issues ago, but it is rather invigorating and enjoyable.
Gleason seizes every opportunity to transmit Damian enjoying his powers — especially flight — by curling the young hero’s mouth into a satisfied smile, smirk or with a slight, smug elevation in the young man’s chin. The battle is right in Gleason’s wheelhouse as the Justice League brings the fight to a giant robot on a mostly non-descript shoreline in Japan. There is enough stuff around to inform the setting and to provide necessary props at a moment’s notice but, for the most part, this story could be set in Toledo, Ohio as easily as Japan. Gleason has made Damian his character, and everyone else is just along for the ride.
Mick Gray matches Gleason’s drawings, tightly contouring the curves, defining the depth and adding dimension to characters as they move through space in battle, the streets of Gotham or the dinner table at stately Wayne Manor. Gray brings rich black depths when Gleason prescribes them, and the two continue to prove they’re smartly matched. Gleason does a great job with the storytelling but, truly, the art is a collaborative effort between Gleason and Gray. Colorist John Kalisz contributes nicely, with oranges, yellows and purples throughout a fight filled with characters in various shades of red, blue and yellow. Once that battle is over, however, the colors are significantly toned down so Robin’s uniform takes visual precedence in the remainder of the issue.
The visual side has some nice variations throughout this comic, but it does wobble a bit in one specific spot. Silhouettes have a hairline separating them from shadows when Bruce and Damian are conversing, but that hairline gets a little murky and gritty, fighting to retain control. This would be more visually impactful if it was slightly heavier, but not too heavy. It’s a fun switch-up, but it just needs an extra goose to carry.
Tomasi continues to make Damian an enjoyable character, regardless of the readers’ disposition towards this version of Robin. Readers are right alongside the boy wonder as he soars with heroes and battles a robot with his hands and newfound powers. The writer quickly shifts the story to Batman’s concern and appreciation, thanking his League mates and trying to determine how best to nurture and develop his son. That story is a fine encapsulation of everything Tomasi has brought to this series, from over-the-top cartoon-level bizarre adventures to the necessity of the DC Universe surrounding the dynamic duo.
“Batman and Robin” #40 is a pretty brisk wrap-up, but it touches all the bases on its way around. Once upon a time, this tale would have been inconceivable, but Tomasi celebrates it for everything it is and everything comics can be. His words are given image by Gleason and Gray, but letterer Carlos M. Mangual brings the sound effects to life and makes Damian’s feeding frenzy truly relatable.
“Batman and Robin” #40 is a fun story with giant robots and the Justice League but, in the end, it’s a story filled with humanity as “Convergence” nears. When Batman is questioned on whether or not he’s feeling alright because of his smile, Tomasi, Gleason, Gray, Kalisz and Mangual’s work hits home in “Superpower: The Dynamic Duo.”