WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batman #34 by Tom King and Joëlle Jones, on sale now.
For a guy who’s never been much of a family man, Bruce Wayne has managed to fulfill the role of father figure to no less than five young men, most of whom have fulfilled a common role themselves – that of his alter ego’s sidekick, Robin. The first of these, of course, was Dick Grayson, dating back to the introduction of Robin into the Batman mythos back in 1940, and serving as the junior member of the Dynamic Duo into the ’80s. Jason Todd came along next, followed by Tim Drake, until Bruce’s sole birth son Damian took over the current role about a decade ago.
Current Batman writer Tom King has established a true family dynamic between Bruce and his Bat-“sons,” including Batman’s latest crimefighting partner Duke Thomas, now also known as The Signal, complete with personality conflicts and even a degree of sibling rivalry. In Batman #34, though, King seems to be forging a special bond between Dick and Damian specifically – that is, a bond between the first Robin and the current one.
Bat-Brothers in Arms
The dynamic is one that King’s been slowly developing as a sidebar storyline throughout his various story arcs. Readers will recall the family’s rather lighthearted lunch at a local Batburger fast food joint back in Batman #16 – although Bruce, not surprisingly, wasn’t in the same jovial mood. As Bruce met with the boys urging them to flee Gotham before the arrival of Batman’s ever-deadly foe Bane, Damian and Jason spent most of the conversation horsing around at their table, engaging in brotherly ribbing the way boys always do. Along with Duke, however, the mature elder Dick behaved like the adult that he is, and largely was spared Damian’s tomfoolery – while Damian chastised Dick for botching his lunch order, he largely behaved respectfully towards him otherwise.
In Batman #33, Bruce tasked Alfred with the awkward duty of notifying the boys of his engagement to Selina Kyle – news that the foursome reacts to in varying degrees of astonishment. While clearly surprised, Dick remains remarkably levelheaded in reaction to Alfred’s announcement, whereas the usually tough-acting Damian shows a rare moment of emotion – perhaps in response to his father marrying another woman, or possibly because he knows Bruce is absent because he’s gone to confront Damian’s mother, Talia al Ghul. Either way, it’s the calm and collected Dick who reaches out to Damian in that moment, in a caring and convincing interaction that comes across very much like an eldest brother giving his younger sibling a literal shoulder to cry on. In this scene, King builds upon the pair’s past non-interactions, evolving their relationship from seeming indifference or distance into something that demonstrates the existence of a brotherly love between the two.
From the Beginning to the End
Come the latest issue, Dick and Damian are shown to have followed Bruce’s trail – alone – to Talia’s location across the globe to Khadym. Damian is clearly comforted by Dick’s presence, stating that Dick was the only one of his Bat-brothers who was willing to accompany him on the trip to his mother’s hideout. Dick notes the significance of their pairing – “from the beginning, all the way to the end” – a definite parallel to Dick’s role as the first Robin, and Damian’s as the latest. In addition to furthering the pair’s brotherly bond, King cements it in the foundation of the Robin legacy – first to last, and oldest to youngest, with anyone else who ever filled the role sitting somewhere in the middle. These roles are no less important or significant – they’re simply not bookends in the history of Robin, The Boy Wonder.
King has established something that has rarely existed throughout Bat-history: a true, core family dynamic, in addition to the extended dynamic that has long been a presence in the Bat-mythos. The furthering of Dick and Damian’s relationship, though, expands something that has never existed: an actual brotherly relationship between Batman’s sidekicks, past and present.
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