STORY: Peter J. Tomasi
ART: Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray
In the month after “Night of the Owls”, all the Batman-related books are starting new story arcs. Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Batman and Robin #10 might be simultaneously the most interesting and the most boring new story of the bunch. Since Big Ol’ Bats already has three series dedicated to his solo outings, Tomasi has been focusing on Damian Wayne quite a bit, not only dealing with his daddy issues throughout the first arc, but also with Damian’s talent for strategic battle during last month’s Talon incursion. This has been a consistently smart move on Tomasi’s part.
Batman and Robin #10 kicks off “Terminus”, but you’d barely know it if you didn’t want to. The so-called Terminus takes a far, far back seat to the issue’s main events. All the same, this guy obviously has criminal intentions, and his body seems to be falling apart. Terminus spends the issue regenrating in some crazy regeneration machine. That’s it. I’m sure there will be more to this, but it also doesn’t seem very interesting. At this point, Terminus is just some dude who wants to kill Batman – hold the phone! No, the real meat in this issue comes from the ‘War of the Robins’ storyline.
Bruce has called all the Robins, former and current (except for Jason Todd, for obvious reasons), together for a family portrait at Wayne Manor. One of the best things about the Robin mantle is that there isn’t one type of person who becomes Robin – they come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. Within minutes, Tim Drake and Damian are at each other’s throat. Dick Grayson loftily sits above their squabble, as his position as Robin can never be questioned (he’s the O.G., baby!)
The feud between Tim and Damian is interesting, mostly because it stems from simple disrespect. Whenever Batman and Superman had disagreements, they never lost respect for one another, but neither boy here regards the other in any good light. For Damian, Tim is stuck-up and looks down on Damian, while Tim feels that Damian is a psychopath and unworthy of a title he and Dick worked hard to maintain. That’s pretty much the description you’re going to get anywhere else. The truth of the matter is much deeper, even if Tomasi doesn’t know it.
Tim Drake was the son Bruce never had. Sure, Dick was the first Robin and literally had no parents and was adopted by Bruce, but they’ve always had a stronger working relationship (at least in my memory. Maybe I need to go back and reread old Silver Age issues). Tim, on the other hand, was the one who figured out who Batman was, the one with the detective skills to rival Bruce’s own, and the Robin that took the name from respectable to iconic. Like I said, Tim was the son Bruce never had. Until Damian. Tim’s real beef is that Damian is a real Wayne and Bruce’s actual son. Obviously, it’s painful to see your mentor and father-figure move on to a new apprentice, a new disciple. And sure Tim left of his own accord, but he keeps the mantle Red Robin, an obvious homage to his former title which means he still has deep emotional ties to the name and the job. Dick, conversely, left and took the name Nightwing, moved to a new city and generally tried to distance himself from Batman for quite some time.
Damian, of course, lives in Tim’s all-encompassing shadow. Tim held the mantle for so long and did so well, it’s obvious to Damian that Bruce is looking to make Damian more like Tim. The entire first arc of Batman and Robin was about Damian’s issues with his upbringing as a killer, and in a sense, he was able to make a good step forward in dealing with those issues. But Tim is always there – a constant reminder of how good a Robin can be and how lacking Damian is compared to Tim.
The night after their blow-up at Wayne Manor, Damian calls all the former Robins together, even extending an invitation to Jason Todd, the Red Hood! When they all show, Damian declares “war” on them. Damian explains that at some point, he will confront each of them and defeat them at something they consider themselves the best. Of course, they all immediately assume Damian means a fight, but the little Robin’s much smarter than that! His only goal with Tim is to get Red Robin to admit he’d had homicidal thoughts. Tim rebuffs this by saying he’s never acted on those thoughts, which is what separates them.
I really do tend to enjoy superhero stories where the heroes are in-fighting, and the “War of the Robins” portion of Batman and Robin #10 is totally awesome. My psychoanalytical critique aside, these characters are all awesome and now, they’ve got an arc slowly building that will pit them all against one another in a variety of circumstances. FANTASTIC. Terminus will probably continue to be a boring sub-plot that will eventually slip it’s way into the main story, pulling the entire arc down as a result, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, awesomeness.