Spotlight: Batman and Red Hood #20

(w) Peter J. Tomasi     (a) Patrick Gleason and Cliff Richards


** SPOILERS AHEAD **


It’s becoming more and more apparent that the Batman and Robin title rebranding is the planned fallout of “Death of the Family” and the death of Damian Wayne all along. Scott Snyder did little to close out his Joker-centric story in the pages of Batman, and while there was a slew of “Requiem” issues dedicated to the memory of Damian Wayne, many of them only included a passing mention of that horrific event before focusing on their own respective plots. Thus, Batman and… not only serves as a look at Bruce Wayne’s ongoing struggle with the death of his son, but also pairs Batman with his other allies just after he’s betrayed all their trust, at a time when he needs them more than ever.

Batman and Red Hood #20 is split into two distinct narratives. The first deals with Carrie Kelley, the redheaded girl who was giving Damian acting lessons unbeknownst to either Bruce or Alfred, while the second pairs Batman with Red Hood to go after the assassins who took the $500,000 bounty placed on Damian by his mother, Talia al Ghul. Each of these segments is designed to convey both Bruce and Batman’s processing of Damian’s death.

Introducing Carrie Kelley was a bold move by Peter J. Tomasi. She’s an iconic figure in one of the most revered Batman stories of all time. A lesser writer would have screwed the pooch and gone more high-concept. Instead, Tomasi gives Carrie the same sense of independence as her Dark Knight Returns source material did and makes the character a believable part of the DC universe backdrop within the span of two issues. Bruce’s icy attitude belies his assertions that Damian is fine and his sudden disappearance is of no concern. Having Carrie as a foil to that mood is not only narratively brilliant, but also a breath of fresh air from Bruce’s constant melodrama. I call it melodrama because there’s only so much one man can brood.

Similarly, Tomasi takes another gambit by turning Batman into a giant, huge, massive asshole. Since the end of “Death of the Family”, Batman has been trying to reestablish the relationships he had with his various allies. It hasn’t worked out so well. In Batman and Red Hood #20, it seems that Batman has finally accepted that communication is the best route to trust by laying his cards on the table when he asks Jason Todd for help — he’s angry and needs to be violent. 

Things take a turn when Batman’s ulterior motives come out; forcing Jason to return to the site of his death to relive that moment in hopes of finding a way to bring back Damian. It’s a sick and twisted thing to do, and Red Hood points it out, plainly. The frustrating part of this whole sequence is that Batman’s counterargument is weak and plagued by paternal emotion. Batman is grasping at straws in his horrific depression and is now dragging down his allies.

The past two issues of Batman and… have been designed to show how both personas of Bruce Wayne and Batman are coming apart at the seams. His family is crumbling around him into the pit where Damian used to be, and his borderline-psychotic actions are doing nothing to help the situation. I understand why Tomasi is doing this, and he’s doing a fantastic job writing it, but he’s also slowly turning Batman into an emotionless obsessive whose singular mindset will be his own downfall. Honestly, I don’t know how to feel about it and that excites me.

GRADE
8/10
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