Peter J. Tomasi
(a) Patrick Gleason
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s deconstruction of Bruce Wayne after the death of his son, Damian, has been fascinating. Each issue since Batman and Robin #18 has featured a different Bat-ally and shows a different part of Bruce’s despair over Damian’s murder. That first “Requiem” issue was probably the most emotional, but Batman and Nightwing #23 comes in at a close second. I don’t want to say I knew this issue was going to be great, but Tomasi knows how to write Dick Grayson and he especially knows how to writer Bruce and Dick’s relationship.
Similar to every other issue since Damian died, Batman and Nightwing #23 finds Bruce obsessing over one thing: Damian’s final days. Bruce decides to hook himself into an ‘Internet 3.0’ fully-integrated, insanely advanced virtual simulator in attempts to prove he could have saved his son’s life. It’s a futile effort because even if Bruce does prove himself correct, he’s just proving that he failed without a doubt, nothing more. I can’t tell if this is some weird, Batman-y stage in the Kubler-Ross model, or just Bruce going through the motions, but it’s painful even to see Bruce forcing himself to relive time with his dead son.
Nightwing is one of the best Batman characters because Dick Grayson was destined to be the only one of Bruce’s allies who can actually tell him the truth without getting shut down almost immediately. Dick knows when to push Batman and when to let him go his own way. It took a long time for these two to get to the place they’re now in — with Bruce respecting Dick’s decisions and taking his advice to heart — but the result is that Bruce has a true confidant who can achieve more with a few simple actions than others can with weeks of effort.
Alfred Pennyworth also takes home an award for Best Supporting Actor with his own time on the Internet 3.0 simulator where he never lets Damian leave the manor in the first place. Bruce and Alfred have a shared moment of pain that helps them both move past the desire to literally relive the past. It’s hard to see a character like Alfred cry because he only stows away his stoicism for great, great tragedies. Patrick Gleason also does a tremendous job conveying these emotional weights through spot-on facial expressions and body language that makes these characters look sad and depressed.
I teared up for Damian Wayne when I got to the end of Batman and Nightwing #23. Seeing Alfred torture himself by trying to change an unchangeable past is heartbreaking. These “Requiem” issues following Damian’s death have been haunting, intense, emotionally challenging, and generally fantastic reading. It’s not often one death can provide so much material without it feeling like overkill. Batman and Robin has been one of my absolute favorite series since I started reading the ‘New 52’, and it continues to impress me each and every month.