Cast a Giant Shadow
The last issue of Batman and Robin was one of the best tie ins to Death of the Family thus far. In addition to having excellent interaction between Damian and Joker, it left us with a massive tease as it appeared that Robin was about to have to face off with the Dark Knight. Given that there has been no time for Bruce to attack Damian, I am even more skeptical now than I was last week that this is really Bruce Wayne, but still, this issue is primed for greatness. Does Batman and Robin deliver the fight of the century, or is it over before it even begins?
In this issue, Robin fights Batman for Joker's amusement.
Too Much Action
I know that comic books are often defined by their frequent need for violence, but one of the things that made the last issue of Batman and Robin stand above the crowd is that it focused more on creative dialogue between Damian and Joker, and by creative, I mean it went beyond the standard, “You are weakening the Bat King,” nonsense that Joker has been espousing. In contrast, this issue had almost nothing going on underneath the surface.
As soon as I saw Bats coming out of the pile of creepy crawlies last issue, I began to wonder if it was really Bruce, yet Robin never even considers the possibility. Damian is awfully young, and he is not known for his cool, calm analysis, so I guess it is not surprising that he failed to consider all the possibilities, but if Damian had considered that angle, it would have added some dimension to the otherwise flat story. Damian sort of fights Batman, sort of runs away, and sort of tries to reason with Bruce while Joker watches. That is ninety percent of this issue. If Damian had considered that it was a trick, at least that would have given something else for the story to explore.
Gleason Style Horror
Thankfully, Gleason and the rest of the art team did a good job with the visuals. Though, sadly, Joker does not do anything as creative as turning his face upside down, he still manages to look very creepy with black eyes and a face stretched so tightly it might tear at any moment. The fights have a decent sense of motion, and many panels manage to convey some surprise such as when Batman tackles Robin from out nowhere. The set pieces are neat though it seems like the zoo could have provided a more elaborate battle. There are lots of panels which really strike that horrific chord with the middle panel on the first page being one of my favorites. There is also one with a spider on Bruce's mouth which disturbs me. (I don't like bugs) The way Joker is lurking in the background of many panels is also disturbing since he is not the main focus, and you can miss him at a first glance making his presence more ominous when found.
The Serving Tray
(spoiler) This issue ends the same way as Batman ended, with Joker teasing something under a serving tray. I have a feeling that Batgirl, Nightwing, RHATO and Teen Titans are also going to end with that same image. We know that all Batman's kids except Damian are present and accounted after Death of the Family, so that would seem to imply that it is Alfred's head on the platter, but it would be so obvious for Alfred to die that I just can't picture it happening. The good writers always try to keep you looking at their right hand while pulling something out with their left. If it looks like Alfred is going to die, then he is probably the least likely person to buy the farm. The only other thing I can imagine is that it is not a head at all but some sort of secret being revealed, but what could that be? It looks like we have one more month before we find out.
(Spoiler) It was nice to see Damian show some character development, lay down his weapon, and make a sacrifice. Granted, he could have just run away, but still, it was one of the few substantive things that happened this issue.
I wish there was more to say, but there is not. This issue was light on the substance. However, it did deliver a fairly entertaining battle and some really good art without any glaring mistakes. (unlike this month's Batman) If you are a fan of Batman and Robin or Death of the Family, pick up this issue.