I want to talk about this issue while it is still fresh on my mind. Damian Wayne is my favorite of the Robins in the Batman mythos. You see i grew up reading this character’s arc through my mid to late teens and today (at 20) i stand before you all to say this: I feel as though a friend has been lost to me…
Peter Tomasi delivers the first ever “silent issue” of any Bat-bok in the New52 and wow! my eyes are strained, not just from 12 hours of straight work but from reading a comic which by no means of exaggeration; made me cry like I never have before. I’m not one to bawl over a piece of fiction no matter how great it is but here, here I am crushed by a sudden feeling of loss that I have not felt for any fictional character in quite some time. As a child I cried over the death of Bambi‘s mom and the Iron Giant‘s heroic sacrifice and heck even the death scene of Ace from the Justice League Unlimited series. Damian’s death though will forever ring in my head as one of the most tragic of all fiction deaths ever to grace my life. This will not be a traditional review as it is in nature an untraditional issue, my blog has been really Damian heavy lately and well it’s not about to change any time soon.
The story opens up on Bruce in Damian’s empty room sitting in front of the fireplace with Titus the dog slouched in front of little Damian’s bed. Panel by panel we see Bruce mourning his young son. The background of Damian’s room shows us many call backs to his life with Bruce back in the pages of the first few issues of the New52; the mp3 device, lone mattress, sketch pad, canvas, Dick Grayson’s Eschima stick, Jason’s helmet, and his green slippers are all there. Bruce flips the pages of his son’s sketchbook to see the drawings he had made of Titus, Alfred, Robins and even the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne as he lovingly labeled them “Grandfather and Grandmother Wayne”. Bruce holds back tears as he finds a note (from C.K) addressed to Damian giving titles of classic films from the 1900s. C.K is most likely Clark Kent, someone who Damian has little interaction with but does serve to remind us that Bruce has one friend to confide in. We then see Alfred crying as he views the unfinished portrait from the “War of the Robins” storyline, Bruce takes one look at the painting, which Damian remains as the only unfinished member of the family and takes the painting away to put it away. The poles to slide down to the cave are shown with blood dripping off the one usually used by Damian. This calls back to issue #1 where Bruce and Damian are first seen heading down to the cave. For a split second and panel Bruce imagines Damian sliding down with him, a faint smile on his face as he slides down. Of course this is merely an illusion and Bruce acknowledges it. Bruce heads out to patrol but not before opening Damian’s locker and tearing up a bit as he sees the uniform and covers his eyes with Damian’s glove. He envisions Damian with him as he swings through the city, passing by a building, Bruce is reminded by his lonely reflection of his loss. In the Batmobile the visions continue as he imagines seeing Damian in the now empty second car seat, after a little frustration he runs over a lamppost similar to those Damian would hang “Spider-man” style from. Batman reigns in several crooks and leaves them at the GCPD rooftop for Gordon to find. Gordon and Bullock share concerned expressions as they see the multitude of apprehended thugs on the roof. Bruce returns to the cave, washes up and opens his son’s locker once again, only this time a small letter falls down and he picks it up to read it. The letter (posted below) is from Damian and explains why he disobeyed orders from Bruce and why he went after Leviathan in hopes of stopping her. He tells Bruce that while Talia may have given him life it was Bruce who truly showed him HOW to live. Bruce is touched and begins smashing his fists into the locker as Damian’s uniform falls out. Titus, the great Dane and loyal dog to Damian looks on in sadness. Bruce holds on tightly and embraces Damian’s suit, as he cradles it in his arms the uniform seems to take the shape of Damian’s body, Bruce cries as he holds the uniform of his dead son close to him.
First and foremost I have to say one thing: Wow!. I have enjoyed this book since the initial launch of the New52 and the dynamic of Bruce and Damian’s relationship was what drove me to engage fully with the story and made this title the best book I have ever had the honor of reading and enjoying in this new DCNU. The death of Damian was something I knew was coming and was saddened by the events that unfolded in Batman Inc#8 but I would be lying if I said it gave me my fill on the character’s proper send off. Truth is Peter Tomasi has slowly become my favorite writer for Damian and this textless issue proves exactly that. Patrick Gleason is owed major props for delivering an issue that not only pulled at my heart-strings but really delivered a very surreal story of loss and what it means to lose a loved one. The feelings I felt reading this issue were ones of sadness and emptiness. Damian may have died in Batman Inc #8 but here his memory is properly packaged and displayed for all those eager to see a proper and respectful send off. I’m going to miss this character and going by these past two weeks it seems I may be grieving his loss for some time. You see I read comics to get away from reality but every now and then I am shown just how close to reality fiction can get. To a non avid reader mourning for a fictional character is a silly idea but to me this was a character I learned from, I grew up with him and well I really am sad to see him go. Batman #18 is also out this week and delves into a different view on the death but this book blows that one out of the water by far this week. It’s hard for me to say how much longer I will be picking this title up but if all continues to go where I think it’s headed I may drop this book after August. The five stages of grief are next as we see this book change titles month to month and while I look forward to grieving with Bruce, I must say I have no interest in anyone else taking on the mantle of Robin for now and I would rather leave the title on a high note. I hope to see Damian make a return someday and if/when we do I hope to see him as we left him: the precocious ten-year old son of Bruce Wayne who will one day take on the mantle of the Batman but still has much to learn. It is rare for me to love a character so much but this book and Morrison’s seven-year run have done that. To Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, I thank you both for a wonderful job.
FINAL GRADE: 10/10