Review: “Batman and Robin Annual #1”

He's not wrong.

[Note: New digs, new features! I’ve been reading monthly comics for a little under a year now, and though I’ve read graphic novels and trade paperbacks for several years now, I’ve really been sucked into comic fandom by the monthlies. So I’m going to start doing reviews of big books each week. This review is actually one from last week, having been released on January 30th, but since I just moved to the new site, and since none of the series I follow released this week, I’m putting it up for this week. Expect a new comics review every Thursday!]

Oh man, oh man. I love me a good Batman and Robin story.

It’s no secret that Damian Wayne is my favorite character. Not favorite Batman character. Not favorite comics character. My favorite character. There’s a complete and utter totality to that statement: my favorite character in any medium.

He wasn’t always that way. Under Grant Morrison’s very capable hands, I didn’t care much for him – but ultimately that’s more a reflection of my overall distaste for Batman under Morrison, since Batman was actually Dick Grayson rather than Bruce Wayne at the time. Damian grew on me significantly following the New 52 relaunch, however, as under the hands of Peter Tomasi and back as the Robin to Bruce Wayne’s Batman, Batman and Robin has become a fantastic story of a father and a son coming to know each other, with each being conflicted in their attempts to reach the other due to their vastly different methods and ideals.

The first arc was a stellar one with many incredibly touching father-son moments. The second arc was rushed, and the third arc was a Death of the Family tie in that ultimately ended up being very very good. Overall, however, I feel as if Tomasi’s hand has slipped a bit since the end of the Born to Kill arc. This issue, a supersized annual edition, changed my mind.

The setup is simple: Damian sends Bruce upon a scavenger hunt around the world, setting up moments that demonstrate a great knowledge of Bruce’s past and create touching moments for Bruce. The hunt is simply a ruse, however, as Damian is actually in Gotham the entire time, donning a Batman costume and roaming the city in his father’s stead.

Damian is a very different person than Bruce, and his style as Batman is naturally far more violent and far more clumsy. Rather than brilliant detective work, the hallmark of Damian’s Bat-style is rushing headlong into the fray, punching and kicking first and asking questions later. Damian doesn’t really care, however, as he’s having the time of his life out there. For him, actually getting to the bottom of a crime is inconsequential as long as he can rough up the perpetrators. Though he ultimately does solve the minor case at the center of the book, it’s far more about the fun factor. Damian knows it can’t last for long – and we as readers know that come next month he’s back to being Robin (well, assuming he makes it out of Death of the Family alive) – and appropriately treats the whole thing as just a short spot of fun.

And that’s really the book as a whole. There are a number of touching moments involving Bruce’s scavenger hunt – Damian actually did put effort into manufacturing meaningful experiences for Bruce, and that effort is very poignant – and Alfred gets some much needed spotlight, with a fun little backstory tease that culminates in his wearing a jester costume for the last page of the book (I fear that this may be the last we ever see of Alfred, and it makes me hurt inside).

Tomasi has proven, to me at least, that he’s back on his game – this is a book that exudes the lighthearted spirit of Batman and Robin compared to its much darker and brooding parent title, Batman. Spending $5 on a single issue can be hard to swallow at times – but when the result is this, I sure won’t complain.

Verdict: A

[Batman and Robin | Annual #1 | Written by Peter J. Tomasi | Penciled by Ardian Syaf | Inked by Vincente Cifuentes | Colored by John Kalisz]

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