Review: Batman and Robin #20

By | February 10th, 2011
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Patrick Gleason

From the pages of the best-selling BRIGHTEST DAY and GREEN LANTERN CORPS comes the new regular creative team of writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason! Kicking off the action is “Dark Knight, White Knight” part 1 of 3, as Bruce Wayne returns from the dead and Gotham City finds itself locked in the grip of chaos! Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne come face-to-face with what could possibly be the strangest Bat Villain yet. Who is the White Knight, and why is he hell-bent on making Gotham City into Heaven on Earth?

Given this monumental creative team’s fantastic multi-year run on Green Lantern Corps, this new era for Batman and Robin should have begun with a slam dunk, right? However, the shoes that need filling on these book do not belong to your average comic scribe, so click below to see how this issue stacks up.

I have to say, the first scene of this book is absolutely fantastic and was, in a lot ways, what I’ve been waiting for since the start of the Batman Inc era: all the Batmen and Robins assembled for a nice quite evening, proving that even the most grim, shadowy super hero family is still a family. Unfortunately, things kind of went down hill from there. Starting with the new dynamic duo on patrol, we’re then quickly introduced to the first major mystery as an apparent angel manages to die right at the feet of Gotham’s societal elite. While investigating the murder, Batman and Robin are attacked by a delirious Man-Bat before being saved (or attacked, its not really clear) but some mysterious white bats that look a little too much like White Lantern constructs to put my mind at ease, which brings the issue to a close rather abruptly.

I really wanted to like this issue…I really truly did…but there are just too many factors that bring it low that I really can’t. First of all, the story was painfully derivative. I guess that maybe I’ve become spoiled by the legitimately game changing innovation going on in Batman Inc. and Detective Comics, but other than the opening scene, the rest of the issue came across as a by the numbers Batman story that we’ve read a thousand times before, and in this new era for the bat books, stories like this stick out like sore thumbs. And the truly sad part is, I KNOW Tomasi is capable of better because he’s been delivering it for months over in Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors.

Second detriment to the issue is Damian, or rather his characterization. Much like JT Krul makes the character just a little too aloof and way too childish over in Teen Titans, I get the same vibe from him here. It seems Tomasi has selected the snot nosed teenager archetype for Damian, which is almost insulting to the work done with the character by Grant Morrison. Yes, Damian is rebellious, but he does not act out just for the sake of acting, NOR does he do so without a definite, calculated plan. So while I love the way Gordon berates him for his actions, a properly written Damian would NEVER have committed the act that needed reprimanding.

Third and final detriment is the pacing. Since DC’s shift from 22 page stories to 20 page stories, some books have dealt with the shift better than others. Chris Roberson’s Superman or Nick Spencer’s THUNDER Agents have taken it in stride and reworked their structures to still tell a complete story in the pages given to them. However this book, along with Tony Bedard’s Green Lantern Corps and a few others, just feel like their ends were chopped off and left that way, leaving the issue feeling very incomplete.

The one upside to the whole shebang though is Gleason’s art. Admittedly, I was a little skeptical when I heard he was jumping over to this title with Tomasi. While his slightly warped, slightly unconventional physiology and facial expressions and scratchy backgrounds worked really well in the warped, alien filled worlds of Green Lantern Corps and Brightest Day, I worried they would be far too jarring here. However, he really cleaned up his style and produced some really clean, sleek pencils here that reflect both the dark ambiance of the Gotham streets as well as the polished nature of Wayne manner exceptionally well.

Again, I have to say I really did want to like this book. I was a monumental fan of this team’s work in the past, but something just did not click with me here. I suppose, given this book’s history of presenting more abstract, legitimately weird Batman stories, I was not expecting something so conventional. Its entirely possible someone else with fewer preconceived notions may get a better read off it than I did, but the art is really the only redeeming factor of this issue. We’ll see if the story picks up next issue, but color me skeptical.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – Browse

Joshua Mocle

Joshua Mocle is an educator, writer, audio spelunker and general enthusiast of things loud and fast. He is also a devout Canadian. He can often be found thinking about comics too much, pretending to know things about baseball and trying to convince the masses that pop-punk is still a legitimate genre. Stalk him out on twitter and thought grenade.