The Psychotic Perspective: Batman and Robin #0
Someday Never Comes
I’m not really all that tantalized by “Zero Month.” I saw this trick back in the nineties, and the stories it produced were not exceptional. This time around, DC is touting Zero Month as an opportunity to explore characters’ back stories, but that is something DC should have been doing from day one of the DCNU as far as I am concerned.
That being said, I was actually genuinely excited for the zero issue of Batman and Robin because Damian is one of the most mysterious characters in the DC universe. Sure, we know where he originated, but his life before he met Batman is wrapped in shadows. Since father and son’s exploits have been well documented since they first met, I was hoping that this zero issue would dive into the murky waters of Damian’s past and finally shed a light on how this little sociopathic soul developed.
In this issue, we see how Talia and the League of Assassins shaped Damian into the finely honed weapon he is today.
In short, this issue gave me exactly what I wanted. For only a twenty page story, the writer does a great job of giving readers a good sense of Damian’s whole life.
We get a better Talia story here than has been delivered in years. We see her crazed dedication to making her son a man like no other, yet at the same time, we see her motherly care over her young child. Talia’s relationship with Damian is exactly what I would expect from the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul; she shapes him to be ruler of the world crafting heroes for him such as Alexander the Great. For his part, Damian is on a mission to discover the identity of his father, and he is willing to kill anybody between him and the truth.
Surprises with Talia
Talia is much more eager to kill than I have ever envisioned her. In my previous understanding of the character, I always thought that she agreed with her father about the need to purge society of its more crass elements, and I also thought she agreed that society needed a ruler, yet this ruler must be benevolent. In other words, there are better ways of controlling the world than wanton murder in Talia’s view.
However, Talia spills quite a lot of blood in raising her son, and it is all completely cold-blooded. This view of the character does make more sense in terms of Talia’s arc in Batman Incorporated, but I still feel that this is the wrong direction for that character. There are plenty of villains in the world willing to use force. Talia used to have a decidedly more feminine touch to her villainy, but that is less the case now.
Surprises with Damian
I was aware that Damian was raised by the League of Assassins and had previously taken human life, but d***. I thought he had only killed on a rare occasion, but in this issue alone he must have sliced up at least a dozen men. All of his victims were assassins, so it was not as if he killed in cold blood, but still, the level of violence in this book surprised me…in a good way. I actually think this is an excellent direction for the character; it only makes sense that human life would mean little to a child raised by assassins. Also, the action itself sells the concept because Damian is brutal and the artists make his most violent acts beautiful in their own grisly way. In particular, there is a moment where Damian uses submachine guns and the moon to great effect, and I wanted to cheer when I saw that scene.
Give the Artists Their Due
The artwork was also extremely well done. I do not have the best understanding of art, so I usually do not go in depth on this topic, but I do know enough to say that the art was dynamic and exciting. The layouts for the pages were very well done giving exactly the right amount of space for each panel. Good comic art tells a story just in the way the panels are framed, and the artists did many things I thought worked quite well in this issue such as the two page spread which demonstrated the up and down grind of Damian’s day to day training and disappointments.
Perfection Is a Rare Thing
This was a great issue, but not a perfect one. Though the art was generally excellent, there was one panel which looked downright awful, and that was the first panel showing Talia. She looked bad! Really, really bad! She looked so bad that I thought perhaps multiple pencilers worked on this issue, but that is not the case. The only excuse I can think for this panel is that Damian was a newborn, and perhaps it was meant to convey how Talia looked through the eyes of Damian, but it just succeeded in looking weird.
Also, there were a couple of moments which made absolutely no sense. Right after Damian is born, Talia places him in a pool of water…with the water over his head and…she leaves him there. She says something about, “Show me you have the will,” but no explanation for this is ever given. What will is he supposed to have? I’m not a pediatrician, but I’m pretty sure that any infant you put in a bath of water is going to drown. Regardless, no explanation for Talia’s behavior was given.
Later in the issue, Talia and Damian are on a submarine and they are looking out at a bunch of bodies floating at the bottom of the ocean. Was the submarine moving at the time because they were supposed to be traveling to London? If the boat was moving, why were they so close to the bottom and why did they just happen to travel by these dead bodies? If the boat was parked, that still does not explain the bodies. One appeared to have some sort of uniform. Is this the crew that originally ran the submarine? If so, why were the bodies in various states of decomposition? Did the League of Shadows periodically drop enemies of the League into this dumping ground next to their submarine, and if so, don't you think that would arouse suspicion? Again, no explanation is given.
Despite my complaints, I actually really liked this issue. Thus far, Batman and Robin has not been the most perfectly written book of the DC universe, but it has been a lot of fun, and really, what more can a comic fan desire?