If you were able to catch the preview to BATMAN AND ROBIN #15 in the interview with the series' writer Peter Tomasi posted to the site earlier this week, you may have noticed that the fifth page of the preview ends with a serious cliff-hanger. Whoever decided to release those five pages prior to the release of this issue did their marketing homework; after having seen those preview pages I absolutely could not wait to pick up this comic. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed.
Now, this review will be as spoiler-free as possible, so I won't say whether Alfred dies in this issue or not (although I am sure you can guess), but I will say that regardless of who dies, the scene and the moment is still really very powerful. We're dealing with the Joker, and when you have the same adversary appear in each issue of each Bat-family title, you have to be able to write the character in a way that won't make fans sick of him. Tomasi does this here, he manages to really capture all the elements that make the Joker despicable. He's grotesque and sick in the head, and his characterization shines through.
The moments that take place in this issue are significant because it is yet another scene where the Joker meets a Robin. The Joker's relationship to Robin's of the past is almost as equally significant as his relationship to Batman, and I think Tomasi manages to really capture the significance of that in this issue. We saw some foreshadowing of this in issue #14 when Batman indicated a certain level of fear in regards to the character
The incredible thing to me was the way Tomasi tip-toes between naivety and bravery when it comes to Damian's interaction with the Joker. In the most recent issues of Batman we've seen Bruce demonstrate a certain amount of fear. The Joker, to him, is an incredibly formidable opponent. Batman fears the Joker in a way because he isn't always so predictable. He is always one step ahead of Batman. Damian doesn't show that same fear. Instead, the ten-year old Robin is hard-headed and stubborn, not only when he and Batman are talking about the Joker, but in the scenes where Damian is at a disadvantage and is faced with the Joker as a threat head-on. The consistency in the way these writers are writing the character is perfect. Tomasi does a great job writing the Joker's interaction with Damian.
I think my one complaint with this issue is the way it ends. Although the art is fantastic and the writing is on point, those last final pages in this issue are rather confusing. The story definitely takes a turn, but it doesn't really make sense. Or at least it is unclear what is going on.
One other problem is with some of the Joker's dialogue. The premise of 'Death of the Family' has been that the Joker wants to eliminate the Bat-family characters so that he can get all of Batman's attention. I think having that theme underline the overall story in this issue is great, but there is one scene where the Joker spells it all out for the reader. I don't know if that was necessary and I think that it may have worked better had the character's continued to allude to that theme. It felt like a very cliche cop versus robber type of a moment where the villain reveals his motives to the hero right before the climactic scene. It took away from the story a little bit and there may have been better ways to convey that same theme/premise without spelling it out.
There was so much I enjoyed about this issue that I didn't even make a mention of the art which is just breathtaking. Artists Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz deliver an absolutely stunning issue. Their attention to detail and the colors they choose to convey the dark and dreariness of the scenes are superb. The issue is great, especially if you're a big fan of Damian Wayne. Damian really shines in this issue and we see that even in the face of fear, he doesn't back down; I think Tomasi does a great job with his characterization and he definitely writes in a way that will leave you wanting more. I am definitly looking forward to the next issue!