Superheroes fight one another. It’s to the point, now, that it’s been commented on almost to death by both characters and creators, yet it STILL seems to happen rather frequently in the pages of comics. Whether it be over a misunderstanding or a disagreement, even accidents every now and again, superpowered people throw down quite frequently. Another one is implied in this issue, that’s what I went in expecting, and that’s why I’m actually fairly amused and a little bit grateful that Peter J. Tomasi decided to throw us a curveball. This issue’s got a lot of characters crammed into almost every single panel, but somehow it never feels overcrowded (more on that below), and each character gets to say their piece and get their moment. Everyone who’s shown up is there for a reason, even if it’s just to further develop their character and better yet: when things do escalate, they’re brought down logically and with internal consistency rather than simply devolving into a ridiculous brawl. There’s even a scene between Batman and Superman that’s some of the most heartfelt character moments since Damian first died.
Patrick Gleason is on pencils and, as per usual, does outstanding work. I don’t know how someone who draws as much fine, minute detail as this guy does puts out his work as quickly and consistently, but there it is: the characters are all incredibly distinct and nobody will be confusing them for one another anytime soon, but the real wonder is in the even smaller details. Most specifically: the tension. Tension’s a hard thing to express visually in a static medium, but almost every page of the first half of this issue shows perfectly how everyone is just coiled, waiting to see what happens next. Mick Gray’s inks capture and express this feeling of tightness perfectly, bringing out a sharp, vibrant edge to the meetings, giving each character their own striking visual language. The colors, by John Kalisz, highlight the darkness inherent in this entire tale as well as the shadowy nature of the events transpiring. Even though a great deal of it is bright, or at least takes place somewhere bright, there’s a pervasive darkness both externally and internally that both the writing and visuals communicate.
There’s some wheel spinning that goes on here. I’m ultimately happy that things resolved the way they did, but it made the first half of the book seem overlong for what wound up happening as a result of everything that was discussed. While we do get some incredible visuals out of it, a lot of this issue felt like further recapping and characters remaining static. We know, or should know, who these people are and that they’re not likely to be deeply involved in the rest of the storyline, so focusing so much on them feels unnecessary.
Between the amazing visuals and somewhat novel presentation of a well-worn trope, as well as the continuation of a genuinely interesting story, this is still an issue worth reading, whether you’re following Robin Rises closely, or just a fan of the Bat-family. If you haven’t picked up the previous issue in the storyline, I’d actually say it’s not entirely necessary as this book does well standing on its own, or at least as a continuation of ISSUE #32. Either way, it’s well worth picking up.