By Saranth 9 Comments
The original blog can be found here: http://razingthethirdwall.wordpress.com/
She is full of boisterous spunk, has a vibrant hairstyle and possesses a face full of metal and eye-shadow. No, this isn’t the Avril Lavigne of the early noughties; this is Harper Row. The character has featured, in fits and starts, throughout Scott Snyder’s run on Batman. From her first appearance in Batman #1, through to her starring role in both #12 and #18, readers have been encouraged to consider what life is like for the down-and-out citizens of Gotham. This is a character largely detached from the Batman’s world; the common ground that the comics so frequently tread. There are no psychopathic clowns, no juiced up, back-breaking immigrants and no lightly frosted Germans. Harper Row’s story deals with the impact of Gotham’s social issues on the masses, and serves as a reminder of why Bruce put on the cowl in the first place; his city is in a pretty sorry state.
You go girl!
This fair, techno-punk maiden has, with the release of Batman #18 this week, found herself at the centre of some controversy. Damian Wayne, formerly Robin and the son of Batman, has wound up impaled upon the sword of his older, stronger, metal-masked clone (Morrison wrote it. It’s complicated). Harper Row, a gutsy youth hoping to aid Batman in maintaining his status as a hero or an ideal, has begun to follow Tim Drake’s tried and tested method for landing the vacant Robin position; stalking the Dark Knight. Many comic readers have, therefore, complained that Snyder is looking to supplant Batman’s son with a catsuit clad knock-off.
Best. Internship. Ever.
Snyder has yet to suggest that any character will take on the role of Robin, but the prospect is rightly accompanied by certain concerns. Bruce Wayne has now lost two young boys in his crusade against crime. Jason Todd was beaten to death with a crowbar at the hands of the Joker, and Damian Wayne has met a similarly gruesome end. Hasn’t Bruce now learnt his lesson? As the world’s greatest detective, it is fair to assume that he has now deduced that putting young individuals, regardless of their talents, in the way of super-villains has now, in 40% (2/5!) of cases, led to the death of a Robin. I find it hard to see how Bruce could justify putting another young life at risk.
Coupled with this, there is no getting away from the fact that Damian was Batman’s son. To replace his own flesh and blood with a largely unknown girl, however brave she may be, strikes me as distasteful. Batman is, as shown wonderfully in Batman and Robin #20, beset by grief, longing and despair, and these are psychological scars that, even for a resolute individual like Bruce Wayne, will linger for the rest of his days. Robin’s absence, and the impact this has on Batman’s methods and actions, will serve as a superior plot device to the introduction and subsequent character-building of a replacement.
Despite this, I am certainly in favour of Harper Row interacting closely with Batman. The traditional argument is that Batman needs a Robin in order to retain his humanity, his compassion and his sense of perspective. However, I see no reason why this character has to be the boy wonder. As demonstrated in Batman #18, the actions of a single determined, concerned individual are enough to ground Bruce in reality and impress upon him the importance of his status as an idol, myth or ideal; he has to appear to be above grief, suffering, pain or rage. Assuming Harper Row is to continue in this role as Batman’s connection to the people of Gotham and the city’s realities, then Batman need not replace Damian.
If, through this interaction, Harper Row eventually takes on the mantle of Robin, or as a side-kick operating under a separate moniker, then I will be quite content. Snyder’s narrative often depicts Gotham as being a conscious creature; a dark, shifting creature. Harper Row is the only character capable of providing us with insight regarding what life is like on the ground, for Joe Bloggs, in this bleak, grey, gritty environment. Getting away from the manor, the batcave and the fancy gadgets is something that I eagerly anticipate. Batman is at his best when you strip him down to his driven, determined core and pit him against the evils that Gotham throws at him. With this character on board, I’m looking forward to the ride.