When it comes to BATMAN AND ROBIN post Damian's death, I expect some gripping conflicts between Batman and members of the Bat-family. I expect to see Wayne's actions and mentality change (to some degree) from issue to issue since writer Peter J. Tomasi says these issues will tackle the five stages of grief. Based on how everything has played out thus far, I think it's a reasonable expectation. However, it only delivered on one of those and even then, the scene was hindered by Batman dropping a remark or two which felt slightly off.
Patrick Gleason's absence is certainly noted, but Cliff Richards does a more than able job with the illustrations and really delivers on the multiple melees. The combat feels fluid and there's a great sense of motion behind every individual punch and kick these characters throw. And Batman being brutal Batman? It's vicious. When the guys he's pummeling say they'd be cool with killing innocents, I suddenly don't feel so bad about seeing Wayne savagely obliterate them and instead being to enjoy the savagery.
We've seen denial and rage from Batman and now it was time for bargaining. Except it's not Batman bargaining anything -- it's Batgirl bargaining. In fact, this issue feels pretty much like an issue of BATGIRL and Batman co-stars. Nothing against Barbara, of course, but the handling of her character really bogged down the issue. First and foremost, we're hit with a lot of exposition (literally over two pages worth). It basically serves as a recap for everything Batgirl has been through and why she has recently removed the bat-symbol from her attire. For me, it really took away from the pacing and structure of the issue. It's meant to be a tender moment, but it instead feels like an attempted "Batgirl 101" for people unfamiliar with the character.
It's safe to assume many of us are here to see how Batman is coping and changing in the wake of the terrible event with Damian. This issue doesn't deliver on that at all and we see nothing truly new from him. It instead focuses hugely on Gordon (who spends most of the book talking about events in her own book). She's the one doing the changing. And Batman? He's still just being excessive while fighting out goons and covering the same ground we've already seen. The only real difference is he has some cool new equipment. Needless to say, it's disappointing to me.
Minor error: Batgirl's symbol was colored in one panel during the opening brawl.
This issue definitely brings the goods when it comes to visuals and action, but I thought it was far less absorbing than the previous encounters. The proposal Batgirl makes is the best part of the dynamic between the two, but for me, that doesn't overcome all of the exposition and a lack of development from Batman. Even if you're a massive Batgirl fan, I imagine you'll find this read somewhat tedious until the heated conclusion. Unfortunately, it's just not as compelling as the previous issues and it lacks the emotional impact they've delivered. Certainly not a bad issue -- just a bit of a letdown for me.