BATMAN AND RA’S AL GHUL #32, written by Peter J Tomasi and penciled by Patrick Gleason, inked by Mick Grey, and colored by John Kalisz is another installment of the “Batman and….” team-ups 0r featuring other characters ever since Damian’s death in Batman Inc left DC Comics without an acting Robin. And it does not disappoint.
In BATMAN AND RA’S AL GHUL we have Batman and Frankenstein along with a gaggle of supernatural monsters going head to head with Ra’s Al Ghul, who has begun a resurrection process at a special Lazarus pit underneath the mystic city Nanda Parbat for Talia and Damian. Flip flopping some rules and retconning the number of Lazarus pits aside (oh look yet another convenient pit!); this is actually really good stuff.
A big complaint of mine with the rebooted universe is that there is a distinct lack of atmosphere and feeling and also cohesion across the Bat-fam line. You read Batman and it needs to feel Batman-ish for me, and for a lot of the line we’re not getting that feeling. A bit of the underground crime world, detective work, a dash of the supernatural and or occult; basically 30s or 40s style adventure pulp is my preferred Batman. Dini’s run on DETECTIVE for instance, has that distinct feeling. Probably not coincidental that I believe BTAS is one of the better toned Batman’s since he was such a big part of that.
A lot of Tomasi’s work for the Batman family; be it preboot NIGHTWING, and now here on BATMAN & ROBIN often hits rather close to that sweet spot. He’s good at that pulp global adventure feel and so far has delivered well.
Tomasi tends to produce very balanced scripts between action and dialogue. I appreciate this; unless action is really snappy and energetic I like meat to my stories. This issue again has a good balance. While I am perplexed what the approaching ROBIN RISES: OMEGA #1 oneshot out next month (July 16th) means for Damian, I am nonetheless intrigued and rather in the dark. When I have to guess something instead of figuring it out ahead of time, that’s a good sign.
Tomasi has a very cinematic feel to his work when given really good art and coloring. And he gets really good art on here. Patrick Gleason is a match made in heaven for Tomasi and it’s no wonder I’ve really enjoyed more or less their entire B&R run even post reboot. Gleason, perhaps one of my favorite pencilers in comics (he draws my favorite Damian, one of the few who draws him as looking multi-racial); Gleason calls for loads of inking and negative black space, which so many artists forget about in composition. His paneling is also creative; not as art nouveau as JH Williams III, but inventive and on the side of cinematic. Mick Grey’s inks, inking in all that blackest of black but leaving just slivers of highlight does Gleason’s work justice. Colorist John Kalisz is the icing on the cake here, providing gorgeous, rich stylized color palettes with wonderful variation. I’ve seen Gleason’s work butchered by poor colorists before, and feel his work often suffers in more “daylight” or casual situations, but so far when in the midst of action, his artwork on B&R has been more or less exceptional.
Story wise this issue is mostly a lock down between Bruce, Frankenstein and Ra’s talking about Nanda Parbat’s former history as the evil stronghold Nishapur, flashbacks to Talia finding a crystal used to active this pit, and the process that must happen to resurrect Talia and Damian. Then the skirmish; which leads to a rather vicious beat-down of Ra’s when all of the sudden…well..let’s just say Gleason’s going to be flexing his Kirby dot muscles.
The fact Bruce is so adamant to retrieve Damian’s body and stop the resurrection process (where he’ll be no doubt a monster and under the control of Ra’s should he be revived) and would rather have him stay dead than be revived in any capacity, is actually really great writing for me. A lesser writer would want Bruce to consider him coming back to life here; and in fact Bruce had already dismantled Frankenstien in BATMAN AND RED ROBIN in the hopes of trying to figure out how to bring Damian back. That’s character growth in the face of grief and trauma. I realize Bruce is on an endless hamster wheel in regards to getting over death (I mean he is running around in a flying mammal themed suit because his parents died…) but in regards to Damian this is again, better character development than not. This is a Bruce who cares, and is actually making good on threats.
There really aren’t many here? I really like the feel for this; it’s melodramatic, sure. Way too long of an arc? Probably (I sort of really like it though; it goes somewhere, unlike Simone’s BATGIRL). Not say this issue (with all its grimness) is without it’s humor either, which is a positive rather than a negative.
A very good penultimate issue or rather prequel for ROBIN RISES: OMEGA #1 which if looking into some context clues and the shock character arrival at the end, well, it’s going to be rather “out of this world”. Buy it! (it has pretty art, you want it anyway!)