BATMAN & ROBIN #33 by Peter J Tomasi, pencils by Patrick Gleason, ink and color by Mick Grey and John Kalisz and lettering by Carlos M. Mangual. ROBIN RISES continues here from ROBIN RISES: OMEGA oneshot, and boy is it setting the stage.
Actually this issue is rather sedate; Bruce wants to follow Godfrey back to Apokolips but the Justice League, consisting of Diana, Lex Luthor (who is extremely effective as a good guy I might add, I don’t know what he’s playing but I like it), Captain Cold, Aquaman, Cyborg, and “new” recruit Shazam come to stop him. And it’s pretty much a squabble from there on out. Bruce is knee deep in being stubborn and uses Cyborg to zap back to the Justice League satellite base to get his “Hellbat” armor (straight from the toy aisle!) that nearly everyone on the Justice League helped make for Bruce. But access is denied and after further squabbling, Bruce is sent home. Bruce visits Talia and Damian’s graves and destroys them, but Superman interrupts and they have a chat. Bruce then goes down into the Batcave where all Batfamily members but of course Dick are waiting for him as Bruce employs a new plan. Meanwhile in Apokolips Damian’s sarcophagi is given to Kalibek (who is sadly not a tiger nor dead) as due to whatever Ra’s started to do to Talia and Damian, is emitting the same energy energy signal as the chaos sliver Ra’s was using and what Godfrey meant to collect to begin with.
Frankenstein walking away as the superheroes argue with each other with a stoic face was a highlight, as it addresses a pretty big problem with superhero comics; the drama is just so high and figures we look up to spend more time fighting each other than actually saving the world. I don’t quite think it’s a criticism, as Tomasi is now sending Bruce down a path of irrationality and are indeed playing straight with these interactions, but it certainly is how I feel most of the time. They had the beat there and took it, and that’s cool.
The reveal of the Hellbat suit, looking quite like the armor The Heretic, Damian’s disfigured superclone wore, as well as Damian’s own batsuit, of what is something that surely will come back and be a big plot point or element. This literal and figurative knight armor, it appearance and rather unsubtle name officially puts Bruce’s decision to go to Apokolips and get Damian’s body back into the archetypal realm of the classical katabasis of myth; the descent into a chthonic realm or underworld, often to retrieve a lost love. Examples include Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek myth or Izanagi and Izanami from Japan. This is actually awesome storytelling because it shows that comics for the most part are no different than classic stories as they all share the same archetypal roots. This narrative has been teased on other covers, such as Bruce and Damian reaching for each other on different sides of a scale on the BATMAN & BATGIRL issue. Bruce has been hinted at going down into Hell to get Damian back; I can think of no greater Hell than Apokolips. I liked Clark and Bruce’s conversation.
I am so glad to see Gleason back after not having him on the one shot, but I found his art a little stoic this go around. He’s really good at action but I think he gets a little awkward when it’s casual or just people standing. For instance I don’t think the rest of the Batfamily standing around in those ending pages looked particularly good. The graveyard scenes were as always, with the continued thematic usage of fireflies ( called lighting bugs in my part of the country) beautiful and has some of the best art of the issue. Otherwise? I really don’t have much to complain about. Billy is used often for comedic beats often at his expense with ADULTS telling him to shut up. I don’t really sit well with that. Granted, he’s a bit older than he usually is, but he’s still only fifteen, and they know that fact. I don’t think too highly of that and it makes people like Cyborg look bad. Otherwise this is pretty exciting stuff; I like when things get outrageous in the right way. Bruce is pretty insufferable, but what wouldn’t a grieving father would do to get his son’s body back; I think most fathers would get this irrational.
Go buy it? That’s really I can think of; this is poised to be rather great I don’t think you want to miss it.