BATMAN & ROBIN #34 written Peter J. Tomasi, art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and colors by John Kalisz is the beginning of Bruce’s descent into hell- er…Apokolips to recover Damian’s body. But first, he has a to debrief.
Tomasi has always been a writer on my “good” list when it comes to writing for the Batfamily. His work is always a good balance between serious matters, humor, and superhero shlock. His work on Nightwing preboot always comes to mind as engrossing work. He’s not perfect, but he gets the work done. So far he’s done okay on B&R, pulling more or less all the right strings. This issue is a reasonably sedate one; but launches us clear into the underworld.
This issue starts with Bruce wanting to be entirely open from now on with his team, so once again we have a rinse and repeat after Batman Inc when it comes to Bruce’s development. Morrison may have thrown a tantrum and ended Inc the way he did, but he is right about one thing; they really won’t let Bruce and thus Batman change much. Babs, Tim and Jason are debriefed about mother boxes, Apokolips, parademons, and what Bruce wants to do; i.e. get Damian back. Dick later jumps down and helps Bruce, through Spyral, to distract Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Shazam and Cyborg so he can gain access to the Helbat suit. Lex Luthor faces him, but ultimately claims to want to help Bruce, and does so, sending Bruce on his way to Apokolips.
This issue is rather sedate for 2/3’s of it, mainly Bruce having a heart to heart with the three remaining “sidekicks” (because let’s face it Babs is nothing but a sidekick now, sad to say). Probably the best moments here were comedic panels and light touches of Tomasi brand humor, which breaks up some of the eye rolling of Bruce rehashing information an character development. That balance is always nice and I appreciate it here.
Tim, Babs and Jason also grill Bruce for constantly going dark on them and then subjecting them to his bizarre antics as of late, which is not surprising but god is it needed. Bruce needs to be scolded…like constantly.
I really dislike the constant reminder that this is the Nu52 via dialogue; comments always mentioning the early attack by Darkseid “a few years ago”. Such constant reminders that this is a “new” canon takes me way out of it, and makes me rolls my eyes. I know it’s establishing the world, but it’s just painful having to do so.
Gleason’s art is great overall as always, though I’ve always thought he actually suffers in more “stand and talk” scenes than in more action or atmospheric ones and that shows here because there are inconsistent heights for Tim, Jason and Babs throughout the issue. Tim and Jason seemed to have swapped heights or Tim in general has been investing in lift boots because Gleason draws Tim as being taller than both Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon. That means taller than 6 ft. Neither of which should be possible, given Tim’s traditional portrayal as rather…uh compact (of the Daniel Radcliffe variety). He’s never going to be taller than 5 ft 8 and that’s being very generous. To try otherwise is just funny. Jason’s the tall Robin. Everyone else is much shorter. I am really picky, so forgive me, but I feel the height things here was just distracting. Innocuous, but distracting. Gleason makes up for that error with his expressions. I find his pouts, sneers, eating faces and faces of doubt comical and always a treat. All three Bat boys provide some entertaining faces this issue.
I think this is a solid issue, I’m excited to see Bruce’s metaphorical descent into Apokolips, but in general this was so sedate and a “prequel” that there’s not a ton to talk about, other than Tomasi’s humor is really quite a treat and it’s a shame the content has been so heavy as that is what really makes his work great. Get it, it will get more active again. This is just the prelude. We think Batman and Robin won’t be Robin-less for long.