Damian goes solo in Robin: Son of Batman # 1 written and drawn by Patrick Gleason, inks by Mick Gray and color by John Kalisz.
Damian, after headlining Batman & Robin since 2009 with Dick Grayson, then with his father post Reboot, is now given his own title. And he’s aiming for redemption for everything al Ghul, declaring a year of atonement for the “year of blood” for every item or trophy kept within a personal vault on al Ghul island, tokens of Damian’s grizzly training and successful marks underneath his mother. He’s not at it alone, however as there’s a giant “man-bat” mutant named Goliath is there to help (and cause trouble for him as well).
The issues jumps around as we see Damian get to the point of facing his past and fears within the vault. Damian trains and struggles, having nightmares about Dick and his mother and of the Heretic, showing off a huge case of survivors guilt and PTSD. Meanwhile, it looks like a second Nobody, the daughter of the first killed by Damian himself, is on Damian’s trail for vengeance of her own. Goliath implores Damian starts with an object related to a figure called The Guardian. Damian agrees and declares they start now and Nobody II, watching with her invisibility concurs. The issue ends with the feral and amnesiac Talia in the Himilayas found and attacked by a figure who knows who she is and bearing the same symbol as The Guardian related object upon his glove. The sight of them causes her to remember Damian before being throttled to the ground and leaves us possibly on verge of a landslide.
Gleason is a surprisingly adept writer, having not known that he did or could, and does a spectacular job here. It feels rather natural and sequential from what came before, unlike other artists who have been given writing reins (Tony Daniel comes to mind) and I’m extremely confident that the series will play out as both entertaining and as heart wrenching as the series that proceeded it. It’s got that fine blend of comedy and heartfelt moments blended with a pronounced grisliness and morbid visuals.
Gleason hits a lot of the same notes Tomasi would hit in an issue, with Damian’s young 10-12 year old age allowing for very sweet boyish moments contrasted with the very grown up heavy burdens and PTSD that he carries. The thematic threads of familial duty and filial piety from Batman & Robin continue along with the added cherry of survivors guilt. What’s amazing is Gleason mentions directly Dick’s time as Batman in Bruce’s stead and thus strings this comic to plot-lines long before the reboot. These deep reaching fingers back to Damian’s creation and introduction are bittersweet as characters such as Cassandra Cain that would fit right at home in this title and be invaluable supporting characters for him are missing (though Nobody II does look somewhat like her..could that be Cass’s new origin?)
The art on this book is nothing short of amazing. I’ve always been a Gleason fan, even at his most chaotic or incomprehensible on the Green Lantern Corps the team of him, Gray and Kalisz are instantaneously recognizable and so synonymous that it’s immediately noticeable when neither Gray or Kalisz are inking or coloring Gleason’s work. The art here is dynamic as ever with the trademark heavy inking chiaroscuro of blocky negative space as well as Kalisz’s stylized, jewel-toned or wonderfully desaturated color palettes. I can always count on rich color from Kalisz as well as gripping pages. I must commend Gleason for making Damian appearing even more mixed race somehow and for Kalisz shifting to a slightly darker, more olive/tan skintone for him. His costume is given some tweaking, with the solid yellow cape phased out for a dual sided black cape and hood edged in yellow and a new red shirt.
Little to none. This is well connected to what came before, is able to pull rather unobstructively from past stories which make it not entirely new reader friendly but spells it out enough (I did bad things, here are tokens representing them, I want to make this right) that it’s not too much of an issue. The same goes for the killing of Nobody I, we are given a recording on the original Nobody’s mask and seeing his daughter’s reaction is enough.
Amazing. The feel is certainly different from the old Tim Robin comics of the 90s, but it’s certainly a great read and I can’t wait to see where this takes us. I hope Cassandra Cain debuts in this series, it would be perfect for her.