Batman and Robin Annual #4 by Peter J. Tomasi on writing, Juan Jose Ryp on pencils and inks, Jordi Tarragona and Juan Albarann on additional inks, and Sonia Oback as colorist is a fun romp and a suiting “epilogue” to the father/son series.
The extra large annual follows Damian as he fixes the Justice League satellite transporter and goes to keep his father company in space. From there they notice a few strange things going on the moon, and go, by moon buggy, to investigate. They soon face off with a gaggle of parasitic moon men. There’s really nothing else. This is generally light hearted, very funny, and a nice way to end Tomasi’s great run on this series (as if Batman & Robin #40 wasn’t good enough).
The story is straight up old fashioned comic book action and a relatively simple one shot story that comes at the heels of Damian using up all his superpowers. I almost wish we had more of these types of once and done narratives again as standard; it’s fun, it slows things down and allows for great interactions. Bruce and Damian are great together. Damian’s mix of arrogance but genuine earnestness and eagerness to keep his father company is well written. Wonderful quips, space to draw out interaction and have them explore the moon was great. It’s so sci-fi wacky. Damian quotes Darth Vader. Damian says the stars look like endless possibilities, Bruce says the stars look like pearls (oh Bruce). It’s all…really endearing. I like this. Give us more of this. Tomasi for me is responsible for a lot of narratives and issues, dating all the way back to his Nightwing run, of cool adventure romps with a degree of lightness to them. I’d love to see him do some more of that; give him a Gotham Girls Spoiler/Bluebird/Black Bat series!
None that are huge. The art here is both a positive and a negative, perhaps the only negative of this issue. First as a positive it’s very rich, very detailed and there are many “shots” and panels that are super dynamic and great to look at. Ryp is very competent with interiors, layouts, technology and has a bent towards cinematic-ness. It’s not the cleaner, cartoonier and more stylized Patrick Gleason with his signature vast uses of negative space. Ryp’s more “traditional” but it’s definitely of the better kind of traditional work. Certain pages are nothing but stunning.
The richness here is amplified by the colorist Sonia Oback who also does very pretty work. It’s not as stylized as I usually like it (she could have played with a few more color overlays some more in the beginning and on the satellite) but the work is very good and compliments the very detailed atmospheres and composition of Ryp’s art as you can see here with all the aliens in the small module. It’s very nice. She does a great job with the interior lighting and reflections on Bruce and Damian’s space suit helmets. They literally glow.
The one thing that belies the art is that Ryp’s regular human faces err on the side of uncanny valley or grotesque and while it sounds a bit harsh, are sort of ugly at times. Sometimes it looks great when a bit zoomed out and more simplified, other times their faces and poses look pretty bad. Titus the dog often looks quite scary. Ryp’s Damian seems a bit inconsistent too, from looking straight up 100% white to later in the book looking quite mixed race (which is refreshing, because hey, he is). Some of the inconsistency I could peg on the three different inkers; you could tell this was not uniformly inked by one person. Given the length of this issue it’s however, understandable, but it does mean the issues jumps about slightly stylistically. It’s not as jarring as other artist swap outs I’ve seen however, so it’s not that big of a gripe. I feel if Ryp could learn to simplify or streamline their style ever so slightly to make his people and faces a bit less…like that, they would certainly be top tier as everything else they do points in that direction or is already there. The artistry is clearly there. I’m very biased, I like very stylized and clean artwork.
This is a great ultimately heartfelt one-shot. No life shattering consequences, no “big reveals” or Lincoln Marches or Black Gloves or Dr. Hurt’s or anything. Just zany pretty well-drawn comics about Batman spending time with his son. It’s perfect.