Batman and Robin Volume 1: Born To Kill (Comic) Review

For years I avoided the Batman books, or at least the flagship Batman book, because I wasn’t a fan of Grant Morrison’s writing, and he was steering the Batship for DC Comics. As a result, I never read too much of Damien Wayne as a character, but wasn’t that big a fan of the character, and didn’t read much of his adventures with Dick Grayson, when Grayson had donned the cape and cowl to become Batman. That being said, I’ve been a fan of Peter J. Tomasi for quite some time, as he and Patrick Gleason were a force to be reckoned with over on the Green Lantern Corps book. So when DC’s NEW 52 occurred, and Tomasi and Gleason took the reins of the newly relaunched Batman and Robin, I was interested to see what this great creative pairing could do not just with Batman, but also his son, Damien, now Robin. I found myself pleasantly surprised, as they managed to subtly alter the character, insomuch as I found him extremely entertaining to read, without being so fundamentally altered that he wasn’t still the same character. The subtle evolution of the character is great to see, and there’s nuances involved that Tomasi hits brilliantly. This collection includes Batman and Robin #1-8.

With Bruce Wayne once again the only active Batman, and Dick Grayson having retaken his old identity of Nightwing, Bruce starts his working relationship with Damien Wayne as his new Robin. However, Damien isn’t just another soldier in Batman’s never-ending crusade, he’s also his flesh and blood son, which makes for many complications in their relationship. Further complicating things is the arrival of a face from Batman’s past, Henri Ducard’s son, now known as Nobody, who wants to take a particular kind of revenge upon Batman, and wants to manipulate Damien into helping make it all the more painful for Bruce.

As I’ve already said, the ability that Tomasi has to make Damien likeable yet still at times irritating is a testament to his skills as a writer. With Bruce Wayne, he finds a way to make him a caring father, yet also the same Batman we’ve always known. He’s not that great at opening up to his allies, and his son is an even greater challenge for him to connect with. I actually liked that Robin has already proven himself as Dick Grayson’s partner, but now it’s the big test as he finds himself paired up with the one, true Batman (no disrespect to Dick), and he also happens to be his own father. Their struggles to understand each other, to connect to one another, make this a book that works on more than just the typical superhero level. It’s also about what it means to take a life, as it’s a core tenet that Batman has built his life around. The villain has no issue with doling out mortal justice, and he tempts Damien to do the same. And even with the resolution of that particular story beat, it’s easy to wonder if Damien makes the choices he does purely out of doing what is right, or because he wants to be like his father, and is patterning his choices upon his father’s own moral decisions and sense of right and wrong.

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Patrick Gleason does a fantastic job with the artwork in this collection, particularly with the facial expressions from the main characters. You can really sense the anger in Bruce Wayne, the sense of feeling lost and unsure of what to do with Damien, and Alfred’s own grave concern for yet another Wayne generation. The action is quite well handled, the book is suitably moody, and the dark moments are suitably so.

This is a fantastic book, and it really makes the reader care for and understand the relationship between both Damien Wayne and his father, Batman. It’s interesting to see Batman in the role of an actual flesh and blood father, and more so because his son is fighting his own base instincts, because of how he was initially raised to be a highly adept killer. Tomasi makes this a must-read book, and it serves to ground these characters and their vital relationship with one another. Recommended!