Thursday, 27 February 2014

Batman and Robin Vol. 1: Born to Kill (The New 52) Review

Batman and Robin Vol. 1: Born to Kill (The New 52)

There is nothing- NOTHING you can
do to make that logo look cool.
Writer: Peter J Tomasi

Artists: Patrick Gleeson and Mick Grey

Collects: Batman and Robin #1-8

Background Information:

Before you dismiss this title, let me assure you of one thing: this has absolutely NOTHING to do with the awful 90s movie Batman and Robin- they aren't even using the same Robins (the one in the movie is now Nightwing; y’know, the super-cool dude who had surely had nothing to do with the Bat-nipples/crotch).

This Robin is Batman’s son, Damien Wayne. Damien in the son of Bruce and Talia Al’ Ghul (daughter of Ras Al’Ghul) which makes for a family more messed up than anything you’re likely to see in The Simpsons. Damien has a severe little prince syndrome coupled with an innate desire to kill everyone he doesn't agree with (gets that from his mother).

Damn, now I want a Batman version of The Simpsons.

Review:

On its surface, Born to Kill looks like any of the multitude of Batman titles out there, which makes it sound like you could dismiss the book without missing out on anything. But that would be doing yourself a disservice. Though Born to Kill doesn't hit all the marks, it’s definitely one of the better bat-titles out there.
So Damien is a sadistic devil-child who has the potential to turn very dangerous and Batman really hopes he doesn’t. Things get complicated when a guy by the name of NoBody tries to take Damien in as one an apprentice of sorts. What follows for Damien is a Luke Skywalker-style story where his is forced to choose between unleashing his inner sadist or becoming the hero he dreams of being.

The lights never work at the Wayne household... NEVER!
Okay, so a few things to say about characterisation; firstly, the whole story is peppered by these great moments where Bruce Wayne tries his best to be the father he thinks Damien should have. He gets him a dog, and wishes that he could just spend a day playing ball with his boy. It’s hard to do fatherhood right in the superhero genre; like marriage, being a dad ages a character. Somehow, though, writer Peter J. Tomasi manages to hit Bruce in just the right places to make him entirely relatable without losing the maturity that fatherhood forces upon you.

Damien is a decent character here, but there are better versions of the fourth (or fifth, if you’re picky about Stephanie Brown) Robin out there. Damien works best when he doesn’t get what he wants. Being hamstrung is meant to allow Damien to be at his wittiest and somehow Tomasi doesn’t really let that happen. We get a Damien who is innocent (to a degree), and a Damien who is angry, but never one that makes you laugh due to the extent of his frustration. This Damien isn’t bad, but he’s far from the best version of the character.

Finally, NoBody here has an amazing backstory that hearkens back to Bruce’s training before being Batman. It makes for this great, three-dimensional character that I wanted to see more of. Unfortunately, that isn’t likely considering how this book ends, but I honestly loved this take on not only a new villain, but a part of Batman’s history.

The characterisation here is mostly good, but unfortunately, the subject matter of Born to Kill is more than a little overdone. Damien’s hero vs. killer struggle is one that has been played out in books like Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son. It’s starting to look like the only story Damien has is about his mother issues with Talia Al’Ghul. It’s entertaining, but hardly a new direction for the character.

He didn't leggo my eggo...
Art here is as dark as you would expect for a book about the Wayne Family. Different-coloured light works Batman, but Gleason and Grey pull off with aplomb here. The book also feels like it truly has its own artwork, and it manages to stand out among the rest of the Jim Lee-styled artists that DC tends to employ.
well here, and helps to accentuate the darkness that Damien is battling. Character designs are also good here. Damien looks young, Bruce looks like a dad- something that Greg Cappullo never bothered with in

Though Damien could have been fleshed out better here, Born to Kill is hugely entertaining. It gets a four out of five bat-simpsons.

****

+ Bruce is a real father

+ NoBody feels fleshed out

+ Art is dark and distinctive

- Damien is underutilised

- Does Damien do anything other than fight his past?

Alternate Option: Batman Incorporated: Demon Star

If you want another Damien book, read one by his creator, Grant Morrison.