Damian: Son of Batman – Brilliant Idea, Awful Execution
When it comes to comic books, cliffhangers are part of the gig. But comic book fans want and deserve some closure. I guess Andy Kubert didn’t get the memo.
Damian Wayne is one of the most intriguing spin-off characters DC has come up with. Bruce’s son by Talia al Ghul, he grew up being the heir to Ra’s al Ghul’s seat. However, his mother eventually leaves him with Bruce, and numerous story-archs follow, including one where Talia had to save her son from being the body that her undead father would inhabit in his quest for immortality. With time, he became the fourth Robin, spending the majority of his time as Robin with Dick Grayson as Batman until The New 52 reboot, which brought Bruce back to the cowl.
Andy Kubert was one of the artists behind Damian’s creation. As part of this intriguing character’s mythology, he wrote the mini-series Damian: Son of Batman to show where Damian’s character would have gone were it not for The New 52 changes. It was also to fill in the spaces between the present as it is before The New 52 reboot, and Batman #666, which shows Damian as the new Batman. It was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it was also poorly executed.
The first issue shows a lot of promise, and opens a lot of interesting conflicts. Batman is killed while he and Robin (Damian) are investigating a mass of bodies. His death is caused by a Joker fish that was actually some sort of bomb. Instead of going after the Joker, however, he kills every villain in Batman’s rogues gallery who claims responsibility for the Caped Crusader’s death. That drive, however, nearly kills himself and those closest to him.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
The second and third issues set a lot of things up for readers to scratch their heads and scramble to the last issue. It turns out that the Batman that died was actually Dick Grayson, leaving Bruce to come home and stop his son from carrying out his violent rampage, at which point Damian puts him in critical condition. He regrets this, and then, as well as other times in the series, visits a priest with whom he talks openly about being Robin and about taking up the mantle of Batman to be the man his father wanted him to be. This priest knows Damian personally, supposedly, and so we are left to wonder, who is this guy? He looks vaguely familiar to Jim Gordon, but why would Gordon be a priest?
Then, after Damian nearly gets himself killed, Alfred pulls his limp body back to the Batcave, but then apparently dies himself. Except his spirit appears to have been transferred to the cat (an attempt at explaining why Damian has a cat named Alfred in Batman #666). Damian wonders if he’s going mad, as you probably would, too. Then, of course, there’s an old nurse dressed up a bit like the Joker whose dialogue is very reminiscent of Harley Quinn, again dropping hints of the Joker, especially when Bruce is kidnapped, obvious bait for Damian, who has taken up the mantle as the new Batman.
That leaves at least four conflicts to resolve, and the fourth issue adds more to the heap. Yet almost none of this is ever reconciled. We assume that the bomb was set by the faux Joker, but that’s never really stated. We never find out whether or not Damian is imagining Alfred the feline, if Bruce is actually going to live, or who the priest was. Instead, the issue ends with Damian as the new Batman confronting a crew of baddies, but far too late. He doesn’t even get to the scene until five people have already died.
This mini-series was a great idea. The first two issues are pretty phenomenal, and the art is beyond fantastic. But magnificent art can’t make up for a lackluster story. This would have been acceptable were it part of an ongoing series, but this is, so far as we know, a one-shot mini-series. And what began as a fantastic story ends as cruel and unusual punishment, setting up conflicts without resolution. ~ Logan Judy, EXTREMIS BATMAN CONTRIBUTOR
Story I Read: Damian: Son of Batman #1-4
Rating: 2 out of 5
Pros: Phenomenal artwork, intriguing battle of Damian to use self-control
Cons: No resolution in any sense of the word.
Upcoming Review: Detective Comics #27