Thursday, 31 October 2013

New Beginnings - Damian, Son of Batman #1

In his day before Batman, Bruce Wayne met a fascinating enigma called Talia Al Ghul. Their tryst ended badly, but the fruit of their union was young Damian Wayne. Upon his initial introduction in Batman & Son, he was a pain in the ass. But over time he became a fan favourite and embraced his father's path and became the latest Robin.

Until he was killed.

Life moved on, people mourned in their own ways and the audience are currently taking in the Batman and Robin title with a variety of counterparts, instead of the Caped Crusader's trusty ward.

In the vein of “What If” or the now defunct "Elseworlds" imprint, veteran artist and (arguably) the co-creator of Damian, Andy Kubert gives us a peek at what may have happened if Damian had lived.

Twice before during Grant Morrison's run on Batman, we were treated to the sight of Damian as future Batman and both times it was wonderfully compelling. In these issues he made a great Dark Knight, edgier and yet still honouring legacy of the Bat, albeit in his own unique way! This new four issue miniseries serves as the origin for that new guardian of Gotham as he steps into his father's shoes.

Opening the story at the scene of a massacre, Batman and Robin are hunting for clues amongst the carnage. After searching for some time Robin chances upon a clue pointing directly at the Joker, a strange Jokerised fish, with the added bonus of a bomb beneath it. Caught in the blast, Batman is fatally wounded. 

The horrific event and the subsequent funeral wreaks such an emotional wound upon young Damian that he finds himself doing something you would never expect of him. He visits his mother and grandfather for help.

Due to the choices that Damian made in the past they have no choice but to turn him down, which only makes matters worse and directs him down an even darker path. All of the villains he previously handed over for justice are soon found murdered; a final solution to ensure they could no longer commit any sort of crime. The young vigilante heads further away from the principles that Bruce tried to instill in him. Even the counselling of the church and Alfred are not enough to stop him. It’s only the surprising sight of Bruce storming back onto the scene (accompanied by a strange cat) that stops Damian in his tracks.

Kubert is well known for his artwork which is why I was slightly surprised at the opening page. There is just something very wrong with Robin in the very first image. To make things even more ridiculous, Batman simply looks furious at the ill advised facial expression on his son!

Thankfully the situation improves through the rest of the issue (although some frames do stray as well) giving a good overall set of artwork. I found the Joker fish oddly fascinating as well. Batman is portrayed as the standard strong brooding type, but this is shaken with slightly stilted dialogue such as - “Focus on the mission, young man!” - which to me felt out of character especially considering that this story is supposed to be set ten years in Batman's future.

As a four part miniseries, I think that this is worth checking out, whereas I'd have more reservation if this had been announced as an ongoing title. I am left wondering where the story is going since there have been two fairly large revelations about Damian’s path already. I do hope that the small inconsistencies in writer/penciller Andy Kubert’s storytelling do tighten up and that this expands into a deeper story than just misguided rage and confused decisions. The mystery of Bruce's return will entice me to pick up the next issue.

Matt Puddy thinks that the new Robin should be Alfred...

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