BATMAN AND ROBIN #18
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason and Mick Gray
Release Date: March 13, 2013
It’s hard to say in comics whether death is a thing that lasts, especially for a Robin. Jason Todd was dead for about 15 years, but he’s been back for almost ten, and headlining his own title for the last year and a half. Stephanie Brown was dead for less than four years, but she’s disappeared back into the empty space between stories. Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Supergirl, Kal El, and even Bruce Wayne (more or less) have all been lost for a time, only to return again.1 It’s easy to become somewhat jaded. Especially since it’s been less than a year since Bruce and Damian faked Robin’s death in the pages of Batman Incorporated. This was a boy who was grown in a vat, and whose life had been saved more than once by multiple major organ replacements under the care of his mother, Talia al Ghul. It could be fairly observed that Damian Wayne was a child for whom the normal rules of life and death simply never applied.2
And yet, by revisiting the particulars of the Damian Wayne that readers have been living with so intimately for the past year and a half, Batman and Robin #18 makes his loss feel raw and immediate in a way that stands out among the many, many comic book deaths I’ve read.
Batman and Robin #18 is a comic filled with things — Damian’s room and his locker, neatly kept, as was his way, but teeming with bits of what was his life. His tools, his mask, his costume, his MP3 player, his sketchbook, all the things that he touched and used and loved. Everywhere Bruce looks he sees Damian, the artifacts of his presence juxtaposed with his unimaginable, unescapable absence.
Bruce Wayne has always been a character not just driven by loss, but engaged in a constant battle between the enduring grief and the emotional disconnection which each fuel his almost inhuman hybrid heart. Batman’s reaction to fresh loss is almost invariably written as finding expression through further retreat into the costume, so it’s devastating to see Tomasi and Gleason take us in the opposite direction and show us Bruce as Bruce, grieving the loss of his son.
It’s almost unbearable. As it should be.
There are no words.
1. We’re not even going to talk about Marvel Comics, because then I’d have to mention Jean Grey, and, in all honesty, I’ve lost count of how many times she’s died.
2. Let us, after all, take a moment to remember that Damian died at the hands of his own growth-accelerated clone. So, technically, he’s still alive. Sort of.