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Review: Batman Inc. #8: Robin’s Grisly Fate

Damian Wayne, the son of Batman, meets an untimely end admidst a Dark Knight fight.

Batman Incorporated #8

So Robin is dead. Well, one Robin, the Robin, the son of the Batman. The child of Talia Al Ghul. Damian, the bastard brat who went from bitter spoiled child to actual hero has bitten the dust. Why? Well, the potential reasons are plentiful. A way to finalize the split between the family and their dark father. A way to reinvigorate Batman as the silent predator of evil. A need to shill comic books. But realistically, it’s more because Grant Morrison desperately wants to leave a legacy.

Morrison has been hawking this whole Leviathan arc for a while. Like most things Morrison related, it doesn’t really add up to much. The whole plot device was created and executed for the big reveal of Talia Al Ghul as the mastermind behind Leviathan. This was supposed to lead to a massive battle between Talia and Batman, with Damian caught in the middle. Cue the New 52, which set up a partially varied timeline for Batman, one that didn’t really vibe with Morrison. So he did what he does, he ignored the continuity of everything else and dropped a reboot of Batman Incorporated on us.

Let’s be honest, Morrison fan or not, the entire idea of Batman Inc. is as stupid as it is impossible. Bruce Wayne announces he’s going to fund Batman franchises all over the world and nobody makes the connection between the billionaire and the Dark Knight. I’m all for suspending disbelief, but seriously, that idea shreds it entirely. The Batman Inc. arc plodded along before Leviathan returned and the battle between Talia and Batman erupted. Batman Inc. #8 brings the fight to a head and kills Damian Wayne in the process.

The story in issue #8 is irrelevant. Leviathan is attacking, Robin swings in to help and, in a moment of true heroics, dies at the hand of his monster twin, a servant of Talia Al Ghul. Morrison’s writing does exactly nothing to set up any drama in Robin’s death. It’s neither impactful nor stunning; it’s just the fall of another hero. The argument could be made that Morrison kept the death so gritty to represent the reality of what Batman does and how quick it can end in death. Good point. Problem is, Morrison writes everything else with such bravado that the sudden death of Robin is anticlimactic in the shadow of it. If the rest of the issue was written with more of an eye on gritty realism, the death might have counted. There was a chance here and Morrison missed it.

Part of the letdown isn’t the writer’s fault. The secret of Robin’s death has been about as well kept as the fact that John Cena and The Rock would headline WrestleMania 29. Instead of being shocked, most comic fans have been waiting for this. The second problem is, as I said before, the whole idea of Batman Inc. is insultingly bad. Even the most die-hard Grant Morrison fan admits that.

Part three of this mess is that Leviathan is typically Morrison. Confusing, convoluted and hard to follow. Finally, Damian was never given time to marinate as a character. Previously to the New 52, Damian had come around. His Robin to Dick Grayson’s Batman was becoming a likeable and more established character. Post-New 52; Damian went back to becoming a thoughtless jerk. The split in personality forced us to relearn how to care for Damian. There just hasn’t been enough time allowed for Damian to become a true hero, so his death is more that of an impetuous brat who won’t listen to reason. There is not one scintilla of tragedy.

So here we are. Damian is dead and, according to Morrison, Batman is about to go to some “dark places.” Then Morrison is done; his Batman run comes to an end. Typical Morrison, screw everything up and then leave. Personally, I rejoice in his leaving. Morrison has failed across the board in writing Batman, and this lame duck kill-off of Robin is a clear indication of that. I also feel bad for Peter J. Tomasi. While post-New 52, Batman & Robin hasn’t been the most consistent series, Tomasi has worked tirelessly to give Damian Wayne some depth. All his work apparently means nothing, because Grant Morrison has decided to shitcan it for the hope of making his Leviathan arc mean something. The ego here is staggering.

Then we have the art, which doesn’t do the story any favors. Apparently, two artists were needed for this tale. The first, penciling the lions share of the issue, is Chris Burnham and his “Oh I wish I was Frank Quitely” art. Problem is, Quitely’s odd pencils stop just short of being comical, Burnham’s jump right over that line. Nightwing’s Jay Leno chin for instance, or Robin’s Alfred E. Neuman look. In an issue that’s supposed to be so dramatic, the art is awfully goofy. On a personal note, what is Burnham’s preoccupation with people’s teeth?

Pages 6-9 are penciled by Jason Masters. There is no reason for this switch, it does nothing to elevate the story and Masters work isn’t anything special. It’s actually rather boring. I will give a nod to colorist Nathan Fairbairn, who brings some lively color schemes to lackluster art.

Batman Inc. #8 kills off Robin, which is sad. However, I will trade a half-realized character to get rid of a writer who has become straight up delusional in his self-aggrandizing any day.

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(0 Story, 2 Art)