Thursday, January 1, 2015
Robin has risen
OK, so the Robin rises story arc has come to a close and Damian Wayne has returned from the grave to reclaim his position as the sidekick to his father Bruce. It was a year and a half ago that Damian was taker out by one of Talia al Ghul's minions, sending Batman into somewhat of a spiral that was pretty bad even for him. To pass the time between his death and return we got a series of team-ups between Bruce and several different members of the DC Universe. First there was a "stages of grief" arc of sorts where Bruce paired with each member of the Bat Family (Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl, and then Nightwing with a Catwoman issue thrown in for good measure), then we got a run of Batman and Two-Face stories where the two adversaries found themselves on the same side for once. Then it was back to another series of team-ups after Bruce paired up with Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the Frankenstein in pursuit of Ra's al Ghul and Damian's body. Finally, with Damian's body taken to Apokolips by Darkseid's subjects Bruce went in pursuit to retrieve and hopefully revive his dead son. Which he did of course. He is Batman after all. So now Damian is indeed back, but like with a lot of comic book/fantasy series resurrections he came back different. Instead of being a normal kid with exceptional intelligence and fighting skills, he now has super strength which adds a whole new dynamic to the story and the partnership with Bruce. With this chapter wrapped up and a new one to begin, there are some questions ahead.
Was all this necessary?
I'm sure that's what a lot of people are thinking right now. Damian was killed in Batman Incorporated #8 back in 2013, much to the chagrin of readers who'd finally gotten to like him a little. And like most comic book deaths, the number question immediately afterward is whether or not they will stay dead. Darn near every major character in both companies has either been killed or presumed dead at some point or another and they always find a way back to the land of the living. We just went through a farewell to Wolverine that lasted several months and had tie-ins and crossover with what seemed like a zillion other titles, and no one really thinks he's going to stay dead. Damian's passing didn't go anywhere near that far. All of the Bat-related titles the following month had some kind of reflection on it, including a pretty riveting 'silent' issue of Batman and Robin. Once that was done it was back to business as usual; Damian's death affected the storylines of the books he was involved in, but that was it. Keeping it relatively low key like suggested that it just might stick. That and the introduction of Harper Row, who was shaping up to be the sidekick in waiting, gave us enough to think that Damian would be gone for good but once Ra's al Ghul stole his body from the grave it was clear something was afoot. So within a year and a half or so we got a death and resurrection of an important character. Was it a good idea or a waste of time?
I say yes it was a good idea. At the end of the day these are stories and as long as they are good we should be happy. If you ask me they handled it right. The death and immediate aftermath were pretty gripping, we got some good stories n between, and the return was insane, over the top, and really cool. We got to see the full range of Bruce Wayne as a character, and seeing the whole crew back together to rally around bringing Damian home after they'd been at odds for over a year was good stuff. We got to see the true devotion of Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, and Alfred to Bruce and each other and the lengths to which Bruce was willing to go to save his son. This kind of year-plus long journey is why we read these stories in the first place. And that they were able to do it within the regularly scheduled books with a minimum of money grab special issues (just two, Robin Rises: Omega and Robin Rises: Alpha) helps even more. In essence, it was a major event series without all the Special Event bells and whistles, and we should applaud that. And it was just good storytelling. We got to see full on crazy Bruce 'I'm effing Batman and don't you forget it' Wayne, willing to face off with Darkseid of all people even if it killed, and a Batman arc that ended on a happier note for once with father and son back together to take on the bad guys. The Dark Knight does deserve to win sometimes, after all.
So what comes next?
That's the real fun part isn't it? Damian has powers now, so the entire dynamic has changed. Bruce referred to Damian's newfound abilities as a problem, even though they ultimately saved everyone's bacon. But in Bruce's mind, Damian having powers is a problem because now it changes the one thing that control freak Bruce has over everyone else in his crew: they can't take him. How Bruce deals with that variable will be a major point going forward. Then there's the matter of Dick Grayson. Right now Bruce is the only one who knows Dick is still alive. Even Alfred believes that he died when Crime Syndicate took over the world during the Forever Evil storyline. What's Bruce going to tell Damian when he asks about him? Will he keep the lie going like he has with everyone else or he will tell his son the truth? And when truth does eventually come out what's going to happen to the Bat family, including Damian? And lastly, where in the current timeline will Damian's return fit in? Right now there are several storylines going on without him, so where exactly they choose to drop him in will be very intriguing. We shall see. I think there's going to be plenty of excitement to come here.