Comics

Sad Dad Versus the Modern Prometheus: "Batman and Red Robin #19"

Steven Romano

How far would a parent go to full the void left by a lost child? When you're Batman, you'll attempt fill that void in the most outlandish and controversial manner possible…


Batman and Red Robin #19

Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi,
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-06
Amazon

The ripples spinning out from the devastating loss of Damian Wayne in Batman Incorporated #8 may no longer be felt within the pages of Detective, Batgirl and other titles grouped beneath the shadow of the Bat Family umbrella of books. Yet, Batman is just now coming to terms with the untimely death of his son in Batman and Red Robin #19. This daunting psychological load becomes central to the story of just how far a bereft parent would go to fill the void left by their late child... When you're Batman, you'll attempt fill that void in the most outlandish and controversial manner possible.

Batman and Red Robin #19 opens up right on the one character longtime comic book readers have been clamoring to know more about since DC revealed her place in the New 52: The Dark Knight Returns’ Carrie Kelley. No longer the eager teen sidekick from 27 years ago, Carrie is now a plucky film major, troubled by the inexplicable disappearance of Damian, of whom has been working on a secret project with her unbeknownst to Bruce Wayne and us readers both. Meanwhile, Bruce’s inability to accept his late son’s passing is taking a dark toll on a man who once was an exemplar of rationality and stoicism in the DC Universe. Letting his emotions cloud sound reason, Batman kidnaps Frankenstein and absconds with the undead hero to his creator’s hidden laboratory in the Arctic Circle, hoping to reverse engineer the life force that brought the monster back from the dead and, hopefully, bring back Damian. Fearing for his master’s mental and emotional health, Alfred Pennyworth contacts Red Robin to find Batman and have him see reason.

As far as this issue’s story went, I was somewhat indecisive in regards to the stance I wanted to take on Batman’s descent into temporary madness. For the most part, it was interesting to see him contradict the very heroic convictions that he had berated Damian for flippantly disregarding throughout the run of the rebooted Batman and Robin series. Chief among them being not to allow unchecked emotions be the driving force behind one’s resolve. In essence, Batman became the impetuous child that put himself before the welfare of those closest to him, not once considering the implications his hasty actions would have down the road. Add to this the constant self-justification of his heinous plan and use of a fellow hero as an unwilling research subject, it was somewhat enjoyable to witness Batman devolve to the same level of depravity his rogues gallery displays, even though this certainly hasn’t been the first time Bats has contradicted his own system of belief.

Conversely, I also carried this dissenting opinion of Batman’s morally questionable character, feeling that writer Peter J. Tomasi may have gone a tad too far in presenting a shattered mirror image of a hero so many of us have come to idolize. Capturing Frankenstein for his own ends was one thing, but to actually proceed with his grisly dismantling—and rob a hospital of cadavers to be used as guinea pigs in his twisted endeavor beforehand—made Batman an actual villain as opposed to, as I initially assumed reading the issue, an echo of what he was destined to become if he didn’t pause for a bit of spiritual introspection. To put it all into better perspective, Red Robin’s grimace upon discovering Batman’s butchering of Frankenstein pretty much matched my own expression taking in the art of that particular splash page. Yes, we all know Batman can have his extended moments of moodiness. But there’s being a brooding sourpuss and there’s, well, callously chopping up people. Alive, undead, doesn’t matter. It’s unsettling any way one slices it (pun not intended).

In light of the series’ title saying otherwise, issue #19 can hardly be called a team-up of Batman and Red Robin as the latter’s appearance is negligible as it is hollow. It’s clear where Tomasi was going when he had one of Batman’s erstwhile wards snap some sense into his mentor, taking the moral high ground that, in any other situation, would have been occupied by the Caped Crusader. Truth be told, virtually any of Batman’s former sidekicks could have filled Red Robin’s role and the fleeting tensity the scene conveyed wouldn’t have been any different. But no other member of the Bat Family would have been quite as fitting as Jason Todd (a.k.a. Red Hood). Having already faced death and brought back to life, Jason would have been more relevant to the overall theme and situation at hand, as well as likely offering a far more substantial and entertaining exchange of colorful words between he and Batman. On that note, this oversight and use of Red Robin—a character that basically served no discernible purpose—felt like a missed opportunity that would’ve added more to the story.

Batman and Red Robin #19 wasn’t really the best way to kickoff the new status quo for the series, but I’d be at fault to say that the issue wasn’t without it’s redeeming qualities. Next to Frankenstein’s philosophic discourse on the dangers of playing God for one’s own ends, the introduction of Carrie was a standout, showing plenty of promise for the series down the road—my curiosity piqued over the role she’ll play in the Batman mythos. Will she take on the mantle of Robin or aid the Dark Knight in an auxiliary capacity that would allow another character (Harper Row if the divine powers that govern this world will it so) to become Damian’s successor? At this point in time, Carrie’s fate is ambiguous as Tomasi is doing plenty to skimp on the details and keep readers yearning for more. I’ve been an avid reader of Batman and Robin since issue #1 and, irrespective of this dip in quality, it hasn’t done anything to reconsider my monthly purchase of the title, though I hope hiccups such as this will be few and far between moving forward.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.