Batman and Robin: Born to Kill Vol. 1 Review – The New 52
The newest in the Batman family of The New 52 hardcovers, Batman and Robin: Born to Kill Volume 1 collects Batman and Robin issues #1-8. The writer is Peter J. Tomasi, whose past work includes The Outsiders and a few issues of the Green Lantern during The Blackest Night and The Brightest Day. Art is by Patrick Gleason, whose body of work features practically most of the DC Universe (JLA, Green Lantern, Aquaman, etc.) and X-Men Unlimited for Marvel. This team proved to be a stellar matchup for The New 52 Batman and Robin.
Batman and Robin is so hard to do right. The dynamics between the Dynamic Duo evolve with each iteration of Robin and, once in a long while, whenever someone else takes over for the Batman. Robin is Damian Wayne, who is the newest Robin and the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul. This makes Batman and Robin: Born to Kill Volume 1 extra special. Robin has traditionally been some random kid off the street. It’s different this time and it recreates the Batman and Robin narrative into a father and son story. While Batman has acted as a father figure for past Robins, for Damian he doesn’t get the luxury of being a foster parent or even to act as their boss. It makes the interaction between them incredibly heart-warming. Well, about as heart-warming you can get with a 10 year old who can kill you with his pinky finger and his insane vigilante justice-crazed father in a batsuit.
I love the artwork in Batman and Robin: Born to Kill Volume 1. Gleason takes Tomasi’s words and brings life to them with near perfect illustrations of facial expressions and body language. All the emotion is there as Bruce and Damian struggle through the balance of their newly found father and son relationship and how it impacts their working lives. The scenery and backgrounds Gleason draws add to the mood and strengthen the story. The included cover art inspires the reader to keep turning the pages. The colors are done by Mick Gray, who has inked many DC titles, such as Hawkman, Detective Comics, and Promethea. The use of the absence of light results in what Batman fans have come to expect: dark, brooding, and full of shadows. Between the writing, the pencils, and the inks, this book is something one can truly consider a work of art.
Of course, no graphic novel is complete without the bonus pages after the story has concluded. This book is no different: the final pages are replete with sketches and their transformation into inks, sample scripts for pages in the book, alternate cover art, and cover art sketches. Also among these pages are words written as a proposal for the story arc of the Batman and Robin series and how it’ll be set apart. These words appear at the top of the proposal:
“Bruce may be the ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ but he’s still not the ‘World’s Greatest Dad.’”
That may be how I would properly sum up this volume. It’s ingenious. Batman’s readers are no longer kids. A great many of them have kids of their own. In this story, Bruce wants the best for his child, despite Damian’s nature. It describes the conflict of our newest Robin as he fights between the training he received from his mother and grandfather and the guidance that Bruce wants to provide. Here, we see the struggle between a parent and their child, something those who have children of their own and have grown up reading stories about the Caped Crusader and his trusty sidekick can relate to.
Another wonderful thing about Batman and Robin: Born to Kill Volume 1 is the use of storytelling elements that have served past Batmen and Robins well and true. All Robins have been told by Batman to “not go out on patrol tonight” for a few nights in a row. All Robins have disobeyed Batman, resulting in various levels of success. You’d think that Bruce would’ve learned by now. Come to think of it, it’s odd that he hasn’t learned from his past sidekicks….
This newest chapter in Batman’s universes further humanizes the two centerpieces of the franchise. It’s rare enough to see any kind of emotion from Bruce and while we’ve been used to seeing Robin react with his feelings, Damian is different. In a lot of ways, he is his father’s son. You’ll love seeing Bruce being a dad and Robin being a snotty little bitch determined to go do what he wants yet earn his father’s approval and acceptance at the same time. It is a classic Robin struggle and a welcome and familiar element to see as part of this story.
Batman and Robin: Born to Kill Volume 1 is a worthy addition to any collector’s inventory. My only regret is that it took me so long to read it. Even if you’re a Robin-hater, pick this one up. This particular Robin doesn’t fall all that far from the tree and it’ll be interesting to see how things are when the Dynamic Duo is no longer the contrast of Robin bringing the Batman out of the dark, but him being as dark or darker than his mentor.