Spoilers ahead for basically anything that’s happened in anything Batman since February. Look how much better than the New York Times I handled that.
Considering my inarguably expert analysis of Death of the Family, the Joker-centric Batman story arc that wrapped up last month with a psychotic whimper, it’s only appropriate that I offer additional expertise in the wake of the most recent Bat-happening.
Robin is dead! Robin is dead! Robin is dead!
Batman Incorporated #8 saw the extremely over-publicized death of Damian Wayne, the most recent boy wonder to humor Batman’s weirdo desire to hang out with a little kid instead of maybe throwing a poker night like a grown ass man. Robins have come and gone in the past, adopting new alter-egos, joining new teams or being blown to smithereens and then resurrected form the dead (go figure) but Damian’s departure may prove to be the most upsetting and exciting of them all due in no small part to its timing and Damian’s blood relation to the Dark Knight.
One doesn’t even have to look forward to feel some of the ramifications of Damian’s passing.
Remember Death of the Family? Remember how it was called Death of the Family? Remember how it had the words “death” and “family” right there in the title and nobody in the “family” “died?” Scott Snyder’s epic Joker tale proved to be nothing short of brilliant as the author took the Joker at his name and subverted expectations left and right, setting up massive narrative explosions that instead gave way to understated punch lines.
Well it turns out Death of the Family subverted expectations even after its conclusion. After all, when a twenty plus issue crossover called Death of the Family wraps up after four months and nine titles and somehow none of the Bats wind up dead, you kind of figure they aren’t going to wind up dead and maybe “death” was just some sort of weird metaphor for climate change or the fiscal cliff or something.
Cut to Batman Incorporated #8 two weeks later and Damian being impaled on a broadsword by some kind of Tusken Raider Batman monster.
Looking back on the subdued conclusion of Death of the Family with the knowledge that the real danger lurked just around the bend, Snyder’s quiet, subverted finale feels all the more menacing.
But Death of the Family is in the rear-view. It’s the aftermath of Damian’s death and the massive potential it brings for most all of the major heroes in the Batman universe that make the event such an interesting turn.
Right off the bat (classic) one can’t help but wonder how the Batman and Robin comics will cope. The series’ most recent issue, which saw Batman dealing with his loss, was executed in silence – no dialogue, no narration, all crippling depression – but it will be interesting to see where the series will go from there. Since the New 52 reboot Batman and Robin hasn’t just been about the forging of a partnership it’s been about a father and son accepting each other as a son and a father. Now that both of those relationships have been obliterated author Peter Tomasi has the opportunity not only to delve into the aftermath, but to work with a potentially blank slate.
With Damian gone, who says Robin has to be a boy? He could be a monkey, or a Gorilla, or even a super shark. The possibilities for what he can be are endless – a boy scout, a male nursing student, a male secretary, even a mail man! Endless!
Of course the death of the current Robin will no doubt affect the Robins of the past.
Damian Wayne has always represented something of an emotional threat to Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and Jason Todd because at the end of the day while they were all Robins and wards of Bruce Wayne they were never and will never be Bruce Wayne’s actual son. Seeing the rightful heir to the paternal affections of the Robins’ father figure removed from the equation has all kinds of exciting potential for character development.
But of all the Robins, Damian’s death will probably have the most effect on Jason Todd, the second Robin, now the Red Hood, because now he and Damian are death buddies! The most unbreakable of bonds rivaled only by those shared between brothers from another mothers.
Jason’s death was pretty brutal. The Joker beat him to within an inch of his life with a crowbar then blew him up in an abandoned building and boy oh boy was Batman pissed. In fact he was so pissed that he got really mad and acted really mad and was generally a pretty mad guy and when he saw the Joker again you can bet he totally let him live cause that’s just how mad he was.
Understandably, upon Jason’s return from the dead he was a little perturbed that Batman didn’t murder the lunatic that beat the living shit out of Batman’s innocent child of a sidekick. I suspect because it breached some sort of assumed, unspoken, “bros before hos”-like clause in their relationship.
Now another Robin is dead and this time it isn’t Jason, so right there he’s moving up in the world. But not only did Jason Todd win the “look at me I’m not dead” lottery, in the aftermath of Damian’s death Jason Todd will get to see for himself what the death of a Robin does to the Batman. How drastically different will Batman’s reaction to Damian Wayne’s death be to what Jason knows of Batman’s reaction to his own death?
Will Jason see Batman taking Damian’s death harder than his own and become further alienated from the Bat family? Will Jason see that even after the death of his own son Batman still refrains from killing and forgive him for letting the Joker live? Will Jason go on a twitter rant about how his Robin death was the best Robin death of all time?
Only time will tell!
Of course Damian’s death will hit Bruce Wayne, the Batman himself, the hardest. Sure it sucks that his Robin died. Sure it sucks that his kid died (and probably didn’t even clean up his room first). But beyond that, Damian’s death sets Bruce’s family tree on fire from both ends.
As a boy his parents were murdered, a loss that has shaped him as a person to his very core, and now as a man his boy is murdered, leaving him an isolated Wayne left behind by both deceased predecessors and progenies alike. Watching this new loss take its toll on Batman will be compelling, particularly in Snyder’s skillful hands.
It will also be a total bummer.
Are the Batman’s values so statuesque and unbreakable at this point in his career that even the death of his son won’t offset them? I don’t know. That guy from There Will Be Blood certainly didn’t handle it to well and his kid wasn’t even dead he was just deaf and not even his real kid.
All of these potential narrative avenues aside the death of Damian Wayne is sad because Damian Wayne is dead.
It’s a comic book death – so he’ll probably be back tomorrow – and a death that was so overly publicized that people who don’t even know who Robin is know he’s dead, but seeing Damian grow from a smartass dick of a little kid to a smartass hero of a little kid was enjoyable and watching him unceremoniously cut down was difficult, particularly for those, myself included, who liked his character.
Damian Wayne was good at two things: being a prodigy who was good at everything and pissing people off like nobody’s business. Earlier in the New 52 Batman and Robin run he essentially told the former Robins that he was going to beat them up and take their stuff. He had more in common with Calvin then he did with Batman and his attitude may have been obnoxious as hell, but his characterization was sincere.
Less than a month after Damian’s death it’s impossible to tell what the legacy of the event will be, but it certainly has potential to elevate the characterization and plot of the titles inhabited by Batman and his bros and that one girl he hangs out with and maybe even that other girl he’s started to hang out with kind of reluctantly.
It also has potential to be really, really dumb – but hey, I’m a glass of murdered ten-year-old sidekick blood half-full kind of guy.