Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Review: Batman Incorporated #8

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Publisher: DC Comics

Batman and Talia Al Ghul's personal war rages over Gotham City, but as they both seek to win, they both lose.

As the cover to my left may have already given away, this issue of "Batman Incorporated" marks what is potentially Damian Wayne's final appearance as Robin, The Boy Wonder. The battle between his parents has been expertly told by veritable genius, Grant Morrison, across multiple series, since his very first arc on "Batman" way back in 2006. The prodigy has long claimed his initial plans called for Damian's death, but the character proved so entertaining to write, the young Master Wayne earned himself a reprieve. It's only fitting the writer should revisit the poor boy's fate in the run up to his own final issues.

Ironically, this major event comes hot on the heels of Scott Snyder's parallel blockbuster series "Death of the Family", which ended mere weeks ago, with no fatalities. So to have Damian survive the cruelty of the Joker, only to die soon after, at his own Mother's behest, is the ultimate cruelty. This trick is somewhat of a double-edged sword, as all eyes were on Snyder's masterwork, no one would possibly suspect Morrison of such a status-quo shattering development in short order.

The character's final fate is plain to see in the structure of the issue. Morrison goes out of his way to give Damian several memorable moments that will leave tears in the eyes of long-time fans. Chief among them, the camaraderie between he and Dick Grayson. For a short time, Dick and Damian operated as Gotham City's Dynamic Duo in the pages of "Batman & Robin" and this is not lost on Grant Morrison. In what has to be one of best moments of all Batman's long history, Damian tells Dick he was his favourite partner and that they will always be the best in his eyes. That moment alone fills my heart with joy, so it's only right something crushing happens later. If this had to be their final team-up, it was the right note to end on. Seeing the pair of them jump out from behind cover and dive into battle, side by side, is downright inspirational.

It's with that same manic pride in his own abilities that Damian chooses to take on his insane clone alone and endures the most vicious beating you could ever imagine a ten year old boy taking. Remember how we all winced when Jason Todd was beaten to death with a crowbar by the Joker back in the 80's? Well this is worse. This is a knock-down drag-out brutal slug-fest. I have to give Damian credit, he absolutely went out swinging. For every cringe-inducing blow that's landed on the youngster, he gives one back. The Boy Wonder refused to stay down at every turn and he'll always have my respect for that. Robin earned his wings.

Of course, the scariest thing about this issue, isn't even in the issue itself. What we are all dreading is the aftermath. Just how the hell does Bruce Wayne cope with the death of his only son? This is a man who thought dressing up as a giant bat and fighting crime was a sane way to deal with the death of his parents. Therefore, I am genuinely terrified at what horrors Grant Morrison has just unleashed on an already Dark Knight. The death of Jason Todd was traumatic enough. It cast a permanent shadow over the next twenty years of Batman comics. You couldn't crack an issue without finding Bruce staring at that damn display case (or having someone thrown through it). Losing Damian could shatter both the man and the hero forever. There is no more status quo.

10 out of 10

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