In this review of Batman and Robin #1, a mysterious character sets its sights on the newly re-united Dynamic Duo. At the same time Bruce and Damian deal with another issue… being father and son.
Batman and Robin #1
Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art and Main Cover by: Simone Di Meo
Variant Covers: Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Kael Ngu, Clay Mann, and Simone Di Meo
Page Count: 32 Pages
Release Date: September 12, 2023
I was excited when it was announced that Batman and Robin would be returning to the pages of DC Comics. However, I held some apprehension when I read that Joshua Williamson would be the writer. In the past year or so, I’ve seen different versions of the writer. There was Joshua Williamson who wrote a wonderful story in Robin that showed my favorite Robin mature before my eyes. Then there was the Joshua Williamson who wrote the pretty terrible Abyss arc in the pages of Batman. To be fair, Williamson deserves credit for guiding the events of the recently ended Knight Terrors event. Could that trend extend to this new story, however? After reading Batman and Robin #1, the answer is yes.
Batman and Robin #1 takes place after the events of Knight Terrors, but while Batman faces off with Catwoman in The Gotham War. As seen in the pages of Batman #137, all of the members of the Bat Family have apparently sided with Selina’s plan for making Gotham a better place by turning the Rogue Gallery’s henchmen into a guild of non-violent thieves. That is all of the members of the Family with the exception of Damian, who, like his father, sees Catwoman’s mission as misguided. So, for the first time in a while Robin – the real one, that is (don’t at me) – is back at his father’s side. They take on White Rabbit and her crew of Black Rabbits as they attempt to hijack a Zeppelin and its passengers.
The sequence in these first few pages already tells me what I need to know. I see Robin Joshua Williamson at the helm, and I am so happy. In Williamson’s Robin run, we got a story of a young man who I have watch grow since his introduction in Batman #655 (or Batman: Son of the Demon if you’re an old-timer like me and feel that story should be canon) after leaving his parents to find his way. Now, we see Bruce and Damian taking score of the baddies they take out and giving each other fist bumps. I would expect this in Damian’s relationship with Dick, but not with Bruce. But dangit, I absolutely love it already.
The Growth and the Struggles of Family
Readers then receive ten pages where there are no punches thrown. There are no bullets. And yet this is absolutely the best part of this issue. We see a father and son each struggle in their own way in their relationship with one another. While Damian can’t seem to take the Robin mask off in front of Bruce, we see that despite the growth since Williamson’s Robin, Damian struggles with his conflict life – so much so that he writes a story about it. For his part, Bruce also struggles. There’s the pause in knocking on Damian’s door. Asking Alfred how he was able to do it. One has to wonder if Bruce was asking how Alfred dealt with Damian, Bruce, or both.
Things continue into the next morning as Bruce tells Damian that he’s going to enroll him in school – a public school at that. I truly appreciate how Williamson uses Bruce to acknowledge Damian’s maturation while he was away on Lazarus Island. We also see how much Alfred truly affected Damian’s life as we find the blood heir (Yes, I call him that. Blame Reddit.) quoting Alfred in words and in actions. He fixes breakfast. He slaps his father’s hand and corrects him on the proper way to fix tea. All of this highlights how much Alfred truly influenced Damian’s life and could further explain why the young Wayne took Alfred’s death so hard. And yet, Damian maintains his ability to be the snarky dick that makes him my favorite. That is some masterful storytelling from Williamson.
The True Mystery of the Issue
As Bruce and Damian finish their breakfast and put off their conversation about Damian returning to school, we get back to the mystery of the story, which begins on the first page as a figure dissects some birds on a table. Apparently, Catwoman’s mission in the Gotham War hasn’t been completely successful. They deduce that some not-so-random smash and grabs are linked together, including the one with White Rabbit at the beginning of the issue. That evening they set out to investigate further only to find that one of the hostages on the zeppelin has been targeted again. This time, the culprits include the likes of Man-Bat and Killer Croc and Orca. And they know the rest of the Bat Family are not showing up to help.
I will admit that I am not a fan of this back and forth between making Waylon anti-hero/villain/anti-hero again. DC has been doing this far too much with characters, some undeservedly. Characters such as Croc and Clayface, and even Orca had redemption stories worthy of continuation and writers have crapped over them. Williamson is not alone in this. Here, two of those three are now teamed up with other beasts in trying to kidnap one man.
Little do Bruce and Damian know but they’re being watched from a distance, apparently by the same guy dissecting the birds at the beginning of the issue. As they fight, he shoots Bruce with a pellet that weakens him. It’s not poison, however. It’s some sort of pheromone that attracts bats. The issue ends with those bats attacking Bruce.
The Art and the Covers for Batman and Robin #1
I will admit that I am only familiar with Simone Di Meo’s work as a cover artist. And I’ve always liked them. But sometimes good cover work doesn’t always translate into good interiors. That’s not the case here, however. Di Meo, who also does the colors for this issue does a stunning job in this issue. What I appreciate most is his visualization of Damian. It gives credence to the fact that Damian, while older is still a child. He appears somewhat taller in certain panels. But what can’t be mistaken, however, is the youthfulness in Damian’s face. When not as Robin, there’s a true innocence in looking at the younger Wayne that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s truly stunning.
In addition to Di Meo’s main cover, DC commissioned three variants plus a blank cover. I purchased the Artgerm variant in addition to the main cover. Why? Because it’s Artgerm. Honestly, I would be lying if I didn’t say his depiction of White Rabbit didn’t draw me in. But that’s part of what variant covers are supposed to do – draw you in to buy the issue. At least the cover pertains to the story… somewhat.
Kael Ngu’s variant is also really nice. It depicts the Dynamic Duo swinging through the Gotham night from behind. It gives you their view of the city. Clay Mann finishes out the variant covers with a 1:25 incentive variant that appears to pay homage to the Dark Knight Returns. There are no wrong choices in the cover you decide to pick. However, based on what I pre-ordered, you can tell my favorites.
What a way to kick off a new era in the relationship between Batman and Robin. While I am happy and excited to see the Dynamic Duo in action together again as they were in Batman and Robin #1, I have even more interest in seeing Bruce and Damian’s story without the cowl and mask. There is much to explore here with a lot of stories Williamson can tell between these two. I hope DC allows Williamson and the rest of the creative team the space to tell those stories. They are off to a good start already.
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