By Gavin Rehfeldt. For decades before DC Comics’ relaunch of the New52, Bruce Wayne had been known to general observers as the ultimate unattached bachelor, largely avoiding any familial or romantic connections since losing his parents and waging his war for justice. Then the New52 happened, and all of a sudden that war – which had once been almost two decades in the telling – became a trim five-year endeavor. How strange it is that, in spite of this, Batman would still have a son.
The idea of Damian Wayne, the Batman’s son, was born out of Mike W. Barr’s Son of the Demon and later Grant Morrison’s Batman And Son. Damian worked splendidly because Batman’s offspring seemed an avenue worth taking after decades of relative solitude. Now, in the status quo of DC’s New52, Batman’s world feels so peculiar now that it’s crowded with his familial attachments including how many Robins? (Four.) Did he ever have an era of working solo?
During Morrison’s original, pre-New52 run, Batman had not only mentally endured a living death experience in the fabled Nanda Parbat, but he seemingly survived death itself, by outrunning the evil Darkseid’s Omega Sanction. His subsequent journey through time brought the Batman and his Bat-Family closer together than ever before. These events are scarcely known to the readers who joined the New52 party back in September 2011, and the rest of us have been uncertain if they ever happened. Robin Rises: Omega quickly establishes that they did indeed happen along with just about everything else Morrison engineered beginning in 2006. (Including Batman’s apparent “death”.) How and why Batman could have a son in the New52 is convoluted at best, and the seemingly jettisoned Batman, Incorporated‘s appearance certainly doesn’t clear anything up. If Batman has been in action for 5 years, as the comics assert, then how is it possible that he has an 8-10 year old son? But yeah, don’t think about timelines! It is these kinds of leaps in believability that make reading a comic like Robin Rises: Omega both fascinating and frustrating.
In the previous chapter of Batman & Ra’s Al Ghul (issue #32), Ra’s al Ghul (AKA the Demon’s Head) had stolen the bodies of his dead daughter, the criminal mastermind Talia, and his grandson, Damian Wayne. This action has further propelled Batman to seek a means to resurrecting Damian, and his efforts have brought him to the doorstep of Apokolips—the domain of longtime JLA villain Darkseid and a host of other colorful demonic characters.
Robin Rises: Omega’s setup is cut and dry, if eclectic: Batman, Ra’s, his League of Assassins, Damian’s dog Titus, and Frankenstein are the “good” guys. The demonic David Bowie impersonator Glorious Godfrey and his Parademons from Apokolips are seeking the powerful Chaos Shard, which is encased in Damian’s casket, per the Demon’s Head’s efforts to mask it. No such luck: Apokoliptians can sense the energy signature that has now spread to Damian’s body, making him an energy source unto himself. There is a fantastically gory battle where, among other things, Ra’s puts a sword through one Parademon’s head, and Batman slices through the arms of another to release Damian’s casket from his grip. This is all thrilling adventure, with Man-Bat ninjas joining in on the fun, climaxing in an intervention from the Justice League itself led by the newly christened leader, Lex Luthor.
Peter Tomasi has continuously done impressive work with his Batman stories before the DC relaunch, and also subsequently with Batman & Robin (& Frankenstein, & Batgirl, & Aquaman, & Wonder Woman, & so on). Robin Rises: Omega, while not nearly a perfect comic, is likely the best one he could accomplish with such a disjointed continuity and this broad spectrum of characters and situations. He gets the voices of each character just right, and his sense of wit and gravitas are delicately balanced.
Andy Kubert’s art is generally strong, with only some confusing moments where geography and characters are difficult to identify. (Example: Ra’s’ facial hair seems to come and go from time to time.) Still, Kubert was the man for this job, as his continued affiliation with Damian is bringing about a creative high for him that continues to come through.
Robin Rises: Omega is a confection, an entertainment, but not much more. (Though Ninja Man-Bats VS. Parademons are hard for a comics fan to deny.) This comic has some choice moments to earn its existence besides feeling scrumptiously weighty in my hands like Batman: The Return did in 2011: shifting alliances, gruesome action, witty banter, and epically personal stakes.
This developing Batman & Robin arc continues into Batman & Robin #33 (available now), and it has me of two minds. I could not be a bigger admirer of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman – which this one-shot is clearly in reverence toward, particularly with Damian Wayne’s death, for which I have mucho respect. Through the Caped Crusader, Morrison made a profound statement on the cyclical nature of comics, so here we are at the precipice of the inevitable resurrection of Damian. It is troubling, but also fascinating when we realize these are the rules that comics must perpetually obey: The Gates to Comics Heaven are not pearly, but revolving. I am just along for the ride in a small moment of eternity.
Now, this is where I have a beef, dear reader. Concepts such as the ones introduced in Morrison’s Batman: RIP, The Return of Bruce Wayne, and Batman Reborn exist in this story and are recapped in detail (heck, even the 1987 Son Of The Demon is represented here, which was out-of-continuity until Morrison made it canon). HOWEVER, Kathy Kane (AKA the original Batwoman/Batman’s first ex) is completely erased. And I mean, it is like she was never in the Batcave last year, during the end of Morrison’s Batman, Incorporated, brandishing her golden gun. During the book’s opening flashback sequence, on page 8, panel 3, I should have read “… Kathy Kane decided to end her…” and instead I simply found the ominous “… someone” in its place. My brain flipped in my skull. Similarly, Talia’s presence is sidelined in a peculiar fashion, like she’s a missing sock. Wonder Woman pokes her head in over other characters’ shoulders. DC has so many interesting female characters and it is uncomfortable to see them shelved in an almost glaring manner. Just saying.
Other than that, Robin Rises: Omega is interesting, if unspectacular. I will keep reading. I do have to ask though: if a character like Damian is worth bringing back from the dead, why can’t we have Talia back with some real agency? Is Kathy Kane ALIVE, and if so, why can’t DC editorial let her have her own moment of “resurrection?”
6 out of 10