You can’t see me right now, but I’m straining. A 200-pound manchild humped over his desk like some grotesque vulture. Head buried in hands. Taking short, choppy breaths.
All because I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.
That’s right: Batman and Robin #18 is here and writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason aim to deliver the first issue where the Bat-family is given time to properly grieve for their lost Robin. And all of it with nary a spoken word. How will they react? And Is It Good?
Batman and Robin #18 (DC Comics)
Batman is a laconic character by nature. A stoic one. Despite this, we are usually given some insight into his line of thinking. A reflection on some villain’s tragic faults; a quick acknowledgement of an opponent’s weaknesses; a gem of strategic genius; a snippet of trash talk to make a mob boss s--t his pants.
It’s impressive then that an issue completely devoid of words ends up speaking volumes more than those abundant with word bubbles and inner monologues.
Tomasi and Gleason do a brilliant job of advancing the story within this motif of silence; although the decision to go mute might seem gimmicky to some readers — it was the right one. Instead of egregious flashbacks, long-winded spiels about the sanctity of human life, or a training montage out of Rocky III, the restraint here evokes deep, genuine emotion.
Through this method each grimace is intensified; each remorseful head-hang made all the more crushing; and every scream of anguish exerted as if in a void claustral to sound — like something from a bad dream.
When else has a routine jaunt around the city skyline taken on such poignancy? The following is no simple shot of Gotham at twilight, but a Batman in mourning that swings beneath a shroud of bloodred:
One quickly reminded of his bereavement.
Or what about a ride in the Batmobile?
Batman perched upon a lightpole right? No big deal. Something we’ve seen countless times before. But from this long shot perspective? We see a Batman truly alone.
Awesome use of empty space within the panel to convey the feeling of emptiness.
The absence of Robin only serves to accentuate what Batman really is: A haunted character. A lonely and obsessive one. Without the Boy Wonder to serve as his foil, we are unable to see him for what else he can be: A sagacious teacher. A stern, but caring disciplinary figure. A father.
- No dialogue was the right choice. Touching, without any corny dialogue to screw things up.
- Quality art by Gleason that evinces plenty of emotion in each facial expression and panel.
- Right in the feels, man. Don’t read it if you want to be in a chipper mood the rest of the day.
For those of who you see the whole Damian thing as a mere strategem employed by Morrison for shock value, or wonder how a man who already let one Robin die could let it happen again, I leave you with this:
There is no one to tell us what might have been. We weep over the might have been, but there is no might have been. There never was. It is supposed to be true that those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. I dont believe knowing can save us. What is constant in history is greed and foolishness and a love of blood and this is a thing that even God – who knows all that can be known – seems powerless to change. — All the Pretty Horses
Is It Good?
Yes. This is what we needed. Not some brief scene of characters sobbing near a tombstone but real emotion. Real pathos. This issue was depressing, gratifying, and cathartic all in one.