Pursued by a powerful supernatural entity from his past, Batman finds himself at odds with his son, the current Robin Batman 666, Damian. Driven by bloodlust, Damian will stop at nothing to slay the Dark Knight – including the recruitment of the entire Bat Family to his cause. Unfortunately, to overcome this physical and mental assault, and save his wayward wards, Bruce must first answer the question:
“…What kind of monster am I?”
Oozing with excellent action sequences, Batman vs. Robin #3 is at its best when exploring Bruce Wayne’s relationships with each of his Robins. It is a severe understatement to say that Mahmud Asrar’s, Scott Godlewski’s, and Jordie Bellaire’s dynamic action sequences are a huge selling point for this issue. However, Mark Waid’s scripting elevates each sequence beyond a traditional battle of fisticuffs between our heroes. By forcing our hero to face his impact on each young hero, Waid adds depth to Batman. Unfortunately, this character exploration comes at the cost of the stunning supernatural elements from the previous two issues.
The supernatural elements woven throughout the narrative of Batman vs. Robin’s first two issues were both a visual and narrative high point for each of those books. Witnessing Batman take on a fish-out-of-water case with limited resources was incredibly promising. As a result, it is a bit of a letdown that this issue abandons some of that striking imagery in favor of a battle against all of Batman’s previous Robins.
However, this minor gripe becomes a non-issue as Waid’s execution of this conflict adds depth to the character. From the opening pages of this issue, Waid weaves the themes of atonement into the narrative. During Damian’s interrogation of Talia, he states, “… It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m different now. You have to take action to prove it. You have to answer for past sins.”
This notion plays throughout Batman vs. Robin #3 as Batman battles each former Robin. Tim, Jason, Stephanie, and Dick assault The Dark Knight physically and emotionally as they condemn his treatment of their training and upbringing. Although some of their assertions have been explored previously, Dick Grayson’s accusations stood out as I had never considered this new perspective. However, each emotional attack does an excellent job of tying into the thought that Bruce must answer for his past sins.
Mark Waid also does an excellent job providing in-story reasoning for why each of these emotional attacks had such an impact on Bruce’s confidence. Unfortunately, many of the issues printed were missing the captions of this reveal. (You can find the caption released by Mark Waid here.) I thought it was ingenious of Damian to have Dick use Azrael’s Sword of Sin to use Bruce’s guilt against him. This reveal plays perfectly into the atonement as Bruce’s guilt will force him to face his past sins.
However, my absolute favorite moment from Batman vs. Robin #3 using this theme is Alfred’s attempt to heal the guilt surrounding his apparent death. It’s a beautiful moment that provides closure for the Dark Knight and enables him to confront the literal demons of Lazarus Island. Without any spoilers, this sequence is only slightly marred by Bruce’s initial handling of his beloved butler.
“Nezha exploited a wound in you. I’m asking you to close it so you may find strength in that healing. You’ll need it to save master Damian.”
I would be remiss if I did not mention Mahmud Asrar’s and Scott Godlewski’s dynamic action sequences, which are elevated by Jordie Bellaire’s beautiful colors. Each battle is wonderfully rendered, however, Bruce’s battle with Nightwing is a true standout. Bruce’s use of the utility belt to fend off the Sword of Sin is incredibly amazing and shows his resourcefulness. Bellaire’s use of orange hues wonderfully illustrates the impact of the Sword of Sin on our hero as it highlights the battle. This sequence is easily one of my favorites throughout the book.
Ultimately, Batman vs. Robin #3 is at its best when exploring Bruce Wayne’s relationships with each of his Robins. Although Mahmud Asrar’s, Scott Godlewski’s, and Jordie Bellaire’s dynamic action sequences are a huge selling point for this issue, Mark Waid’s scripting elevates each sequence beyond a traditional battle of fisticuffs. By forcing our hero to face his impact on each young hero, Waid adds depth to the Dark Knight Detective.
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