BATMAN AND ROBIN #33 & #34
Author: Bobby Barrett (Follow @BATBOBBY)
August 24, 2014

Still playing catch-up, but almost there, let's have a look at last month's BATMAN AND ROBIN #33 before diving into the newest issue...

#33
First things first, let's take a moment to appreciate the fact that after 15 months, this series is going by BATMAN AND ROBIN again! Of course, we don't have a new (or old?) recruit filling the old pixie boots just yet, but just the recommitment to the book' true title should be enough to send a ray of hope over the so often bleak world of The Dark Knight. Of course, this issue picks up directly from the end of the blockbuster ROBIN RISES: OMEGA one-shot, and consequently provides more fallout from that issue and transition toward the next phase of the story than the typical opening of a new arc in this book would.

Batman's hopes for resurrecting his son have come roaring back upon learning of a "chaos shard" fragment residing within Damian's sarcophagus. With its introduction going back to the first four issues of BATMAN/SUPERMAN, the crystal this shard is broken off from is said to be the greatest power in the Multiverse - specifically the only object that could give any world a shred of hope against Darkseid's wrath. Which is too bad, since Damian's remains have been stolen and transported to Apokolips, of all places!

Thing is, Bruce Wayne isn't going to let something little like being across the galaxy on the most dangerous planet in existence keep him from his family. The biggest reveal from this issue is the Hellbat: a specially designed Bat-suit, created with contributions from each member of the Justice League to withstand the most heinous of elements and provide enormous amounts of strength enhancement. Inside the Hellbat, Batman can essentially stand toe to toe with the big dogs. Only problem is the Hellbat is on lockdown at the JL Watchtower, and the rest of the Leaguers (ahem, Lex Luthor) don't see impulsively marching into Apokolips as a feasible plan.

Of course, the Justice League are not the ones Batman turns to first when he needs help; and if history has taught us anything, it's that Bruce Wayne is nothing if not tenacious.

This book is really something. No Bat title in recent memory has dealt with The Dark Knight's relationship with his super-powered peers like this. There have been memorable moments in Justice League books, but the Bat titles have mostly stayed in their own sandbox. I said it when reviewing ROBIN RISES: OMEGA, and I'll say it again now: this is looking to be more than just an important Batman story, but an important Justice League one as well. Hell, with the middle finger Bats looks like he's about to give the League, this could be The New 52's equivalent to TOWER OF BABEL.

You can tell Patrick Gleason had a great time drawing the different characters that show up here. This series has seen so many guest stars, especially in its post-Robin era, and Gleason is always careful to give the most detailed, iconic presentation he can muster. There's one scene in particular this month that gives us a cameo from Superman, and it actually blew my mind that we've never actually seen Kal-El in this book before! Gleason does not take this opportunity laying down (if he is, it's from exhaustion), and portrays a Superman that displays both grace and power simultaneously.

"Robin Rises" is already looking to be the biggest BATMAN AND ROBIN story ever told, in both its scope and its cast. I can hardly wait to see what's coming up next…

#34
…and it looks like I didn't have to! HaHaHa!

Peter Tomasi has always made it clear that for him, BATMAN AND ROBIN is a book about relationships first and action second. The writer has also shown time and again a true dedication to understanding the happenings in the DC titles around him, especially the Bat books, and using them to maintain a sense of perspective in his own work. This pays off tremendously in issue #34 as its opening scene not only fully addresses Bruce Wayne's less than admirable treatment of his allies in the last year or so of this book, but also gives some earnest resolution to the tension brought about by Scott Snyder's DEATH OF THE FAMILY.

The first half of issue #34 is simply Bruce Wayne addressing his allies in the Batcave, and definitely gives some emotional payoff that's been badly needed in this title. Of particular delight is a cameo that I won't spoil here, but should please any fan of the Bat Family. I'm of the mindset that watching Batman be a jerk to people with superpowers can be funny, but his own allies should be treated with more respect; and it looks like Tomasi is moving in that direction now, which pleases me.

Now that we can 100% happily root for Batman in this book again, it's time to deal with that little matter of acquiring the Hellbat suit from the Justice League. Bat-Fans know that acting spontaneously, Bruce Wayne is a force to be reckoned with - but with a carefully mapped out plan? Guy's unstoppable!

Both the previous issue and this one have done well to show Batman understanding and manipulating the League based on their own arrogance. Whether they acknowledge it or not, the super-powered heroes view Batman as ther inferior. Bruce Wayne easily uses this to his advantage, even gaining the support of controversial Leaguer Lex Luthor. Can Lex be trusted? Probably not, methinks. But we shall see if that true nature of his shows itself in this arc or not.

Ultimately, the first two issues of this "Robin Rises" arc served as setup for the Apokoliptic showdown ahead (see what I did there? "Apokoliptic"!), but while they might have been short on epic action sequences, they more than delivered on the emotional front. BATMAN AND ROBIN is not about action over substance, it's about using the substance to give greater weight to the action. And I assure you, the action is coming! If Patrick Gleason and team's final page tease is any indication, these guys are just getting fired up…pun intended. - Bobby Barrett

GRADE: A

Bobby Barrett is a lifelong Batman enthusiast living in Fresno, California, with his wife and several cats.
He enjoys reading, writing, acting, and playing very loud rock music.


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