“My mon licken chegs.”
“Chegs kinda my nasty, Rob.”
“Gee boys — I figure you ain’t all bright… I don’t shiv.”
No idea what I’m babbling about? Not making a damned lick of sense, you say? That’s because you’ve never read The Dark Knight Returns.
You know, seminal Batman mini-series written by Frank Miller in 1986; real grim and gritty and redolent of Film Noir in a time when comic books weren’t and hailed as one of the best Batman stories ever? Introduced Carrie Kelley, 13-year-old girl who becomes Robin? The same Carrie Kelley featured in this very issue of Batman and Red Robin?
Wait… what the hell?
Batman and Red Robin #19 (DC Comics)
We’re introduced to the new 52, Peter J. Tomasi rendition of Carrie Kelly right from the get-go and already, so many questions:
Is she a nerd? Hipster? Pseudo-intellectual? Platitudinous? Why does she only have two teeth? Does Tomasi really think any guy has ever been horny enough to spit game at a girl waving pizza slices around like a four-year-old whilst reciting Shakespeare in a car all by herself? And who the hell wastes a perfectly good pizza like that?
There were still seven pieces of pizza left. Seven. That’s not rebellious, Carrie. That’s just plain dumb.
Alright, let’s just calm down everyone. Before you get your utility belts in a twine: Carrie Kelley is not Robin. And there’s no hint of it either. (Not yet anyways.) So what the hell is she doing in this issue?
Turns out she had some connection to Damian, one that Bruce himself wasn’t privy to. And we all know how much Bruce enjoys being uninformed about things. Especially about his recently murdered son. That is to say, not a damn iota:
And I thought my Asian mother was obsessively strict.
Seems all this hype was unwarranted though, as that’s about all we see of Ms. Kelley. On to the real focus of the issue, which is Batman’s new modus operandi for dealing with Damian’s death. Did I mention it was Batman’s excessively deranged, out of left field, bat-s--t crazy modus operandi? Because that’s exactly what it is:
Without revealing too much, let’s just say Batman has gone completely off his rocker. His plan, although initially groan-worthy and straight out of some banal mad scientist’s handbook (or a rejected Grant Morrison script), actually grew on me on the second and third readings of the issue.
At first I found Batman’s behavior too contrary and incongruous with how we’ve seen him act in the past; how you’d expect a more impetuous character to act and not one with his ascetic, zen-like discipline and pragmatic mindset. “Damn your carelessness, Tomasi,” I thought. “Learn to Batman!”
Given time to reflect however: This might actually be more profound than we think. Why? Losing one’s child is a misfortune whose repercussions are confined only to those who have experienced it; one with which we can attempt to empathize but never fully discern.
Although the relationship between Batman and Damian never seemed as intimate as say, Bruce and Commissioner Gordon or even Bruce and Jason Todd during his time as Robin — this is his baby boy we’re talking about. Could the loss of Batman’s parents compounded with the failure felt from losing the second Robin and now Damian truly be enough to send a man spiralling off the deep end? He may be the world’s greatest detective and most dangerous man alive — but he is still a man. He may be detached from what you and I would consider conventional behavior but the rift is not so great that he all of a sudden has Dr. Manhattan’s demeanor of indifference.
- Gleason’s artwork is gritty and purdy.
- Tomasi’s story is crazy. But just might be crazy enough to work.
- This issue is going to be very polarizing to most fans.
- An issue that isn’t as strong in stand-alone fashion, but will probably be better in retrospect.
Is It Good?
Let’s get this out of the way right now: This is going to be a deeply polarizing issue. You’re going to see some folk express their pleasant surprise and others their most vehement opposition.
Give it a chance, though. Read it over a couple times. As usual, the artwork by Patrick Gleason is beautiful, gritty and macabre all at once. And Tomasi is no fool. The main guest star of the issue (and I’m not talking about Carrie Kelley) is very well-written and a nice foil to Batman’s sudden fit of lunacy. Tomasi’s taking a chance here with Batman and an interesting one at that. Crazy? You bet your sweet ass. But it might just be crazy enough to work. And for those of you who were thinking of skipping this over because of Carrie Kelley’s inclusion, don’t let that deter you — she’s not a prevailing presence in this issue.