How do you follow up an issue where Batman kidnaps Frankenstein, straps him to an operating table, and tries to carve him up in some sick parody of Milton Bradley’s Operation… all in the name of resurrecting his dead son?
To start, you get a little less weird.
But no less dark. Batman isn’t over the death of Damian yet. Even for the world’s greatest crimefighter, that’s understandable. The guy needs an outlet for his bereavement, though. In Batman and Red Robin #20, true to the title, he teams with Jason Todd, the Red Hood, for a good ol’ fashioned heads-busting mission at a mercenary base in a random secret location. Or is it so random after all?
Batman and Red Robin #20
I’m a let you all finish this review, but first — the 52-version of Carrie Kelley still bugs the hell out of me. We get it, Tomasi: Carrie’s a rebel, you can’t put her in a corner because she’s such a rebel, she’s sassy and has a bon mot for every occasion and she’s also an Ivy League Shakespearean studies professor to boot. Wait, what’s that? She’s not an Ivy League Shakespearean studies professor? She hasn’t even directed theatrical productions of Macbeth let alone Twelfth Night? Oh, I just figured the way she constantly and artificially quotes Shakespeare in front of complete strangers was Tomasi’s way of saying she was. My bad.
Then again, borderline Mary Sue-ism aside, if Titus and Alfred like her, maybe I should just shut my big mouth:
We move on to Batman and Red Hood suiting up in the backstage Bat-Cave area. Turns out there’s a group of bounty hunter snipers in Ethiopia that Batman’s been keeping tabs on. When Talia put half a billion dollars on Damian’s head the sniper guys were chomping at the bit to collect and that naturally doesn’t sit too well with our boy Bruce:
Don’t make Batman go pop the trunk.
Gleason’s art is still among my favorites in the Bat-titles or any DC title, for that matter. Little nuances like the haggardness in Bruce Wayne’s stubble-mottled face, the corrugated lines on Red Hood’s helmet, or even Jason’s psuedo-Ponyboy hairstyle make his strong and distinctive art style shine all the brighter (Although you can tell there was a fill-in for a few pages this month.)
The raid on the bounty hunters’ base is nothing short of bad-ass and entertaining. Batman’s methods here are more brutal and pitiless than we’ve been used to as of late and more reminiscent of the austere, older Batman from Dark Knight Returns. There’s even a line that Bruce barks at Jason while they’re infiltrating the base in their vehicle of choice that’s reminiscent of that grim, drill sergeant persona that was Batman at Frank Miller’s best. Only treading here on more dangerous territory. Great job by Tomasi making this fun despite the gravity of the retribution:
What might you or I do to deflect our feelings of grief and powerlessness? Read a comic book or play video games? Hit the gym? Wallow in our own self-crapulence? It’s safe to say we wouldn’t handle it the same way Batman would and it’s this paradox of the usually stoic Batman finally being shaken and pushed over the edge that makes the past few issues in this title so much fun.
For Batman doling out sweet, painful justice is his anti-drug and to see him so zealous, thirsty, and downright mean is a good wake-up call as to what he’s capable of. Sure he’s a calm, brilliant strategist described by Superman as the “most dangerous man alive,” but if you push him he becomes something truly frightening. A Batman with less restraint is always interesting to watch because it’s a line he so rarely crosses without devastating repercussions as a result. And one poor guy definitely gets the short end of the Batman on a bad day stick.
- Great art by Gleason.
- Tomasi makes this a bad-ass, fun ride despite the gravity of it all.
- Carrie Kelley is annoying, but I’ll give her some more time.
Is It Good?
Hells yes. The fallout come issue’s end is a little disheartening, but ultimately necessary and really exemplifies the type of relationship these characters now share. Perhaps inescapably so. There’s also foreshadowing for a familiar villain that we’ll assuredly be seeing soon. Can’t wait. This title continues to impress me with each passing month.