By Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, and John Kalisz
The book formerly known as Batman and Robin has taken an interesting journey in the current arc, The Rise of Robin. Throughout, Batman has been teaming up with various characters from across the DC Universe while hunting down R’as Al Ghul. Previously, Batman has teamed up with Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Frankenstein to name a few. All of this while being right on the heels of R’as Al Ghul, who stole the bodies of Talia Al Ghul and Damien with the intent to bring them back to life.
In this issue, Batman and R’as Al Ghul come face to face . . . and that’s really about all that happens. The pacing of this issue, something Tomasi usually shines at, is off putting. More than half the book consists of the clichéd trope of the villain, in this case R’as Al Ghul, spilling the beans and revealing his entire plan to the hero. While sometimes this is needed, we are presented with an overwrought conversation which seems to make both characters appear less than what they are typically depicted as. If you’re going to open a book with page after page and panel after panel of dialogue, it better be sharp. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. While true Batman may be motivated by his emotions here, there’s no excuse for the presentation of R’as. The only thing missing from this flat depiction is a maniacal laugh while twirling his mustache.
The art team also stumbles in this issue. Although Gleason’s pencils are usually a wonder to take in, here they are difficult to follow. Part of this is due to the story. With characters just standing around talking, it’s challenging to show that numerous times. Another concern is the action scenes, which are painstakingly confusing. Perhaps part of this is due to fill-in artist Mick Gray, who draws a splash page that is jarringly in contrast to Gleason’s typical style, and part of it is due to John Kalisz’s colors. Yes, this story is taking place in a cave, but he leaves the panels so dark that the action becomes difficult follow.
This issue was the build up for the whole arc. We eagerly anticipated the showdown between Batman and R’as Al Ghul. In its place, we get a calm before the storm. Typically, I’m a fan of this approach, but the dialog was stale and seemed out of character for all involved. This does set the stage for next month’s Robin Rises, and it does so in an unexpected way. The last page is a bit of a curveball, something this story needed. Whether we see Damien’s resurrection or not, doing so in a straightforward manner doesn’t fit Tomasi’s style. While this issue was not up to Tomasi and Gleason’s typical standard, it’s still a creative team worth following in the future. Together, Tomasi and Gleason have been one of the best creative teams since the birth of the New 52. Everyone has a bad issue now and then. Let’s hope they regain their form next month.