Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Comic Book Reviews: Batman & Robin #18

Show. Don't tell.

One of the key rules of a visual medium is that you need to make your background and characters' actions impact the story as much as the dialogue itself.

It's a key difference between comic books and actual books. With books, the backstory, motivations, character evolutions, emotions, scene, etc. are all described through words. It is the job of the narrator to paint a clear picture using only words.

Comics have the ability to do the opposite. They can use the art of the panels and layouts to convey emotion in scenes to the point that the words aren't necessary - or at the very least only exist to push the plot forward.

Batman and Robin #18 epitomizes visual storytelling in a manner I've never seen from a comic before. There is not one word of dialogue in this book. Not one.

The only time you're actually reading is when you are reading notes some characters left behind, and those don't advance any plot. They merely exist as scenery.

For those who didn't hear last month, Damian Wayne, the fourth Robin of the current canon, died in battle. What follows in this issue is Bruce, Alfred, and Titus (Damian's dog) reacting to his departure.

This is without a doubt some of the most emotional stuff you will find in a comic, and it is Patrick Gleason's masterpiece. I've been so impressed with Peter Tomasi's writing on this title that I sometimes forget how much of a badass Gleason is as an artist, but the amount of detail he meticulously puts into every panel - every Easter egg, every little emotional token - is inserted perfectly.

I won't give away all the details, but there is a scene where Alfred cries in front of the family portrait from B&R #10, which was the painting where the Robins fought with each other and the painter had to stop ... after only painting Damian's head and not getting to his torso. Bruce walks in and sees what he's looking at as well. It's just one of the many gut-wrenching emotional moments in this.

I'd actually say this needs to be read before Batman #18, as I think the rampage he is on in that book starts in this silent book.

There are only two written out pieces in this book. One is a note from Clark Kent for Damian that lists some movie recommendations for him. (By the way, To Kill a Mockingbird is on the list. Nice!) The other... I'm not spoiling. I swear you will be fighting yourself not to cry when you read it.

There have been some goofy stories in this title, but never anything outright bad, and I'd say that over the last few issues, B&R has become the best written thing in the DCU. This is probably my second favorite issue in the title, and the other was the Annual, so it's actually top of the numbered issues.

I'm still undecided as to whether I'll continue reading this title next month simply because I bought the book to see Batman and Robin, not Batman and [Insert Bat-family member here]. But with Tomasi's killer writing, Gleason's unreal art and the fact that I could definitely imagine Harper Row becoming Robin, it's hard for me to say I wouldn't pay to see where this story goes next.

I sincerely doubt you can get your hands on a copy this week because the damn thing was sold out before I got to the comic store a mere two hours after it opened. (Thank you, Maximum Comics Pull Box service!) But the good news is that second prints are being sent out and almost definitely a third print after that, so you've got a few chances.

Every comic reviewer I've read has given this thing a perfect 10, and I'm no different. While a few panels require you to look twice to see exactly what is happening, you can get by without dialogue just fine, and there's better emotion here than in anything you'll read from either major publication this week.

RIP Damian Wayne (Publication History: Batman: Son of the Demon/Batman & Son - Batman Incorporated Vol. 2, No. 8)

Follow me at and like my page at

No comments:

Post a Comment