Reading Batman #18, Wondering About Robin

Will Romine writes;

Hey friends!

It’s your ol’ pal Will Romine here with another Bat-tastic review. I have, in my hands, a copy of Batman #18. My LCS let me sneak a peek, and now I’m going to do a little Show-and-Tell. Be sure to read till the end because I have an extra-special favor to ask.

All magic in the world stems from one source: misdirection. It is a magician’s lifeblood. Whether a pyrotechnics show or a scantily clad assistant, all a magician needs is some sort of attention-getter to ply his trade. He earns his appearance fee in the brief seconds when your attention is drawn away from the magician, and towards something seemingly part-and-parcel of the magic trick. The best magicians need only a few seconds of distraction to apparate a lion, or produce the watch that you swore was on your wrist the entire time. Misdirection need not be confined to a magic show. Just last week, I had my wallet stolen while I was watching a street performer. I can’t prove any coordination, but I can’t disprove it either.

The past 6 months of the Bat-Universe seem to me like a great magic trick. Death of the Family started a long season of speculation. The title alone suggested that a member of the family, probably a Robin, was going to get it in the end. We knew for sure that the Bat-Family would be irrevocably changed. While the latter has yet to be explored in depth, the former never came to pass. That would have been the predictable ending. Instead, everybody remained more or less above ground.

Meanwhile in Morrison-land, Damian’s days were numbered. While we were all watching the jiggly girl in the sequins juggle chainsaws, Grant Morrison subtly, and with little fanfare, delivered the Prestige. I can’t prove any coordination, but I can’t disprove it either.

Now, Batman is sans-Boy Wonder. This begs the question, what does a Robin represent in the new-52? Traditionally, a Robin has been a light counterbalance to Bruce’s inner demons. If Alfred mends the costumes and sets broken bones, it is the Robin who mends the fractures and tears in Bruce’s soul. The presence of a Robin reminds Bruce that fear and brutality are a means, not an end.

However, the new-52 redefined the role of the Robin as an “internship.” What I take away from this classification is that “Robin-hood” (see what I did there) is of a fixed duration in which the current Robin gains valuable job experience and then leaves the nest. The Robins exist more for their own gratification and less to aid in Bruce’s mission, which brings us to Batman #18. This issue is the latest in a series dealing with the fallout from Damien’s death. This issue focuses on Harper Row, a supporting character introduced a while back in the new-52. I think it’s a solid read insofar as it brings the role of Robin in the new-52 closer to the original conception. Participant rather than consumer.

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 4.29.40 PMNow, I’ve been reading the internet (all of it) and many folks are predicting that Harper Row will become the next Robin. After reading this issue, I have my doubts. For the first half of this issue, Harper seems to be following the “So you Wanna be a Robin” manual beat by beat. In Gotham’s version of “meet-cute”, she trails Batman, and even saves Bruce’s bacon. You can see sparks of all the Robins in Harper, but Batman doesn’t want to play. He has experienced loss on both sides of the generational divide and would rather bury himself in his work then reflect on recent tragedy. Without giving too much away, Harper sees that Batman is hurting and needs someone to pull him out of the darkness. I believe that what the Robins did for Bruce’s soul, Harper will do for the idea and symbol of Batman. She exists to ensure that whatever torments Bruce the man will not harm Batman the god. Whether she performs this role as a Robin remains to be seen. Personally, I see her more as a street-level Oracle.

Overall, I think that after two massive, multi-title crossovers, the Bat-Universe needs a few character-centric one-shots. Event fatigue is always a danger with large form story telling and Snyder & Capullo have picked the right moment to pull back a bit. I always like “love letter” issues in which an average Joe gets to tell the Dark Knight what he means to them. It’s a reminder that even the Dark Knight can be a bright beacon of hope. Pick up this issue and shed a tear at the very touching Damian memorial. A good read all around.

Like? Dislike? Can you prove that the street performer and the pickpocket were coordinating? If so, give me a follow @notacomplainer

Now on to the extra special favor. This spring, I will be running a race to raise money for Fisher House, an organization that provides assistance to families of hospitalized soldiers. Often a soldier’s family can’t afford to visit and stay with their wounded soldier during their time of convalescence. Hospitals are typically far from a soldier’s hometown, making visitation a costly proposition. Fisher House provides housing and other assistance to ensure that veterans can recuperate with their family. Please take a second to visit my page and possibly make a donation. Every bit helps.

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