I went into this trade with some trepidation. I wondered (and worried) what I would think of a Batman comic without Bruce Wayne. The last time this happened (in Knightfall) we were stuck with Azbats for entirely too long. Knowing that Grant Morrison wrote this story gave me a little hope though, expecting something twisted and different.
My reaction after reading this is basically on par with what I expected, perhaps erring on the side of disappointed. I knew I’d miss Bruce, constantly comparing poor Dick Grayson to his mentor at every turn. Dick makes a decent Batman, but he’s just not the real Batman. I like that Morrison doesn’t try to make Dick a carbon copy of Bruce. I don’t want to forget who’s behind the cowl, and I like being able to tell that the dark knight is someone different. Different doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and I like that Morrison lets Dick dive headfirst into the role of Batman without forcing him to emulate Bruce too much.
That being said, a lot of the comic still felt like Dick was simply pretending in the role. A lot of this had to do with the brotherly bickering that filled the pages. Damien has adopted the role of Robin (with Tim apparently out of the scene for now…no real explanation is given in the trade). Unfortunately, Damien doesn’t listen too well, and doesn’t seem to have much respect for the man who ought to be his mentor.
Had this been an isolated incident, I could have overlooked it as merely an adjustment period for the dynamic duo, as they struggle to adapt to working with one another. Unfortunately, this seems to be a prevailing theme among the Bat-boys, with all of them practically (and sometimes literally) at each others’ throats.
As though two brothers aren’t enough, we get Jason Todd thrown into the mix, returned in yet another costume, this time a redesigned Red Hood.
He gets himself a handy dandy scarred sidekick (because when you’re a masked vigilante, it’s what you do) and tries to become the new Batman, trying to win over the city and accomplish what Batman never could: the eradication of crime. Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy a good Jason Todd story, but I’m kind of wishing he would just stick with a title/costume for more than three issues. He doesn’t really have a superhero/villain identity; he’s just Jason Todd in a bunch of different uniforms. I can understand the appeal of using him – he adds another layer to the family drama bubbling up over at Wayne Manor, with 3 various Robins all fighting for the title of the man they viewed as a father figure.
It wasn’t a bad story by any means, it just felt like it could have been a bit better. Jason and Dick’s interactions make them seem much younger than they actually are, feeling as though they’re all still trying to figure out how to do the whole adult vigilante thing without Bruce there to guide them.
Maybe that was the whole point, but for me, I just found myself missing Bruce’s calm surety. Yes, he questioned his actions sometimes, but for the most part he knew who he was and why he did what he did; in comparison, Dick’s Batman feels too adolescent and unsure of himself to strike the same sort of fear in the hearts of Gotham’s underworld.
I’m not hating on Dick Grayson. Of all the candidates, he was the best choice to take up the mantle. I just hate change, especially when it means changing the man behind such a core character as Batman. The story is okay, but it felt too removed to even feel like a Batman story. Maybe it’s meant to stress the fact that this is a new Batman, with new villains and a new story, but I found myself missing the old story far too much to be fully invested in what was going on. I’m still eager to see where it all goes, but I can’t help but hope Bruce makes a triumphant return sooner rather than later. It’s just not the same without him.