Friday, March 1, 2013

Damian Wayne

If you haven’t read Batman Incorporated #8 (and plan to) and have managed to avoid the internet since… a month or so ago… DO NOT READ THIS!
            I don’t have a whole lot of time, but I wanted to do a thing about Damian. He died in this past Wednesday’s issue #8 of Batman Incorporated.
I hate that. I mean, if it’s actually real I hate it. This is comic books, after all, and nothing lasts forever. But apparently Grant Morrison has had this planned since the beginning – a fact I was not aware of because I am not the heaviest internet user in the world. Which usually works to my benefit, but I’ll get to what a massive source of evil I think the internet is at the end of this thing.
I didn’t like Damian at first. Nobody did. My initial problem was that at the same time Damian was introduced in the Batman books, Superman had some kind of son introduced in his books and I thought it was some kind of stupid gimmick. I don’t read Superman books, so I don’t know exactly what happened with Junior El. But Damian has grown to become one of my (and many people’s) favorite characters over the past several years.
Even after “Son of the Demon” got started and we learned that Damian was a legitimate son to Bruce Wayne I didn’t like him. He was an asshole. How could this kid be disrespecting Batman? And Tim Drake? It was irritating and if the next however many years of Batman comics were going to be like this I wasn’t happy about it. As a matter of fact, I stopped getting Batman for a while. Which led to me missing out on Grant Morrison’s epic storyline.
I heard about this “death of Batman” thing that had supposedly happened, but I wasn’t interested because deaths of major characters in comic books are typically meaningless. And I had also sworn off of crossovers at the time, so “Final Crisis” was not something I was interested in. But when Grant Morrison launched – amid MUCH hype – a new book called Batman and Robin with Dick Grayson as Batman I had to check it out. And to prepare for that I had to find out what had happened to lead up to it because that’s the kind of comic book nerd I am.
Side Note: When I heard about “Blackest Night” I went back and read Geoff Johns’ entire run of Green Lantern books, as well as Green Lantern Corps. It’s what I do. I’m reading all of the Starman omnibuses right now because of that Shade one-shot during “Blackest Night”.
Batman R.I.P.” and “The Black Glove” and all of that were amazing. I still don’t know how I feel about “Final Crisis”. I’ve read it three times and it’s something else. What I found funny was that anybody doubted Bruce Wayne would be returning. Oh, and “Battle for the Cowl” was very interesting. There was a lot of weirdness about it, but overall I thought Tony Daniel did an amazing job of putting it together given his lack of experience. At the very least it’s a fun read. But there was never really any doubt as to who was going to end up donning the mantle of the Bat.
So with my foundation built, I picked up Batman and Robin #1. And it was amazing. Dick and Damian had a dynamic – no pun intended – unlike any other pairing of Batman and Robin. Damian bristled under Dick’s command, but Dick’s natural good nature and faith in people made the team work. Over the course of however many issues the two spent together, Damian started to lose his rough edges and Dick became Batman. Like, legit Batman. Between Grant Morrison’s amazing storytelling and an ongoing parade of excellent artists, Batman and Robin was easily the best comic book DC was publishing every single month (well, almost every single month). It was a book about two people who had lost somebody dear having to not only move on, but also to be better people and to step into roles that their mentor had left for them.
Damian is one of the few comic book characters I have read who truly grew in a significant way. He went from being a resentful, arrogant, entitled little shit to being… well, a slightly less resentful but still arrogant and entitled little shit. But he developed a respect for Bruce and his ways, as well as Dick and the way he did things. Despite Damian’s constant pointing out of Dick’s inferiority, he eventually came to see that there are different ways to do things and that cutting people apart with a sword is not always the best way. He strove to honor his father’s memory and to help Dick become the best Batman he could be. He worked with Dick throughout “Blackest Night”, he teamed up with Stephanie in Batgirl (one of my favorite pairings in recent memory and I think a ripe candidate for an original animated special), and even showed up to harass Tim Drake and the Teen Titans. Damian spent a few months where he was in almost as many books as Wolverine. And it was because people couldn’t get enough of him. Much like Wolverine, Damian was arrogant and brutal and backed up everything he said. In the DC universe, he was the best he was at what he did. And what he did was be annoyingly right so much of the time.
And that’s the thing that makes Damian so interesting. He’s not some kid trailing along behind Batman. He was raised and trained by Ras al Ghul’s League of Assassins. Damian Wayne is literally one of the deadliest people on the planet. Tim Drake may have figured out Batman’s secret identity, but Damian knows that he is the rightful heir of the Bat. That’s why he was so abrasive when he came on the scene and only over the course of Batman and Robin came to understand humanity.
And then they said Bruce Wayne was coming back.
Here’s how effective Grant Morrison’s writing and characterization of Dick and Damian was:
Bruce Wayne is my favorite character in comics ever. If the name “Bruce” weren’t just a tad too ticklish, our son would be named Bruce. I am not kidding. We discussed it. The first toy I ever clung to like a lunatic was a Mego Batman. The first TV show I was ever addicted to was Batman ’66 in syndication. The only show I set my VCR to record from 1992 until I graduated high school was Batman: The Animated Series. I have more figures of Batman than any other single character from anything. And I’m not a guy who obsessively buys any one specific thing. And I was furious when they replaced Bruce with Dick.
But guess what?
I was furious when I found out Bruce was coming back. Dick and Damian were fantastic and I would have been just fine with them remaining the status quo.
But Bruce came back and it was handled quite well. Dick returned to being Nightwing and Kyle Higgins managed to make it not seem like a step down. Meanwhile, Bruce and Damian had to start over again. But Morrison handled it like a champ. Things were going to be okay and Damian was even more firmly entrenched as a Great Robin.
Then the New 52 happened and Damian seemingly lost every bit of character development he had gained over the past five years. Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi were the new team on Batman and Robin and for some reason they seemed to want to rehash the initial bickering awkwardness of Bruce and Damian’s relationship. I hated it. Until the end of the first story arc where we found out it was all part of a plan. They totally surprised me and it revealed a new facet of Damian’s character – the ability to play along. For the first time he and Bruce were truly working together in a relationship reminiscent of the Bruce and Dick dynamic.
And ever since then things have been a blast, aside from the occasional slip-up on Damian’s part. But only when he’s backed into a corner and has nothing but League of Assassins training to rely on.
I first read the whisperings about Damian’s upcoming death a few weeks ago. Apparently people have been speculating about it for a while, but I had no idea. I was a little upset when I read about it, but wasn’t too worried because it seemed too cheap and theatrical. Also, there was this whole other comic called Batman and Robin. Surely they weren’t going to fuck that up? And even if Damian did die, this is comics. People come back all the time. Heck, Damian’s dad just did a couple of years ago.
So I sat and waited for Batman Incorporated #8 to come out. And then Batman and Robin #17 came out and it made me realize that Damian was probably going to die. It was almost a fairy tale issue, where Damian tricked Bruce into leaving the country so that he could be Batman for a few nights. It was a sweet and poignant tale that in retrospect almost makes me a little misty.
I picked Batman Incorporated #8 up on my way into work because I didn’t want it spoiled. It kind of already was, but I didn’t know for sure. And however it happened I wanted to see it with my own eyes rather than have some website or poorly-timed text message ruin it for me. I got to work and once I had the time I read it. And Damian Wayne was killed.
If it weren’t for the next three months’ worth of solicitations in Previews I wouldn’t believe it. Nobody ever dies when the last panel is somebody else holding their body. There’s follow-up. A funeral. Something. But all of the Bat titles reference it. It seems to be a fact. Scott Snyder even set up a potential replacement Robin in the excellent Batman #12.
It’s not to say that Damian won’t somehow return. But for now I am sad. Damian Wayne is the best new character DC has introduced since Tim Drake. He was an excellent partner for everybody he teamed up with, creating a new dynamic and making even the most together and collected hero a bit unsure of themselves.
Plus, Damian is a kid and Lil’ Troublemaker liked him because of that. Obviously he’s never read any of the comics Damian has been in because, sadly, comic books are not for kids. But he knows Damian is Bruce’s son and really likes “Robin with a hood”. I’m not telling him Damian died because there’s no point and it will just bum him out. And plus, we can always hope he’ll be back.
Okay – about the internet. I think the internet has killed storytelling. But just a little bit. Because nothing is a surprise anymore. Even though I had managed to avoid the ultimate spoiler for the book, I had such a good idea of what was going to happen thanks to DC’s need to generate media interest that it wasn’t any kind of shock. Luckily, he got a grand death and a logical and touching story leading up to it, but we all knew it was coming. And that’s how so much media – comic books in particular – is now. It’s difficult to receive a story in the organic, sequential manner it was intended because of how easy it is to access information and how critical it is for these publishers to always have some big piece of information to reveal or some upcoming event that “WILL CHANGE THE ____ UNIVERSE FOREVER!”, which is the biggest line of bullshit in the world.
I’ve said it before, but I am not on the internet much other than when I am posting stuff here or on Facebook. I try to remain as spoiler-free as I can. But being a podcaster who is more immersed in the Nerdverse with each passing week, it’s hard to avoid this stuff.
Damian Wayne will be sorely missed. He is one of Grant Morrison’s finest creations, and unlike many other comic book characters who were handled by numerous talents, he grew and developed in a natural way into a memorable character. Out of all the characters in the DC Universe, Damian is the last one I would have chosen to kill off. I’m not mad about it and I’m not swearing off of DC, Bat titles, or even Grant Morrison. It’s his story and I wouldn’t change his ability to tell it. But it bums me out that that’s what had to happen. I hope whatever it accomplishes is truly worth it. It’s interesting that Grant Morrison is the one that turned Batman back into the fun character he was in the Silver Age, only to end his story by (presumably) making him the grim, miserable misanthrope he was when Morrison took over.
Now that I think about it, though, I believe Morrison once said something about giving toys back in the condition he first received them.

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