Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Son of a

Spoiler alert: Bruce Wayne is dead. Not really dead dead, but comic book dead, which means he's in some alternate dimension or timeline or suspended animation stasis field outside of the unreality that is comic book reality.

If you want to know how and why he "died," check out Batman: R.I.P. and Final Crisis, two big events that wrapped up earlier this year, both written by Grant Morrison. You can also look at what has been going on in Gotham City and under the bat mask in the ongoing Batman and Robin (also written by Morrison, and with Frank Quitely on art--one of my favorite creative pairings). But to make it simple for you--the original Robin and former Nightwing, Dick Grayson, is now Batman; the last Robin under Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, has moved on to his own solo vigilante persona, Red Robin; and Bruce Wayne's long-lost out-of-the-blue secret bastard son by the daughter of one of his arch foes is the new Robin.

That didn't make it simple for you at all, did it? Sorry.

Anyway, this kid, Damian Wayne is his name, is kind of an evil little shit, raised by ninja assassin daycare, trained to kill, and driven to one day take over the cape and cowl as Batman--whether anyone likes it or not, and possibly whether whomever is wearing the costume at the time is willing to give it up. Fan response to the nasty little bugger has been mixed at best. He's caught a lot of people off guard and his introduction set off a chain of events in the comics that proved to be his father's undoing. Even if fans like that the character is in the books stirring things up, they don't necessarily like the character or think of him as a "good guy."

It reminds me of another "new" Robin, the one who took over the role after Dick left, Jason Todd--a character so despised that he lost a 900-number van vote to live or die and wound up getting his skull bashed in by the Joker.

Of course, that was also a comic book death. Jason has been back for a couple of years now, a bitter, vengeful time and space anomaly who doesn't know whether to be a hero or villain.

But back to Damian. He was ab abrupt addition to the Bat cast when he first arrived, but now that his initial storyline has played out and he has settled into what looks to be a long-term role, I like him. I like that he is an amoral killing machine who needs to learn how to be a hero. I like that Bruce Wayne had a bastard child from an old enemy and that the kid was raised to be Batman's undoing...maybe still will be. I like that Grant Morrison even gave us a tiny glimpse into the not-too-distant future where Damian is Batman, fighting the good fight in a much darker version of the already-black Gotham City.

I especially like that, in the new dynamic duo, he--the 10-year-old Robin--is the stoic, brooding badass, while Batman 2 is the one doing circus flips and tossing off witty one-liners. His personality has really developed in a short time, almost entirely under the pen of Morrison, into the kind of character who can have a long, interesting role in the DC Universe.

Or the next writer to step in after Morrison could just kill the brat off. :(

That would be unfortunate. One of the few areas I think DC really outshines Marvel is in it's introduction, development, and nurturing of legacy characters. No matter how clumsy and convoluted the bloated DC multiverse might get, and no matter how many irrelevant throwaway D-list characters they try and fail to push, they have definitely succeeded in layering the mythology of all the core icons with potential heirs, enemies, love interests, etc, that those characters could live on with fresh storylines--comic book epics--for decades.

Meanwhile, Marvel couldn't fathom writing stories about Peter Parker having a baby, getting a divorce, or both, so they rebooted the last 20 years of continuity so they could go back to writing him as a never-married bachelor. And when a character does get an heir, it's something ridiculous like "Skaar Son of Hulk" born from the charred ashes of an alien world the Hulk was stranded on for the purposes of a summer event crossover. Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four were at least allowed to have their kids the old fashioned way--though Franklyn has been prepubescent for decades and his baby sister Valeria came about after some interdimmensional sorcery by Doctor Doom.

Marvel may win on a hero by hero basis in terms of bringing it's characters into the real world (helped greatly by the fact that it is set in the real world), but DC is definitely filling it's fictional Gothams, and Metropolises, and Star Cities with more convincing families. And yes, that includes the ones with kill-crazy ninja babies.

1 comment:

Kschenke said...

You know, I just watched an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold (which is ok in my opinion) where Talia and Robin flirt a bit (more Robin flirting than Talia, but still). Considering I know Batman and Talia's relationship in the comics, I found it interesting that they went there in the cartoon.