Cue up Barbra Streisand singing, “The Way We Were,” to a montage of Batman and Robin images. Can you hold back the tears? Damian Wayne, what a beautiful creature, cut down at the tender age of 10.
How do you create such a lively new character, allow him to live and grow…and suddenly die? Well, the fascinating reign of Damian, Batman’s son, as Robin, came to and end in “Batman Inc. #8.” It was a highly sought after issue and a much talked about issue. Overnight, you had all these new readers curious about the latest Batman buzz outside of “Death of the Family,” the blood-splattered Joker murder marathon event. “Damian Wayne? Batman’s son?” And just as some Batman readers were pondering that concept, it is no longer on the table.
As much as Grant Morrison stretched the idea of Batman and what it means, the whole idea of Damian, as well as Batman Incorporated, never seemed to fully take hold with marketing concerns, even though it brought new life to the very thing, Batman, that requires new blood to remain viable and marketable in the first place! Well, there’s always Joker blood but still. Thankfully, Morrison has done his work and it will always be there for future writers to work with. In the end, DC Comics would appear to want to let such innovations rest for now. Maybe the problem was that DC Comics did not invest more on “Batman Inc.” Maybe “Batman Inc” just needed time and eventually an animated movie and a TV show on the WB. That could have happened but that’s a commitment and commitments can be scary.
Much commentary about this issue, oddly enough, has been made without having read it. Sadly, “Batman Incorporated” wasn’t considered a must-read by regular Batman fans until now and now we’re wrapping this puppy up in a few more issues of Batman wrath. And what’s better for a die-hard traditionalist than to add to Batman’s misery? His son, whoever he was, is dead! That makes for an even more intense Batman, right?
This is a good time to comment on the actual issue and “Batman Inc.” in general. Compare the first run of “Batman Inc.” with the relaunched “New 52” version. In the original batch, Grant Morrison was building up the concept of Batman assembling a global crime-fighting network and it was being done with style. At the time, back in November of 2010, that first issue of “Batman Inc.” was a big deal, with big names in the industry, like Chip Kidd, highly recommending it. That was for good reason. And, you know, sometimes high quality does not result in big profits, at least not right away. Okay, once “Batman Inc.” was relaunched, in May of 2012, it had lost momentum and was already on its way out since it did not fit within the “New 52” realignment. The thrust of the story was no longer a brand new game plan for Batman. Nope, now “Batman Inc.” was simply going to serve as Batman’s “army” against Leviathan, the army of his nemesis, Talia al Ghul, daughter of the supervillain Ra’s al Ghul and the mother to Bruce Wayne’s only child, Damian Wayne. This is not to say that this hasn’t been one hell of a story. It’s just that it seemed that Leviathan, as well as Batman Incorporated, were heading towards much bigger things. Consider that next time you see the Penguin, the Joker, and the Riddler.
The story told in the pages of “Batman Inc.” has been a great merging of the talents of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham. What became a psychological thriller, pitting the diabolical mother against the vengeful father and leaving the child caught in the middle, reached its climax in Issue 8.
Damian Wayne, ultimately is a little boy lost. He wants to honor both parents but they are coming at each other in a fight to the death. Damian is no match for what ensues. Repeatedly, he has been warned that his life is in danger. He can at least die a hero and he does.
At every opportunity, Morrison and Burnham express the innocence and bravery of Damian Wayne. This is truly “the boy wonder.” Every fiber of his being is engaged. He does battle in a way only children can fully understand.
His fight is uncompromising and pure. There is no middle ground for Damian. There isn’t any hesitation or brooding. What a contrast to his papa. Stop and think that over. Is the contrast of Batman and the Joker more compelling? Well, in this case, there would have been room for both of these to exist.
With all due respect, and in all fairness to DC Comics, it’s understandable that the father and son dynamic of Batman and Robin might have been too risky to pursue beyond a certain point. The whole point, a big point, to the New 52 was to open up a whole new page to a new generation of readers. The story of Batman did not start out as a father and son story so why go there now? Wouldn’t it take away from Batman anyway? Well, that’s very debatable. It would actually open up a whole new world of possibilities.
Look back, for instance, at all the great stories from “Batman Beyond,” which was set in a future with an elder Bruce Wayne mentoring a new Batman. That’s only one scenario. Batman and Bruce Wayne can remain as virile and empowered as ever while still having a son. That said, if Bruce Wayne was ever going to have a son, Grant Morrison gave him an excellent son with Damian Wayne.
“Batman Inc.” is not over yet although it basically is. Enjoy it through the final issue, #12, out June 26. After that, keep the faith. Maybe, years from now, maybe generations from now, “Batman Inc.” will rise again. For now, it’s gone, it’s over, it’s archived and placed in the vault. Visit our friends at DC Comics here.