By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Lose a Robin? Eh, don’t worry. You can always pull one from an alternate universe.
Indeed, Batman & Red Robin #19 (different characters like Red Robin and Batgirl will apparently be revolving in and out of the series every month now that Damian is gone) introduces us to someone I’m not sure we’ve ever met before: A canonical version of Carrie Kelley. Most comic book readers know Carrie as Robin from Frank Miller’s iconic story The Dark Knight Returns. In this issue, Carrie is introduced as Damian’s former tutor, unsure of where he’s vanished to. Meanwhile, desperate to bring his son back from the grave, Batman frantically turns to Frankenstein, agent of S.H.A.D.E. But Alfred and Red Robin insert themselves into the situation to ensure he doesn’t do something he’ll regret.
Sticking Carrie Kelley in an issue is a nice way to tide us over until Damian either comes back, or more likely someone takes his spot. Carrie being around in the mainstream DCU obviously makes her a candidate to replace Damian. But I don’t see it happening, especially since we have Harper Row around. But just seeing her here makes this issue noteworthy. But my question is, what exactly what she tutoring Damian in? We never get a definitive answer. Carrie’s a film student, which might mean Damian was taking some sort of cultural studies or film school type lessons. But why? Damian never had much use for arts or recreation. He was pretty no nonsense. At the end we see her playing some kind of dance video game, which might imply he was taking dance lessons. But again, why? What does this version of Carrie have to teach Damian? I get the appeal of a renowned character like Carrie mentoring the current Robin in some way. But it just doesn’t seem to work with these two characters.
Batman’s abduction of the Frankenstein character to learn how to resurrect Damian is definitely a dramatic move, so much so that it borders on being out-of-character. Death and tragedy are such a huge element in Batman’s mythology, and we’re so used to seeing him grit, brood and bear it. But it’s rare that we see him actually try and cheat death, especially in such an emotional and violent way. He actually captures Frankenstein and takes him apart piece by piece, and in the process screams “I NEED my son back! And you’re going to help me — whether you like it or not.” If this weren’t a situation where Batman was grieving, and perhaps grieving as heavily as he ever has, this would have been too far. But here, I think it’s fine. All you have to do is imagine the pain a parent goes through when they lose a child, and I think it becomes understandable, though not necessarily justifiable.
Red Robin is in this issue, and is ultimately the one who forces Batman back from the brink. Gleason’s rendering of Tim Drake’s face in the panel at left is the only major artistic misstep of this issue, from where I sit. I have yet to warm up to New 52 Tim Drake at all, as most of the depth that made the character interesting in the old continuity seems to have evaporated. He plays his role fine, but frankly I almost wish it had just been Alfred who stopped Bruce.
Moving forward, it looks like we’ve got the Red Hood guest starring next month, followed by Batgirl, then Catwoman. I’m particularly anxious to see what Tomasi and Gleason do with Jason Todd. I’ve yet to be satisfied with the way the Bat books have addressed the fact that two Robins have now died. We’re two for four now, people. Those aren’t exactly the numbers you want when you’re talking about dead partners who are children. But I think as far as this issue is concerned, the bottom line is: Great emotion, flawed execution.
Front page image/image 1 from themarysue.com. Image 2 from whatculture.com.
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