It’s been said that silence is louder than words. In Batman and Robin #18, writer Peter J. Tomasi immerses the bereaved Bruce Wayne in a grief that is heartbreakingly silent. It is in this silence that we see the huge chasm left in Batman’s life following the death of his son.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #18 (2013)
Writer: Peter J Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Color: John Kalisz
Publisher: DC Comics
What You Need to Know:
Damian Wayne’s death in Batman Incorporated #8 was a brutal moment stunningly and vividly portrayed by writer Grant Morrison and artist Chris Burnham.
Using a powerful exo-suit, Robin flies into the lobby of Wayne Tower where he fights off hordes of the Leviathan’s henchmen. As he is about to be overrun, Nightwing comes to the rescue. The two re-engage the henchmen and defeat them. But suddenly, the Heretic arrives and knocks Nightwing out and challenges Robin to a fight to the death (with the winner being deemed Talia al Ghul’s chosen son). Robin accepts. By the time Batman eventually arrives at the lobby, he is horrified to see that Damian has been slain. The issue closes with Batman holding his fallen son and uttering, “He saved me…”
What You’ll Find Out:
Since the loss of his son, Bruce Wayne has been distraught. He spends his night next to Damian’s bedroll, staring into the fire. During the day, he looks through the boy’s notebooks, admiring the boy’s sketches, and finding a list of film recommendations from “C.K.” along with them.
Meanwhile, Alfred Pennyworth is unable to contain his tears as he pauses to look at the unfinished family portrait sitting in the library, with Damian’s portrait the only incomplete part. Bruce catches him looking at it, and in order to spare them both pain, he covers the painting and carries it out of the room.
That evening, Bruce slides down the fire-poles to the Bat-Cave and imagines that he sees Damian there beside him, but the vision is marred by the sight of illusory blood smeared on the pole. A second glance, and it is gone.
He takes a moment to look at the case which contains Damian’s costume and equipment, steels himself and pulls his cowl down in preparation for his patrol.
Again, he is haunted by memories and hallucinations of his son beside him as Robin, and when he realizes that they aren’t real, he is filled with rage. He channels that rage into his work, pushing himself harder than ever in his war on crime. That night, Commissioner Gordon is wakened in the early hours of the morning to find that someone else has turned on the Bat-Signal, and the roof of Gotham City Police Headquarters has been filled with criminals that Batman has caught.
Exhausted from more than just the effort, Bruce returns home, showers, and undresses. As he brushes past Damian’s locker, he knocks loose a sealed letter addressed to him from his son. The letter tells of how Damian refused to be put on the sidelines of the fight with Leviathan, and worrying that he may not make it, he added that though his mother may have given him life, it was Bruce – his father – who taught him how to live.
The anguish of his loss fills Bruce with rage again, and he smashes the locker and throws its contents about the room. When he calms himself, he crumples to the floor, gathers up Damian’s costume, cuddles it to his chest, and cries.
What Just Happened:
Batman and Robin #18 is where the emotional aftershocks of Damian’s death are felt. Amazingly, it is an almost entirely text-free issue. There are no words spoken for none are needed. There is no Vincent Price voice-over narration to accompany the images as they shift and merge together on the page. There is nothing to mitigate the loss that blankets Wayne Manor like a shroud. The silence is unrelenting and unforgiving and ultimately, it speaks louder than any words possibly could. What does one say in the face of insurmountable loss? When confronted with the finality of death, words fail us as Bruce Wayne moves through the manor, haunted by the spaces where Damian Wayne once was.
Final Thought: Batman and Robin #18 is an intensely delicate exploration of grief, memory, and anger that will resonate with anyone who has ever lost a loved one. I strongly encourage you to get a copy and really take your time to reflect and admire the level of intricate and emotional detail artist and storyteller Patrick Gleason provides. He does an incredible job of capturing Bruce’s grief at the loss of his only son. While the death of his parents is the tragic driving force behind all Batman does, that loss pales in comparison to the loss of a son.
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