Before Batman and Robin can deal with their futures in Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths they have one big battle to take on. And that is the latest in a series of father-son conflicts Bruce Wayne and Damian Wayne have in Batman vs Robin. Given that Batman/Superman: World’s Finest writer Mark Waid is the one writing this series and the mentions of Devil Nezha at the end of Joshua Williamson’s Robin run it won’t be surprising if Nezha is the one behind this event. With magic coming into play how will Bruce and Damian handle all of this? Let’s find out with Batman vs Robin #1.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
While reliving memories at Wayne Manor Bruce Wayne is stunned to find Alfred Pennyworth at the doorstep. After questioning Alfred’s memories, all of which end before his neck is snapped by Bane, Bruce is left feeling a bit nostalgic.
When they enter the Batcave Bruce is confronted by Robin with Tim Hunter and Jakeem Thunder, who were waiting for him. Robin immediately orders Tim Hunter to attack Bruce. Bruce dodges the attack and finds an opening to change into his Batman gear.
Batman quickly defeats Tim Hunter by breaking the screwdriver Tim was using as a wand to channel his magic. Batman has a much more difficult time against Jakeem Thunder and his genie.
Alfred comes out of hiding in an attempt to stop Robin but Damian thinks this is a trick. Seeing this Batman breaks away from his fight with Jakeem Thunder and runs out of the Batcave with Alfred.
Robin, Tim Hunter, and Jakeem Thunder are able to corner Batman and Alfred. Robin then shoots Batman and Alfred with a gun and sends them both off a cliff. Batman is able to recover and speeds away in his boat.
Over at the Tower Of Fate Robin uses a magic item that causes Tim Hunter and Jakeem Thunder to become unconscious. Someone tells Robin he failed. Robin fires back to not give him children to fight with while looking through various magic items.
Elsewhere, Batman uses a special key to open the doorway to Zatanna’s home. Batman is stunned to find Zatanna hung by Schrodinger’s Noose. Zatanna reveals that she and the rest of the Justice League Dark are being made to magically suffer being on the brink of death by Damian. Zatanna tells Batman he needs to find Damian to find out what he did.
Back at the Tower Of Fate, Robin tells Devil Nezha and Mother Soul he will need something much better than the magic items he presented them. Devil Nezha is then shown sitting on a throne with a bloody Doctor Fate helmet and other magic items on the ground around him. End of issue.
Throughout Batman vs Robin #1 Mark Waid and Mahmud Asrar do their best to sell this as a big event but it just never really happens. They can’t avoid the fact that where both Bruce Wayne and Damian Wayne end up in the definitive future that is Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths robs all tension from this story.
It is a real shame because there is a genuine story to be told when it comes to dealing with the unresolved issues Bruce and Damian have as father-son and the Dynamic Duo. The opening of Batman vs Robin #1 teases us with that being something this mini-series will deal with. For as compelling as that type of personal story would be we are moved directly into a supernatural superhero story involving Bruce and Damian.
Now it was definitely not an unexpected route for Batman vs Robin to take given that both Bruce and Damian have been separately dealing with Devil Nezha in recent comic books. In that respect, Waid does have logic behind why Devil Nezha, along with Mother Soul, is the big bad of this story. But the general impact of Devil Nezha is a big swing and miss because it lacked any sort of surprise. Both from a design and presentation standpoint Devil Nezha is just a one-note evil character that just comes across as wannabe Trigon.
It doesn’t help that Waid doesn’t even try to give depth to the Nezha-controlled Robin. By being under Nezha and Mother Soul’s control Damian as Robin has become as one-note as the big bad in this series. Every single conversation Damian has with Bruce, Alfred, and Nezha is just plain boring with how obvious his dialogue is. There is no attempt to explore how what Nezha has done to make Damian work for him is to feed on all of Damian’s negative emotions about his parents or the world. That lack of reasoning makes it hard to get behind the villain side of the story.
On the Batman side of things Waid fairs slightly better. Waid does a good job of having Bruce question how Alfred’s return was even possible. We get a good bit of detective work through Bruce’s line of questioning with Alfred to find out what his father figure remembers. How those answers end up impacting Bruce as he can’t help but get nostalgic by Alfred’s answers worked really well for his character. It does put into question if Alfred’s return is temporary and if it was possibly Damian’s way of contacting his father before being placed under Nezha and Mother Soul’s control.
The does give Nezha as the villain of this story something to be intrigued by is the attack on the Justice League Dark. Asrar goes all in on testing how far he can take horrifying imagery with a DC Comics series. The image of Zatanna being hung by Schrodinger’s Noose was chilling, with what is happening to the rest of the Justice League Dark adding to how horrifying what the Nezha-controlled Damian did was. It did give the story some sense of urgency as you want the Justice League Dark saved from their terrible fate.
Timing is everything and Batman vs Robin #1 is an example of why that is. Mark Waid’s decision to center the story around a one-note villain rather than diving into exploring the father-son relationship between Bruce Wayne and Damian Wayne was a big mistake. It is a decision that reminds you of these characters’ futures in Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths instead of getting you invested in finding out how things will turn out by the end of Batman vs Robin.
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10