The first issue of Batman vs Robin did not hit the way I was hoping for. Centering the story around the Devil Nezha that Mark Waid used for his first story arc in Batman/Superman: World’s Finest wasn’t the most creative way to pit Bruce Wayne vs Damian Wayne. That all has to do how one note not only Nezha but also Mother Soul came across in the first issue Batman vs Robin. Hopefully now that the storyline is establish the focus becomes more on Bruce and Damian than Nezha. Let’s find out with Batman vs Robin #2.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Nezha recruits Klarion and other dark magic users to steal the Mystic Gem of Ahri’Ahn and Ragman’s Soul Suit. Nezha then uses Black Alice against her will to drain the magic Mystic Gem of Ahri’Ahn and Ragman’s Soul Suit into Doctor Fate’s helmet.
Somewhere in Kentucky, Batman knocks out Felix Faust, whose magic was going out of control. Batman and Alfred Pennyworth then enter the House of Secrets after being welcomed in by Abel to find out what is going on with Damian.
As they go through the house Batman and Alfred find themselves witnessing the fight Damian and his friends had with the Lazarus Demon (see Robin #9). They are then placed in a theater where they witness Mother Soul’s plot to lead Damian in finding a mystic key that releases Nezha from his tomb.
After witnessing all of this Batman and Alfred are shocked to discover Damian has been manipulating them this entire time by using these past events to try to kill them. Batman and Alfred are able to escape the House of Secrets before it burns down.
Back at the Tower of Fate, Mother Soul gives Damian the Batman in Bethlehem costume to wear as a sign of his ascension. Mother Soul then presents Damian with Nightwing, Robin (Tim Drake), Red Hood, and Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) as his Robins to command.
Back in Kentucky as Batman figures out how he needs to regroup after all of this it is shown in Alfred’s shadow that he is actually Nezha following Bruce’s adventure. End of issue.
What the reader will get out of Batman vs Robin #2 will vary depending on how much you know about what went on in Damian Wayne’s recent Robin ongoing series. If you, like Batman, didn’t know what Damian has been up to you will get a lot out of this issue. But if you were someone who did read the recent Robin ongoing series then a majority of Batman vs Robin #2 will feel like a long recap of that series.
To Mark Waid’s credit, it is fair to want to make this mini-series event as new reader friendly as possible. Framing the retelling of major events Damian went through on Lazarus Island through Batman was a smart call. This helps give us a different perspective on what went on at Lazarus Island. Batman’s shock at everything he was witnessing really drove home how much Damian went through during this time.
In that aspect of the retelling of the events from the Robin ongoing series, I did get behind. I just wish it led to Batman actually thinking about how his own decisions as a parent led to all of this. The reactions Bruce had were very typical and not actually progressing with what his arc in this story should be. It all leads to having a feeling that when Batman vs Robin is over Bruce and Damian’s relationship won’t change much. It’s something that leads this entire story to have more of the predictable superhero story beats rather than a truly deep character study, even though the elements for Waid to do just that are here.
On the villain side of things bringing Batman in Bethlehem was a good call back to the demonic ties Damian has shown to have in multiple versions of his adult future. Nezha and Mother Soul using the Batman in Bethlehem to signify this tie between them and Damian works well into the corruption angle we are seeing with Damian’s character. The true judgment for how well bringing Batman in Bethlehem into play will be for future issues to really make this an effective plot device for Waid to use.
I wish I could say the same for Nezha and Mother Soul but I can’t. Both these characters are still incredibly one-note that even when Waid adds in Klarion, Black Alice, and other magic users the villains still fall flat. Their dialogue just reads like typical villain speech that makes it hard to get behind whatever plan they continue to develop.
It doesn’t help that Waid missed the opportunity to use other magic users to show us the impact Nezha and Mother Soul’s plot is having on the world. We got hints of that with the state they left Justice League Dark in. But as was feared the Justice League Dark was nothing more than a plot device to further position Batman as the ultimate hero of this story. DC’s magic world is so rich with potential that Waid really should tap into it in order to have Batman vs Robin feel like a big event.
Mahmud Asrar’s artwork got the job done. There was nothing that blew me away here, especially knowing how Asrar has delivered much better, big event-level artwork in the past. A lot of the art here felt rushed to get it over with. The flow between action scenes in particular was not there and led to some disjointed moments from panel to panel.
The elements of an engaging story are all here for Batman vs Robin to be a big success. Unfortunately, things aren’t coming together as intended with Batman vs Robin #2 suffering from recap storytelling and disappointing artwork. The ending with a call back to a specific plotline tied to Damian Wayne does capture interest in finding out how Mark Waid will handle this development. Hopefully, it is something that helps turn around the quality of Batman vs Robin.
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10