May 8, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 439: Batman #657, November 2006

Batman returns to Gotham, Damian in tow, and introduces him to Tim Drake, aka Robin. And all of a sudden, there's a new twist on the story arc title "Batman and Son." Parental issues, and specifically those of the son and the father, have been a guiding force in the Bat-titles almost since their inception. What drives Batman to become a father to these young people, and what do we make of a father who turns his children into weapons? Much as I might loathe Frank Miller as a person these days, his seminal The Dark Knight Returns pushes this question to extremes, and one of the important legacies of that series is our notice of the dangerous nature of Batman's father role. Opinions on this role can swing both ways, and charges of child abuse and endangerment have explicitly made their way into the series at certain times in its publishing history. But to counter that, there's also the iconic nature of the character one has to consider. As personification of a particular concept (what that is we'll leave until we've gone through a bit more of the series), we can think through Batman's odd parenting from a similar vantage to that from which we consider lineages in Classical myth. Think Heracles as son of Zeus. Or the heroic nature of someone like Siegfreid in the Ring cycle. Parenting from a mythic standpoint isn't so much about raising a child as it is about passing on iconic signification. At least there's a lot less rape in Batman's passing of his lineage.

A quick note on the actual comic: I remember, first time I read this issue, hating Damian Wayne so, so much. I couldn't see how this character was going to work in the story, especially as I quite like Tim Drake as Robin. I'll admit it's been long enough since I've read Morrison's run that I can't quite remember how it all plays out, but my hatred for Damian came right back to the fore after this issue. Another thing I'll note is that I really don't like Andy Kubert's art. It smacks of that late-90s Image house style (really, the style that's taken over current DC titles). Were it not so ubiquitous, I'd probably be okay with it, but in conjunction with what is already a strange Batman tale, the mundane (which is not necessarily a negative appellation) art just doesn't sit right. For me, Batman has always worked best when stylized into a Vertigo-esque place. Think of Kelley Jones' take on the character. Or J.H. Williams III, who will make an appearance in the coming weeks. Batman is hardly a traditional superhero - which is odd to say, given that he's one of the originals - and so deserves something more than traditional superhero art.

My humble opinion only, of course. Onward!

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