Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: Robin Rises: Omega #1

The opening page of Robin Rises: Omegan #1, a one-shot special kicking off the next storyline in the Peter Tomasi-written, Batman and Robin series, recaps the events of Mike Barr and Jerry Bingham's 1987 graphic novel, Batman: Son of The Demon, as narrated by Batman and drawn by the art team of pencil artist Andy Kubert, inker Jonathan Glapion and colorist Brad Anderson.

The next seven pages recap events from Batman and his dead son Damian's life. It's a very thorough recap, basically brining any new readers attracted by the #1 or the promise of an "event" (the dead Robin Damian returning to life, as the title all but promises) up to speed, but it covers a good eight years worth of storylines. While meant to be a recap, it reads more like a required reading list.

Following the quick recap of Son of The Demon, it then references the events of various comic books collected in Batman and Son, Final Crisis*, the pre-New 52 Batman and Robin Vols. 1-3, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (all written by Grant Morrison), the post-New 52 Batman and Robin Vols. 1-4 (written by Tomasi), Batman Vol. 2: Death of The Family (Snyder) and Batman, Incorporated Vol . 2: Demon Star (Morrison again).
That sure seems like a lot of reading to have to be familiar with before the story of this particular comic even really gets going, and more are referenced during the comic, with Batman touching a magical gem that allows him to remember the events of Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Crossworld and the new Justice League that was formed during the aftermath of Forever Evil mentioning the events of Justice League Vol. 1: Origin.

Now, because the eight-page review of the entire history of Damian Wayne was so damn throrough, one really need not have read or be super-familiar with all of those storylines to read this comic to understand and even enjoy this comic. After the recap, it is really nothing more than a big fight scene, given import by its players and the way it is explicitly linked to the previous eight years worth of Batman comics—or at least a single thread of those comics.

But I'm having a hard time recalling a comic book that made so many references to so many other particular trades before.

After all of that summary, which Andreson colors in a slightly gauzier manner, to give the scenes a fuzzier, dream-like quality designating them as flashbacks, pages 10 and 11 of the 40-page comic shows a two-page spread, in which Batman offers his final sentence of narration for the book—"Which brings us here, to the Himalayas...where it seems fitting that this all end in the snow"—and a character soon identified as New God Glorious Godfrey and the forces of Apokalips (identifiable as such by the presence of the Jim Lee-redesigned Parademons of Justice League amid the guys in battle armor) face off against a small army consisting of Batman, Ra's al Ghul, Frankenstein, Damian's great dane Titus and Ra's al Ghul's Man-Bats and ninja warriors. Two weird, black vaguely ancient Egyptian hover-coffins float at the feet of Ra's; these are the coffins of Damian and Talia al Ghul.

After four pages of parley, in which Godfrey informs them that he's come for "the original chaos shard" which can "amplify energy like nothing else in the universe and defy physics," and concludes that Ra's has hidden the shard inside Damian's coffin, the two forces fight.

For the rest of the issue.

Normally, that would seem pretty dull and excessive, but American superhero comics so rarely show action of any kind lasting longer than a few panels or a splash page, it's actually sort of refreshing seeing a battle scene given a few dozen pages to breathe, even if the number of participants means the set-piece is still a little too heavy on the posing, and a little too light on the panel-to-panel sequential action. Still, nice to see Kubert get a chance to draw so many characters and so damn much fighting.
The battle is particularly brutal, with Batman being the only really good guy in it, and even he chops the arms off of Parademons and repeatedly stabs them in the eyes with the pointy wing of a Batarang.
The cannon fodder characters are dispatched with haste left and right, and Frankenstein has his arm ripped off, because of course he does (I'm not trying to be funny here, but I have honestly lost count of how many times Frankenstein has lost his arm this summer).

During the course of the battle, Ra's gets blasted with a laser weapon and he and Talia's coffin both fall into a deep crevasse, and are seemingly lost. Batman grabs ahold of the disputed crystal, just long enough to recover his memories of the events of Crossworld, and, well, read the last panel:
Godfrey takes the crystal and the coffin, and is about to pop a cap in Batman's cowl when the Justice League shows up to join the fray.

Wonder Woman, Captain Cold, Lex Luthor, Cyborg, Aquaman and Captain Marvel Shazam wade into the battle, and all proceed to start murdering the forces of Apokolips like it was five years ago all over again:


Worst of all is Aquaman, who reprises his sharks-eating-Parademons trick with killer whales here, but adding a terrible joke: "You obviously don't come in peace-- --but feel free to leave in pieces!"
Shut up, Aquaman.

Oh, and if you're wondering what a pod of orcas is doing anywhere near the land-locked Himalayas, well, join the club.
Maybe there's a secret Sea World run by Yeti beneath the ice in somewhere around there...?

I suppose it's kind of silly to question such things in a book like this, where Frankenstein is teaming up with Batman and an immortal warlord to fight extra-dimensional invaders over a power crystal, but, well, when there's this much fantastic going on, you want the real-world stuff to be, you know, real. I'd say this is almost as bad as Wolverine finding a polar bear in Antarctica to kill and skin just so he could wear a polar bear skin for a few panels of Avengers Vs. X-Men, but then, that was a Marvel event comic, and this is a minor, book-specific storyline, so it won't be read and therefore noticed as much.

Wait, what the hell was I talking about before I started google the range of orcas and maps of the Himalayas...?

Oh yeah, so then Cyborg is able to Boom Tube away all of the Apokaliptian soldiers who weren't killed already, but Godfrey has Damian's coffin and the crystal when he steps through one of the portals.. Batman's set to pursue, but Shazam pulls him away from the closing Boom Tube, and then Batman proceeds to yell at him while punching him in the face for three panels, and then, when Luthor says something, Batman punches him too.

The guy just lost the body of his son, but even still, Batman seems a little high-strung. I kind of wish Cap would have flicked him and sent him reeling a few feet back into a snowbank or something. Instead, Cyborg breaks it up with an "enough."

The book ends with Batman pointing at the Justice League and screaming at them in a red-ringed dialogue bubble.
The story then continues in Batman and Robin, where Tomasi will be joined by his regular artistic collaborator, Patrick Gleason.

Kill-happy Justice League, punch-happy Batman and the out-of-place killer whales aside, it's pretty nice, big, stupid, melodramatic stuff, provided you know enough to follow along.

And, if not, well, the first eight pages or so sure gives you plenty of homework you need to do to catch up. Then you can come back and read this issue in context.


*The panel referencing Final Crisis simply has Batman narrating "I died" with an image of an Omega Beam—not in a pair, but just a single one—angling around the panel before striking Batman in the temple. The next two panels summarize the events of Morrison's Batman and Robin and Return of Bruce Wayne, which, frankly, is awfully odd. Final Crisis isn't, or at least shouldn't be, continuity after the events of Flashpoint.

Or, to use the in-story rationale for the New 52 reboot, it still happened, but after Reverse-Flash, Flash and Pandora messed with the time-stream, with Pandora merging "New Earth" with the WildStorm Universe and some version of a Vertigo Universe into a new, altered timeline, no one should remember the events of
Final Crisis. As far as we know, Batman and the heroes of Earth have encountered Darkseid exactly once, in the pages of the first story arc of Justice League.

Also unexplained? Damian's age. It doesn't seem to matter too much here, as there's no explicit reference to how long Batman has been active. In the New 52, he's been around about seven years or so now—The Zero Year, the five years between the first
Justice League arc and Batman #1 and 'TEC #1 and so on, plus the one year between 'TEC #1 and Death of the Family—whereas Damian was conceived at some point during that time, and would now be about 11 years old if he were still alive.

I
think we're supposed to assume Talia used some kind of super-science to accelerate his aging, even if that makes no sense at all, because otherwise, the Batman with a seven-year-career having an 11-year-old son breaks the very, very fragile and hard to take seriously New 52 timeline. But, like I said, there's no explanation here, despite all the explanations given in the first chunk of the book, and, read without thinking about the reboot at all, it doesn't really affect this particular comic book.

7 comments:

Jacob T. Levy said...

The orcas.. As the kids say, I just can't even.

culturewarreporters.com said...

I read the first New 52 Justice League arc and I still can't believe how violent they continue to be portrayed. Do parademons have families, let alone any kind of sentience whatsoever? I guess if they're essentially robots it's more or less okay.

The picking and choosing of what has and hasn't happened continuity-wise is . . . not surprising.

Bill said...

"I think we're supposed to assume Talia used some kind of super-science to accelerate his aging..."

It's not repeated here, but in the issue of Batman and ... leading into this special, Ra's says it was the crystal shard that provided "the limitless energy in the stasis chamber to accelerate Damian's growth."

Which is not how stasis chambers should work, but whatever.

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

In regards to Final Crisis happening in the New 52, I think the only possible conclusion we can draw is that Batman had some sort of adventure that kind of resembled some of the plot points from Final Crisis (he meets Darkseid, gets sent back in time, returns, Dick is Batman while he's gone); but didn't have any of the stuff that would blatantly violate the new continuity, like the Monitors and Darkseid dying.

In other words, it's that awful "secret continuity" DC has been using since the reboot. Sort of like how some of Tim Drake's adventures happened in a modified form where he was called Red Robin instead of Robin.

@culturewarreporters
The sentience of parademons varies from story to story. Generally they are portrayed as monsters that were human once, but not any longer. We occasionally do see intelligent ones with hopes and dreams, but I think we're meant to infer that they're some sort of rare mutant.

Of course, I don't know if any of the stories I'm basing that on are canon anymore.

Caleb said...

Regarding the Parademon killing, what bugged me about it so much in JUSTICE LEAGUE was that there wasn't the obligatory line from Green Lantern saying his ring wasn't detecting any signs of life or Superman saying that according to his super-senses they were just robots and unliving flesh, so there's no need to hold back or anything. (Aquaman and Wonder Woman killing 'em left and right was one thing, but Superman knocking heads off of opponents will always be weird to me)

Although, if I remember that story correctly, they were capturing human beings in order to turn them into Parademons, which made the story weird in that the forces of Darkseid were taking prisoners, but the Justice League wasn't, and they didn't seem that concerned with trying to reverse the process to rescue the Parademons (if even possible).

Here, Godfrey has Parademons and what look like normal humans in some sort of power-suits, like the one Wonder Woman blows a hole in by reflecting his laser beam back at him. Those guys HAVE to be humanoid and not undead, right?

I like to imagine that somewhere during Justice League: Origin, someone said, "It's okay to kill these things, they're half-robot!" and then there was an awkward moment where they caught Cyborg's eye and no one said anything for a few seconds.

Caleb said...

Bill,

Thanks for the aging info. I imagine Batman's first meeting with Damian must have been a lot different in The New 52, since the World's Greatest Detective could probably pretty easily do the math and realize it was impossible for him to have a ten-year-old son with a lady he met three years ago...

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

@Caleb

I think the humans in power suits are meant to be Justifiers, which are humans or humanoid aliens that have been brainwashed by Glorious Godfrey's mind-control powers.

In pre-New-52 stories the brainwashing was usually reversible. Post-New-52 I don't think it's been addressed, the closest thing I can thing of was an issue of Earth 2 where Terry Sloan mentioned that a different type of Apokalptian brainwashing was not reversible.

So, yeah, it's quite possible that Wonder Woman killed someone who wasn't irreversibly brainwashed.