Fans of comic books have been concerned that perhaps comic books are gradually dwindling away, fading in popularity until they disappear altogether Well, I can assure you that at the very least DC comics will be around for a very long time because they found a way to freeze time and remain permanently in the year 1996. The proof is in the new issue of—ugh… “Robin Rises: Alpha #1”. This issue marks the triumphant return of Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian who was brutally stabbed to death but then taken to Akropolis? And then there was a virus thing? Sorry, I really stopped paying attention.
The reason the death of Damian Wayne didn’t catch my attention was for several reasons. First, he only died in the first place because Grant Morrison doesn’t like to share his toys. So when he left DC, he wanted to take his most popular creation with him. But DC is a company who is famous for killing Superman—and infamous for bringing him back. So it was never a question of “if” Damian was going to come back, it was when. And speaking of ole Blue and Red, let’s talk about Damian’s new power.
So the big twist in the book is that Damian is back but he’s nigh invulnerable and as strong as Supes himself. Now this would be a very remarkable and interesting development—if Damian was still Damian. You see, Damian came into the DC universe a young and rambunctious psychopath with an ego even bigger than Batman’s. Imagine that Damian with super strength and bullet proof skin. He would be an absolute terror, a Superman without the compassion or restraint, a creature Bruce could never hope to control physically. But that’s not the Damian that came back to life. Yeah, he had some of that ego but it was more like a troublesome scamp, a Dennis the Menace in the Batcave. Where’s the Damian who stalked every one of the previous Robins and fought them to prove his dominance? This Damian seems more apt to say, “Aw shucks guys, thanks so much for saving me.” When the Damian I knew would have laughed that they couldn’t hack it on their own and had to go all the way down to Hell to pull him out.
I said earlier that DC is doing everything in their power to remain rooted in the nineties and it was blatantly apparent in this issue. From their use of Andy Kubert on the art to the fact that this bears eerie echoes to The Death of Superman, it felt like I was cracking open a haggard copy off the magazine rack at a Thrifty’s Drug store. For the love of God, there’s one panel where the entire Bat family get in a firing line with laser guns. That’s right, Bruce Wayne, who swore off guns, has an arsenal of laser guns that he breaks out for this special occasion so that all of his beloved protégés can get together like they’re in a book put out by Wildstorm. It doesn’t help matters that Batman started off the issue in a giant power armor but it’s really bad when Caliban comes through sporting the worst white guy dreads committed to a comic book page.
Look, I could go on ragging on this book. It’s not that the book is particularly bad, it’s just that the decisions make me take this book much less seriously. This is supposed to be the return of a beloved family member, a child tragically cut down before his time. Instead I’m laughing at everything I see on the page. It’s like watching the Titanic go down but all the passengers have been replaced with clones of Mr. Bean. Perhaps the idea wasn’t to make this a serious dalliance with the consequence of death, maybe they just wanted Damian back—no fuss, no muss. Which means the crux of this story is that Damian has powers now—which means the rest of this comic depends on Damian being an interesting character with these powers, something I’m not completely convinced of.
If we want to see an interesting sociopath with super powers we need look no farther than Mark’s brother, Oliver. Well, half-brother, born of Mark’s dad and an alien mantis creature, Oliver matured into a ten year old in the span of a year. What made him so complex and interesting was that none of his lineage was human and yet he was being tasked with protecting Earth. So it was completely natural when asked to decide between killing off the Viltrumites and saving the human race, he whole heartedly elected for Viltrumite genocide. But we’ll see how Damian handles his newfound abilities.