Batman has returned to the DC Universe already. He’s made appearances in ‘Justice League’ #1, ‘Detective Comics’ #1, and ‘Batwing’ #1. It has been revealed that it’s Bruce Wayne, the original Batman, beneath the cowl again. However, until this issue, the return of Bruce to the role of Batman hasn’t made that much of a difference to the kinds of stories that have been told with the character. Batman lurks in Gotham, uses gadgets, and beats bad-guys. With ‘Batman and Robin’, DC has moved Bruce Wayne into a role that I think it going to make this series one of the more interesting Bat-books of the New 52.

[Warning: bat-spoilers below.]

The issue opens with a mysterious new villain taking on what appears to be a member of Batman, Inc., Bruce’s new initiative to protect cities around the world by staffing them with their own versions of Batmen. After the shocking intro, the story cuts to Wayne Manor where Bruce makes the announcement that “It’s time for a change.” As usual, Bruce doesn’t mess around and a change is indeed what we get! The next few pages alter the pathos and vibe that the Batman character has held onto for the past several decades as Bruce takes up a new mantle… father.

For those out of the loop, the latest kid to don the green Robin tights is none other than Damien Wayne, Bruce’s son. Damien was already Robin before the New 52 relaunch but it was Dick (a former Robin and Nightwing) under the Batman cowl. Now that Bruce is back, the duo take on a new dynamic that is awesome to read! The first thing that Bruce does is take Damien/Robin to Crime Alley, where Bruce’s parents were murdered so many years ago. Bruce says that this is the last time he’ll visit the spot since he will no longer mourn the anniversary of their death but rather the anniversary of his parents’ wedding. He intends to remember how his parents lived instead of how they died. I think this is a subtle, but brilliant, change from the death-obsessed Batman of the past. But if you’re worried about Bruce lightening up as a consequence of this change, you needn’t be. Bruce is, as one would expect, a stern father. Damien gets some choice words and knocked into his place a few times during this issue. However, Damien gives as good as he gets and it’s the juxtaposition of these characters that’s going to make ‘Batman and Robin’ so fun to read.

As an older reader, and a father myself, I was worried when DC said that the New 52 would feature younger hipper versions of their characters. This held true for ‘Action Comics’ #1 in which author Grant Morrison brings Superman back to his roots. However, DC has released books like this issue and last week’s ‘Animal Man’ #1 that focus on a heroes who are both fathers with their own (however unconventional) family life. Kudos, DC! You’re making me a fan of this New 52, despite my original reservations.

Written by PETER J. TOMASI