WARNING- This review is jam-packed with spoilers for this issue. If you haven’t read Batman Incorporated #8 yet and do not want to know what happens, please back out of this page and check out another of the awesome articles here on Science Fiction!
The very first panel of the very first issue of DC Comics Batman Inc set in the New 52 Universe opened up with Bruce Wayne standing over a grave, setting what was to be a rather grim and dark tone for the series from the get go. Now that we’re at issue #8, approximately two-thirds of the way through critically acclaimed writer Grant Morrison’s run on the series, we find out just who lay in that grave, and just why it seemed to hit Bruce so close to home.
Lets start with the elephant in the room- Yes, what you have heard is true; Damian Wayne (aka Robin) dies in this issue. This had been speculated by fans for a few months and was openly announced in the news several days prior to the release of this book, so it comes as no real surprise. The cover art to the book really says it all. Everyone knew this was coming, and yet now that it’s come and gone it’s a little hard to grasp why DC had hyped this death so much. Then again, it isn’t every day that Batman’s only legitimate blood relative is killed off.
Batman Incorporated #8 is an incredibly brief issue. I’ve read it and re-read it again several times before writing this, in order to really let every bit of it sink in. It’s disheartening how abrupt this issue is, with very little actually happening throughout the issue. That said, the issue contains enough emotion in just a few short pages than many books could manage to pull out of an entire story arc.
This book is where everything comes to a head. The entire series has been building towards this moment, with Talia finally making her play against Batman and Damian stuck in the middle of an ongoing battle between his parents. The difference this time is that there will be casualties before things are through. Damian comes face to face with an enhanced cloned adult version of himself called The Heretic, who is easily twice his size and has all of his training. Yet Damian dives into the battle headfirst, knowing that if anyone could stop his ‘brother’, it was him. Unfortunately for Damian, his determined attitude wasn’t enough to see him through the fight, and he went down for the final count after one of the most brutally violent battles ever seen in the DC Universe. Damian wouldn’t just submit without a fight; it took over a dozen arrows and a sword through his middle before he was finally unable to keep going. He took each and every blow with vigor, facing his destiny with more bravery than most heroes could ever hope to show.
The real tearjerker moment here comes in the moments before the final showdown when Damian is having a quick pep-talk with Dick Grayson (aka Nightwing). In a way, I’m glad DC spoiled this several days ahead of time in the news, because if you were reading this story and didn’t know what was in store for Damian, this moment wouldn’t carry the same emotional weight. While it isn’t entirely clear what parts of the old DC Universe are still relevant in the New 52, it’s been established that for a time Bruce wasn’t around, so Dick Grayson was briefly Batman. During that time, Damian became Robin, and the pair protected Gotham City as what will be remembered for years to come as one of the best dynamic duos of all time. Dick and Damian as Batman and Robin were the perfect pairing. Dick’s down-to-earth lightheartedness balanced off of Damian’s egotistical headstrong rage to create the perfect crime fighting combination. Dick was the older brother that Damian never knew, and the two of them had a much different dynamic as brothers working together than Bruce and Damian ever had as father and son. That’s why when Damian and Dick share a moment before the big battle, it brings a tear to the eye. It’s truly special to have seen these two working together so flawlessly just before Damian’s last moment. Like Morrison wanted to give the pair one last adventure together.
Artist Chris Burnham does a great job with this book. His artwork actually tells more of the story than any of the dialog ever could. It’s challenging for any artist to convey the right emotions to the reader during such a climactic battle as the one seen here, and Burnham does a fantastic job of hitting all the right notes as needed. Writer Grant Morrison is moving the story towards his ‘end game’ of sorts, moving things along rather slowly still. For all that actually happened in this issue, it didn’t seem like much was going on. The story itself was covered in an underwhelming twenty-one pages, and the bulk of those were comprised of fight scenes or overhead shots of larger scenes.
Overall, this issue is a must read for anyone who is even remotely a fan of Damian Wayne as a character. DC made a big deal out of telling comic shops to order a ton of this issue early so that people would be able to get a hold of it, and once you read the issue, it’s clear why. Morrison wraps up Damian Wayne’s story rather eloquently and leaves you begging for more when you hit the final page; but are you begging for more because it’s so good, or because there really wasn’t a lot to this issue? Underwhelming as it may feel, this issue is going to have long lasting effects on Batman and the majority of the Batman related characters in the DC Universe. Even if Damian isn’t exactly your cup of tea, his final moments are truly something to be experienced that will be the talk of comic fans for years to come. The fallout of the events of this book should be able to fuel some of the best Batman stories ever told, and that’s a great thing to look forward to.
Batman Incorporated #8 is in stores now from DC Comics, be sure to get out to your local comic shop to pick up your copy today!