This started off as a last week’s pulls article, but I quickly found myself off-track. You see, I’ve been reading a lot of the Batman titles lately. The Requiem storyline caught me a little off guard, but let’s face it – I’m not reading this because it’s great storytelling, I’m reading it to make sure the little creep is really dead.
The truth is, I’ve wanted Damien gone for a good long time, but really I didn’t want him dead so much as I wanted him to never have existed. Damien gives me problems. It’s not just the age thing, though four (or five) Robins in, it makes it a little difficult to believe Bruce Wayne is in his late 20’s or early 30’s. It also makes it seem like he has a Robin for a cruelly short period, six months to a year and then discards them. All of these are problems Damien creates or exacerbates. There is however, a much bigger issue here.
I see what they are going for here. Bruce lost a Robin and he’s sad and things will never be the same….and that worked really well.
When Jason Todd died it was shocking, and the repercussions of that event reverberated over the decades. That case with Jason’s uniform in it? We first saw that in “The Dark Knight Returns” years before this happened. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy and that Frank Miller had the foresight to see this might happen sooner or later was chilling. Batman really never WAS the same. the idea that Robin could die was unthinkable and it changed the way he operated. When Tim Drake became Robin he noted “Everything Bruce has done is to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to me that happened to Jason”.
You could really argue that Jason’s death wasn’t Batman’s fault. You could equally argue that it was indeed his responsibility. Either way, you could forgive him.
In 2012/13 this doesn’t work the same way – not with Damien. We’ve seen it before…in fact, we’ve seen it to many times. Damien is the THIRD Robin to die. You can’t debate this any more – putting a kid in that suit after two or three other deaths, that’s tantamount to child abuse. It’s reckless endangerment. DC has played the dead Robin card too many times to the point that if you give any thought to it, Batman is reflected badly.
I’d argue something similar when Stephanie Brown put on the Robin costume. It was even more insulting then because she was just tossed in to that story line to be thrown away. It cheapened the mantle. The fact that Jason Todd is back (Steph too for that matter, though I haven’t actually seen her around much in the new 52 so she’s easier to ignore) essentially invalidated twenty years of pathos generated by his death.
Killing off Damien doesn’t fix this. It just muddies the water further.
With Jason, I and a lot of other folks transferred a lot of our affections from Dick to him. He was a little annoying, but it was actually a cool idea that someone else could step into the role of Robin. The problem of course, was he felt a little TOO contrived, too much like Dick and when they went back to retcon him, they actually made things worse. Jason’s greatest contribution to the Batman storyline was his death. He became an honest-to-God martyr.
Damien never had my affection from the word go. It’s like Morrison went out of his way to make him unlikable. I never got the chemistry he was supposed to have with Dick (perhaps I would have bought into it more if we didn’t all know Bruce would be Batman again in a year or so….done as an Elseworlds story this might have worked better). It felt forced, like they were trying to hard to recreate the relationship Dick had with Tim.
Moreover, I missed Tim. I really do wish they hadn’t aged him. He was far more interesting at 14 than he was at 19 (in fact, in Teen Titans, he does look a little younger again, but not quite young enough – Robin always worked better for me at Jr. high age). I knew from his introduction Damien was going to become Robin and I was fairly certain he was going to be killed off as well. None of this ever worked for me. It just didn’t.
They could have fixed this. If Damien had ceased to exist in the new 52, I would have been the happiest boy in the world. I could have dealt with Dick back in the Robin suit even (though I would expect him to be back to Nightwing soon). The way they choose to handle this feels very wrong to me….and I’m not sure where Batman goes from here.
I think I’ll go work on some Violent Blue and think about how I would fix this.