Damian Wayne, Robin

The Best New Character This Decade

Spoilers…I guess. Damian Wayne, the Robin of the last few years, is dead.

It takes a lot to get an emotional reaction from me with a super hero death these days. With everything from the once thought taboo resurrections of Bucky and Jason Todd (the first Robin to die) to the multiple deaths of most members of the X-Men, death doesn’t really have a meaning in comics anymore. It’s almost always a sales ploy with lots of lead-in hype, maybe a polybagged issue, and usually found in the pages of the year’s big mega-crossovers. Yet, none of that happened in Batman Inc. #8. This felt like an organic death of a hero by the writer who created him. Like the death of “Xorn”, Jean Grey, and Aztek (all by Grant Morrison).

new-52-dc-comicsLike Captain America’s “death” in Captain America #25, this death came about in an issue that came right after a crossover in a related title that promised a big death (with a title like Death of the Family…you’d expect a death, right?). When all the Robins made it out alive in Scott Synder’s story, I let my guard down. That’s one of the reasons why this death made such an impact on me; I wasn’t prepared. A death this big without hype from solicits and speculation for months reminded me what it had felt like to read Superman #75 and Uncanny X-Men #390.

wayne new 52 dc comicsI caught wind of what was to take place the day before I read the comic from the New York Times Article that broke the story but I had to see it for myself for it to really hit. There it was, a heroic sacrifice as powerful as any because it was in the service of just one innocent life. Here was a character I had once hated, then was annoyed by, then grew to be my favorite supporting character in the entire Batman mythos. My feelings towards him were a calculated journey Grant Morrison cooked up in order for the character to have the biggest impact. How often does a super hero in a mainstream comic get a third act? Not many. There has not been a super hero created since 2000 who has become more important to me than Damian.  Here’s why:

dc new 52

Before the New 52 was the Post-Crisis DC Universe. The DC Universe that I grew up on that, to this day, feels like the real one. This was a DC Universe that was complicated and multi-generational. One of the most complicated relationships in that universe was that of Batman and Talia. While Joker might be Batman’s arch-foe, non have more power or resources than Ra’s Al Ghul. His daughter Talia both loves and hates Bruce in a way only a woman scorned can. Grant Morrison’s landmark run on Batman (after his character defining All-Star Superman story) began with taking a once thought Elseworlds story, Batman: Son of the Demon and bringing it into canon. The result was Damian Wayne, heir to both Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul.

murder ghost dc comicsTrained at birth from a position of privilege to be a killer and heir to a criminal empire, his strange upbringing was revealed in bits over the course of years worth of stories. Suffice to say, this was a 10 year old boy with training far and above any that the previous Robin’s had received. His time with the League of Assassins taught him that death was his to dish out and he did just that while in Bruce’s care in an attempt to help his father in his mission. He would fight his programming constantly in his time as Robin under both Bruce and Dick Grayson (who replaced Bruce as Batman while he was thought to be dead…see what I mean about death in comics?).

batman child batDamian was a Robin like no other because he had no interest in being a normal kid nor did he know how. He pushed himself constantly both physically and mentally. He lived to seek approval because that’s how Talia physically and emotionally engineered him. Morrison played with the plot device of showing Damian’s future as Batman in a increasingly more dystopian Gotham in a number of issues that showed the full evolution of the character. I look back at the Dick Grayson and Damian Batman and Robin stories with longing. I wish they could have stretched that teaming for longer because it was such a different dynamic between Batman and Robin then what has been written for the past 75 years. An optimistic conversational Batman paired with a grim and brutal 10 year old Robin…it was so fresh! Like most things in comics, however, the status quo had to be returned (as was always the plan) and Bruce returned to take the cowl back while working with and taking a stricter stance with Damian.

batman pearl comics dc 52The last year of the DC Universe we find ourselves in now, The New 52, contains all the stories from Batman and Damian’s past but in a more condensed timeline (don’t think about it too much, your head will hurt). The evolution of this partnership over the last 17 months really bloomed from one of resentment to a real father and son dynamic that was often sentimental. Just when everything seemed to be working the rug was pulled out. In fact, Damian was becoming the new glue that could have held the Bat-family together after Death of the Family. Alas, it was not meant to be because, in a plot by his own mother, Damian has suffered the same fate Jason Todd did…a heroic sacrifice his partner was too late to help atop.

damian wayne 666 alternateGrant Morrison did a lot of work to get me to fall for this character so completely over the past few years. At the same time DC made a mess of my once favorite Robins, Tim Drake while simultaneously bringing back Jason Todd (let’s not even get into Stephanie Brown). This has all left a big hole in my heart for the titles of Robin. Will I be able to open it again to the inevitable next Robin? Will Scott Snyder set up Harper Row as the new Robin? Will Tim Drake come back (I doubt it)? We’ll see. In the mean time, check out Damian’s appearance in this clip from Batman Brave and the Bold and remember that it’s not your DNA that makes you a hero but your strength of will. Damian Wayne, you will be missed.

It’s going to be sad when they break his death to all the Bat-Pets.

damian wayne robin batman


Short Box co-founder, Nick, is married to Sarah and their 1st child is on the way,
Nick uses terms like Comic Book Historian and Geekologist to describe himself but...those aren't real things...right?
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