torsdag 5 januari 2012

Batman and Robin #1-4- Women? What women?

So, after having read the first four issues of the new Batman and Robin I feel it's definitely about time I share my opinion on it so far.
I'm going to start with the negative part of this "review" and bring up the great parts of it later. The only seriously bad thing that actively bothers me when I read this is the lack of women. And for those of you who have not read the first issues, let me make it clear to you that I am not talking about there only being one woman and she is a love interest or something like that. No, this series actually has yet to introduce a single female character. So far we have only seen flashbacks concerning Talia and Poison Ivy appearing in one panel in the beginning of the fourth issue. In total there has so far been three women in a total of six panels, meaning every character has appeared in about two panels each. And none of them have actually said anything. In all fairness, though, one of the women were not in a flashback but was being robbed in an alley as she is walking home with her husband. She wasn't really a character though, so I wont be giving any points for that.

Red Robin #13
I am aware that the comic is about Batman and Robin and that they are both male. I am also aware that there isn't a very big cast to begin with and that they can't very well change Alfred's gender. But the heroes are men, the villain is a man and the few side characters are also men. And I refuse to believe that they could not have written this any differently and thus adding a single female face to the story, especially considering there has been four issues already. It's not even like it's a lot to ask for. Though I admit I would prefer if it was not done like in Nightwing, where Raya and Dick had sex already in the second issue. Not because I have a problem with characters having sex, but because I really hate the characters who are being cast as love interests immediately. It doesn't matter if they manage to grow out of the main characters shadow after a couple of years because in the end, they will always be defined through their relationship with the protagonist. So, for example, Raya will forever be the girl Dick slept with, no matter what has happened since I stopped buying the comic. First impressions are important, and it seems as if the impression the author usually goes for when introducing a woman in the dude dominated world of comics is "she's attractive!", sometimes followed with an "but deadly" to give her some more depth.
I would like to provide you with examples from the new Batman and Robin issues to prove my point, but since there are no women you'll just have to do with a panel from Red Robin that I read earlier today. It is a great example of how not to introduce the women you are trying to pass off as actual characters.
It immediately sets the focus of her character on her being "Sexy" and supposedly into Tim. So naturally, when she actually appears in the comic; this will be what I, as a reader, pay attention to.
So you could say that Batman and Robin dodged a bullet there, not introducing any women atleast means you can't do it wrong, I guess.

Secondly, is this a good starting point for new readers? Well, it isn't ideal, but it's doing a pretty decent job considering I'm a relatively new reader myself and I understand most of the things. There were however some questions I found myself with, such as "who is the guy on the first page of the first issue?" which really doesn't sound like a good start now that I type it out. However, I'm pretty good at ignoring things I don't understand if they don't frequently appear and it's safe to say that the man on the first page has not been in the comic since. At least not long enough for me to actually notice him. I am also not sure if it's so wise to start with an entirely new and unknown villain? Perhaps they are just warming up or want an entirely blank canvas to set up the story without doing something with a major plot, but it's always fun to read about the more iconic villains. Especially if you only know Batman from Nolan's movies, it's probably more appealing to read a story featuring someone you actually recognize. I, for example, got into buying comics because I saw one that had the Riddler in it; my childhood favourite.
Also, in the first issue it isn't really explained who Damian actually is. He refers to Bruce as his father and it's made clear that they are related, but a new reader would probably react with great confusion. It wouldn't have hurt to add a line or so explaining something about his origin. But on the other hand, this is taken care of in the beginning of the second issue so provided the new reader sticks around to buy a copy of that, that solves the problem.

Now, to end on a positive note. Because I really do like Batman and Robin so far, despite there being some elements of it which irks me. In short the art is really pretty and the story is interesting enough for me to keep reading (which is where most of the titles of the relaunch have lost me). But the best thing is honestly Damian. I don't really have any political reasons for liking his character so much, it is basically all based on the emotions that he gives me. I will admit that I am really weak for characters who give me emotions and make me honestly care for them, and I have found that I really do care about Damian.
I was skeptical at first, missing Dick as Batman and being afraid Damian and Bruce would pull each other into the darkness and that the whole thing would turn out horribly brutal and emotionless without Dick there to make things a bit brighter. Luckily, while Nightwing turned out to a great disappointment, Peter J. Tomasi proved that he could take this concept that I had such difficulties looking forward to and make it into something brilliant. I'm sure I have mentioned before that Tim Drake is my favourite character in the DCverse. But what amuses me about the relaunch is that while Tim seems to have turned into a major douche in Teen Titans, Damian has actually started showing some other emotions than anger. I feel for him as he tries to come to terms with his father not being everything he hoped for and not being trusted because of his background. The feeling of hurt, being left out and not trusted is portrayed beautifully, especially in the fourth issue where he stands at his grandparents's grave. It is definitely one of my favourite moments of what I have read of the relaunch so far, it's just such a painful reminder of how young he actually is. It's especially nice because even though you can tell that he's going through such a hard time, he doesn't completely fall apart. He is merely stating facts, which makes it all the more painful.
So all things considered, I'm really excited about Batman and Robin so far and I will simply keep my fingers crossed that a woman will appear soon enough.
Batman and Robin #4

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