|Mercy For Damian Wayne
Dear DC Comics,
I've never really asked this sort of thing before, but could you please hurry on the resurrection of Damian Wayne?
This goes against my usual principles for a couple of reasons: unlike many deaths for shock value, Grant Morrison really has built up to this moment. It's tragic. It's awful. It will definitely, believably, change things for Bruce Wayne. I'll get back to that in a moment.
The second reason it goes against my principles is that Grant Morrison is my favorite writer. I defend him to friends. I re-read to figure out what I missed. He's great. Second-guessing him seems wrong to me.
But see, I have a son myself. He's almost 9. And he just discovered Damian and fell in love with him as a character. Maybe it was how beautifully Peter J. Tomasi has been writing the awkward relationship of a father and son superhero team in Batman and Robin. Maybe it really is because Damian did, as Morrison has said everywhere, become a true hero.
Or maybe the combination of things culminated perfectly in the recent Batman and Robin Annual #1, a book so entertaining, so bright, so fun that an 8-year-old boy kept sneaking it out of his dad's pile to read over and over again. It isn't just the Damian was a hero. It's that DC finally had THE hero in the New 52 that could appeal to younger readers, be handled appropriately for ALL AGES without getting dumbed down or put in an out of continuity "kids' book."
As my friend Troy Benson pointed out on a recent podcast, when we were kids, we didn't want to read the kiddie version of Batman or Superman; we wanted to read their actual adventures. Morrison paved the way and Tomasi brought it to fruition: this Robin was the guy that all those new young readers you say you want could identify with.
No, none of these young readers are the grandson of one of the Earth's greatest villains, nor raised originally to be an assassin, but they can recognize struggling with empathy, struggling with doing the right thing when the selfish impulse is so much easier, and they can identify with trying to please their parents while still trying to become their own person.
It's not that Batman, Incorporated #8 was a bad book. As expected, it was fantastic. Artist Chris Burnham really has the hang of Damian as a character; sometimes being as hard and tough as his father, but sometimes unable to help but be a kid.
And Morrison kept hammering home why Damian is what Dick Grayson was in 1940 -- a sensational character find. From interviews, it's clear Morrison would have been happy to keep Damian as Robin teamed with Dick Grayson as Batman for a while, and he shows us why. Together, they can have adventures that hearken back to a simpler, more whimsical time without lowering the stakes. I can't spoil those homages; Damian's fate might be common knowledge now, but the artistry of the book might still be able to surprise readers.
But in that ultimate fate is that heartbreak -- Batman, for the second time in his life too late to save a Robin, and too late to save his own son. Yes, it will affect him, and maybe that's another reason we need Damian back.
See -- we old readers, we have sons. Sons we love very much. And we know how much it's going to hurt Bruce Wayne. We know how it could destroy him. And we can't bear to think about it happening to us.
And I'll argue further (and yes, I feel blasphemous countering Morrison). It's not just making for an interesting story, it's striking against the very core of Batman. One argument for Bruce Wayne donning the cowl is that he did it to make sure that what happened to him wouldn't happen to other children. Despite being grim and scary, children love him. And now, he's failed twice, spectacularly, to save the child he had directly in his care.
Oh, I'll keep reading. But I'm going to have to wait on sharing Damian's fate with my son until someone gets the bright idea to put him in a Lazarus Pit or one of the other ways DC has to revive a Robin. At this point, I'll even settle for a continuity punch.
To Batman, Damian represented the next generation of superhero. To us, he represented the next generation of readers. I kind of think we need them.