BATMAN & ROBIN (2023) #2 Review

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SYNOPSIS: Introducing Shush. Who does she work for? And how have they turned one of Batman’s greatest tools against him? Urban Jungle continues as the father and son dynamic duo are on the deadly case! But first, Damian must deal with…his first day of school?!

I want to love this book.

If you look at my past reviews for Robin, I enjoyed what Williamson was doing on the title. He continued adding layers to Damian and fleshing out his character.

To be fair, he’s doing that here, too. It’s just coming at the expense of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Bruce definitely feels like a supporting character and not to sound like Chris O’Donnell, but this might be better named “Robin & Batman”. Damian, who has always been a know-it-all, comes off as more mature and knowledgeable than his father but somehow maintains a shadow of his adolescence.

Opening with a flashback, Williamson gives Damian a reason to have a proclivity towards bats and how he reacts to his father’s predicament from the cliffhanger last issue. It feels a little contradictory to his past attitudes as seen in 2011’s Batman & Robin series. To be fair, Damian’s attitude could have changed (and changed again) so I don’t want to hold it against Williamson, but it did pull me out of the story.

I appreciated Batman’s preparedness for the situation, but something about his dialogue felt off again. However, I did like how Williamson handled the exposition for new readers when Bruce and Damian get back to the brownstone. Repeating what just happened last issue as a means of working through the case aloud works for those who need the refresher.

I also felt conflicted about the art. While I like the uniqueness of Simone Di Meo’s layouts, I feel like the imagery is getting lost with the vibrant coloring. It’s almost too bright for my brain to easily decipher what is going on. I thought it was bold and interesting last time, but it bordered on being distracting here. It is definitely distinct, standing apart from the visuals in its sister titles. I think I’d appreciate it more in black and white.

We get to see Shush and Williamson start building the mystery around her, including the fact that there may be someone behind the new villainess, guiding the plot. Color me intrigued. Obviously, we have shades of Hush here, given that she is using multiple villains in her campaign, but I am not ready to make a decision on whether or not she is a worthwhile addition to the Rogue’s Gallery just yet.

Damian going to a normal high school is a fun idea, given that he is a fish out of water, but I hope we see a balance and get Bruce’s personal life, too.

So, Batman & Robin is a mixed bag for me. There are some intriguing ideas and striking visuals, but something is missing the mark and I’m having a hard time defining it. I want this to knock me off my feet, but for every breathtaking panel, there’s one where I have to take a second to decipher what is going on. Bruce/Batman feels slightly out of place, adding to the frustration. I’m willing to see where this is going, but it’s got some work to do. Javier E. Trujillo

GRADE: C+