Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Mahmud Asrar
Colour Artist: Jordi Bellaire
Letterer: Steve Wands
Review by Steven Lee Sharpe
Batman Vs Robin #5 not only brings to a close the series but serves as an epilogue to the Lazarus Planet event – although after reading all the earth-shattering occurrences from this issue, referring to it as merely an epilogue seems outrageous!
The story cleverly opens with Robin regaining consciousness and recounting the last thing he remembers. It encapsulates the ending to Batman Vs Robin #4, where the battle between the Devil Nezha and his son King Fire Bull seemingly killed Batman and caused an explosion within the Lazarus pit. This cranked all magic in the world up to ten and sent it haywire. Also included in the recap are the main events of Lazarus Planet: Omega where Black Alice managed to return magic to its rightful owners, leading to the capture of King Fire Bull.
Except in all the relief over the defeat of another major villain, the small matter of Devil Nezha appears to have been overlooked. When Black Alice syphoned some of the Lazarus magic from the demon to resurrect Batman in the previous issue, it opened a doorway for his possession. Worse still, it’s not just the simple possession we’ve seen of Damian over previous issues of Batman Vs Robin, this time Devil Nezha’s soul and essence are occupying Batman’s body for a total takeover. Lazarus Planet: Omega ended with a brilliant image of Damian turning his back on a devilish-looking Batman.
Now Robin finds himself awake and in the clutches of Devil Nezha, who wants to know where his son is. It’s not long before Damian escapes, meaning that it’s up to him to find a way to defeat Nezha and save Batman. It’s still Batman versus Robin, but this time it’s Batman who’s not himself.
It could be said that with Batman Vs Robin and Lazarus Planet, writer Mark Waid has been on a mission to not only exonerate Damian Wayne for any past transgressions but also elevate his standing as a character in his own right. In early issues while he was being possessed, we got to see how formidable he could be as a villain, and now we’ve seen a new charisma to him as he coordinates other DC characters, major and minor, with his plans. It’s a role that has previously been played by Batman on countless occasions.
Mark Waid’s writing once again travels at a fast pace that keeps things moving. even though sometimes I wanted it to slow down. it times I feel it needed to take some time for the characters to talk through what was happening, or allow some of the plot points to breath. The Nezha/Batman hybrid was so strong visually that it would’ve been fun to see him wreck a little more havoc in the DCU.
Given that there isn’t the room to allow the cameo characters the chance to speak anything more than expositional dialogue, they all felt appropriate to the plot. Once again, the Monkey Prince proves that he brings an interesting X Factor to any story, with his newly discovered powers or his knack for being in the right place at the right time.
It’s a shame that, considering how the first four issues were so focused on Batman, his voice is noticeably absent in this final issue, due to the possession. The climax pulls a trick that will have you either nodding with a silly grin or narrowing your eyes in suspicion, but it worked for me. However, I do feel it would’ve been stronger for a couple of extra pages of dialogue between important characters at the end.
Illustrator Mahmud Asrar has proved himself to be a great all-rounder on this series, both in his storytelling and his rendition of the high number of number characters that have been included. In this issue alone there’s a dynamically illustrated action scene with Robin on a motorbike, being chased by an extra fiery version of the Batmobile, and a nice composite full page as Damian contacts the rest of the Bat Family. We also get a great ‘reveal’ page of them ready for action. “Round two everybody,” says Nightwing. “Go!”
Batman Vs Robin #5 is all about Damian. His young shoulders have to shoulder the burden of saving Batman and preventing the potential end of the world. What he doesn’t know is that he has to do it in a way that gives us a satisfying conclusion to both this series and Lazarus Planet. For me it does. It’s an issue of urgency and high stakes that shows the benefits of teamwork whilst allowing an underpowered single character to shine thanks to his wits.
On the whole, it’s been a series that crept up on everyone. What seemed like a just a gimmick title, turned out to be the prelude to a DC event and a chance for Bruce Wayne to reflect on his responsibilities. His role of mentor to the previous Robins is questioned, and this series allowed him to deal with his feelings of grief over the loss of Alfred. Most importantly it also put Damian and Bruce’s relationship and roles together under the microscope. They’ve had a troubled history, thanks to Damian’s heritage and the unique push-and-pull that comes from being father and son.
We all have our opinions on favored Robins, but Batman Vs Robin has forced both characters to having a new level of appreciation for each other. This leads to a feeling that Damian is absolutely right for the role and that we now have a slightly different dynamic between the duo.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment