Dick Grayson-the original Robin-gets to spend some quality time fighting crime with his mentor for the first time since Batman popped the question to Catwoman. It’s a walk down memory lane as Bruce Wayne helps Dick get over the loss of his high-flying acrobat parents, which in turn led to his crime-fighting career.
Have you ever read a comic that you know was a filler issue? The quality of the story an the art just didn’t match what had come before. Something was off? Batman #54 is the filler issue of writer Tom King‘s impressive run. For the first time I got a sense of a comic which was thrown into the mix to create a breather and some padding.
The issue explores the relationship between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne as both father and adopted son and as Batman and Nightwing. There’s some aspects that are great, including a running joke about Batman’s D-List villains. But, there’s an emotional disconnect that creates a distance between the reader and the subjects. Where Batman should be emotional, really cold and uptight, he instead comes off as a douche. This isn’t someone we want to help, this is an asshole we want to let stew in his misery.
King attempts to slide the emotions throughout the issue. In the beginning Bruce is the caring one, helping Dick cope with his loss. Dick acts like you’d expect a child to act in numerous ways. We can have empathy for him and his reactions seem natural. As Dick grows up, Bruce feels like he’s more detached. This could be his war as Batman is weighing on him but you’d expect some distance in the beginning as well. Instead at the middle point he’s already cold and uncaring. It’s odd and due to it, it’s kind of surprising Dick is helping him post being stood up at the alter. He’s a jerk at this point and emotionally distant. He’s the cold, uncaring parent.
Later in the story, things are switched with Dick attempting to help Bruce but unlike the emotional child reactions of a young Dick Grayson, we’re presented again with the cold lack of feeling that we experience in the middle of their relationship. Dick is expecting him to show emotion when it’s clear he hasn’t for some time. Dick is expecting a reaction we are shown shouldn’t be expected.
There’s a disconnect there and also with the more affable Bruce we’ve seen over these years. It’s hard to care for his well-being after reading this.
Then there’s Matt Wanger‘s art. The cover, where he’s joined by Brennan Wagner is fantastic. The interiors, where he’s joined by colorist Tomeu Morey, are lacking. The style just doesn’t quite work though Wagner does do a solid job of juxtaposing the time frames. Detail feels like it’s lacking. Poses are awkward. Perspectives don’t look right. And the coloring doesn’t work either beyond one panel where you can’t tell if a line on Batman’s cheek is lighting or a tear.
Awkwardness abounds in this issue which just stumbles at every opportunity. A story which relies on emotional connection doesn’t give us any reason to care for a character’s well-being and connect with them. They’re cold and leaves the reader much the same.
Story: Tom King Art: Matt Wagner
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Matt Wagner, Brennan Wagner
Story: 5.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review