Damian Wayne, a.k.a. Robin, has been selected by our community as the latest Character of the Month. Last week, we took a look at some of the hero's best covers, and this week, we want to suggest one of the little guy's great stories. If you spend just a few minutes researching Damian, just about everything will point you in the direction of Grant Morrison's brilliant work. From Batman and Son to the first volume of BATMAN AND ROBIN, many of you probably already know about the Morrison stories that demand to be read. We shouldn't even need to talk you into reading those; they're mandatory. We want to recommend a story that really shouldn't be overlooked: Born to Kill. It's the first story arc in The New 52's BATMAN AND ROBIN and it's full of character, action, and serves as a great introduction to their world.
Taking place in BATMAN AND ROBIN #1-8, Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Patrick Gleason (artist), Mick Gray (inker) and John Kalisz's (colorist) story is all about the complicated father and son relationship between Bruce Wayne and Damian. After witnessing the murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne trained his body and mind until he could become the ultimate hero, promising to himself that he'd never cross the line and take a life. His son, however, was raised by Talia al Ghul. At just the age of 3, Damian was training with the League of Assassins. He's been raised to be tactical and ruthless. He was taught that taking a life is an easy and logical choice. So yeah, Damian's ideology was drastically different from Bruce's when he first came to Gotham.
Even though the child is living in Wayne Manor and wears the Robin costume, Bruce is still hesitant and concerned about how his son acts. He can tell the killer instinct is still in there and it worries him. And even though Damian is doing his best to meet Batman's rules and impress his father, he can still be brash and he's often frustrated with amount of information Batman holds back. It's the classic case of a child wanting to impress their parent and lashing out when they don't feel properly rewarded for their work. He knows Bruce loves him and just wants to protect him, but he's still young and wants more. He wants his respect and wants to be viewed as an equal. How far will a child go in an attempt to impress the person they admire the most? How long will it be before a father realizes he's slowly pushing his son away? This is a dynamic that Tomasi handles incredibly well -- especially with Alfred Pennyworth being thrown in the mix -- and the art team helps us fully understand their personalities by putting a strong emphasis on the expressions and shading. Damian's often looking unamused, arrogant or frustrated, while Batman tries to keep emotion out of it and remain focused.
As if the relationship between them wasn't rough enough already, this arc introduces one of the most memorable new villains from the New 52, Morgan Ducard, a.k.a. Nobody. The villain is the perfect addition to the storyline's theme, constantly boosting Damian and Bruce's frustration. We won't spoil his story, so all we'll say is he disagrees with Batman's methods and thinks killing criminals is the only way to deal with them. He can see Damian's holding back and he wants to take the little dude under his wing so he can unleash Damian's true potential as a lethal fighter. Given the rocky relationship Damian has with his father, does part of him really want to bond with Nobody and learn from him? Does Nobody have an ulterior motive? How will Batman respond?
During the dramatic and violent adventure, Nobody sheds a little more light on Bruce's past while his own tale offers a different and twisted take on the story's theme. His role brings out some unforgettable reactions from the two heroes and this one truly is all about character. Sure, there's plenty of action along the way -- don't worry, we'll discuss that soon -- but it all boils down to giving these characters depth and shining a spotlight on what means the most to them.
Born to Kill includes some jaw-dropping action scenes. Nobody's handling of his targets is swift and cruel, delivering some bloody and harsh reminders of why he's the story's antagonist. The way Batman and Robin battle goons is a total blast. The layouts hit you with some exciting close-ups of bad guy's getting obliterated and there's more than a few cheerworthy splash pages of the dynamic duo simply looking awesome. And the fights Batman has with Nobody? Oh man, they get astonishingly savage and things get crazier and crazier as the story progresses. Nobody may not be as good of a hand-to-hand fighter as Bruce (to be fair, few are), but, thanks to his weapons and his brutal ways, their encounters are vicious. Their final battle in the story is one for the ages. It's gripping and ridiculously intense.
In one moment, the art team will have you smiling as Damian rapidly punches a bad guy in the face. Later on, they'll have you shocked and horrified as the child temporarily lets loose against a common criminal and the child abruptly realizes what he's doing. Whether the script calls for something fun, scary, heartfelt or lighthearted, the art team is able to do a stunning job making sure each page pulls you right into the story and leaves an impression.
Born to Kill is loaded with thrilling action and consistently excellent visuals, but the story offers so much more than just excitement and spectacle. It also does an exceptional job highlighting the bond between Bruce and Damian and gives the reader a terrific insight into their heads. It's character-driven, full of emotion, and downright awesome. Whether you just want to read another Batman story or learn more about Damian, you need to add Born to Kill to your collection.
Have you read Born to Kill? If so, do you share our enthusiasm for the story and think people interested in Damian Wayne need to read it?