Batman vs. Darkseid is finally here! It's a moment some fans have been anxiously waiting for, hoping to see the Dark Knight completely humiliate DC's biggest villain. When it comes to physical feats, beating up Darkseid is one of the most impressive things someone can accomplish and there's a select crowd that simply wants to see Batman do the impossible. Why? Because he's Batman, that's why! The guy had tons of prep time, after all. Other fans have been dreading this issue because it may be a human -- albeit brilliant human -- fighting someone who's way above his weight class. How intimidating can Darkseid look if Batman obliterates him? Many will go into this issue thinking it doesn't matter how much time Batman had to prepare or what kind of armor he's wearing. If he steps up against Darkseid, he's going to get wrecked. Thankfully, Peter J. Tomasi handles this fight properly, giving a good amount of love to both groups of fans.
Batman may get his punches in, but there's nothing implying those are doing any kind of significant damage to the big guy. Batman may be one of the most gifted hand-to-hand combatants on Earth, but even in a highly advanced armor, him going toe to toe with Darkseid and sticking to melee combat just isn't going to end well for him. Instead, the emphasis needs to be put on his impressive tactical mind and that's exactly what Tomasi does. It all boils down to one critical moment in Bruce Wayne's plan and, if it doesn't go as planned, the Dark Knight could become be the Dead Knight. It's also worth noting Darkseid said he wanted to make Batman suffer, so we can assume he's holding back to some degree. This is a fight that had to be handled carefully and I think Tomasi succeeded in giving lots of fan service to both sides. Yes, the supporting characters are just there as a plot device, but no one came into this issue expecting to see them steal the spotlight. They came for Darkseid vs. Batman and that's exactly what they're going to get. However, it is worth noting there's a brief yet still impactful moment between Cyborg and Batgirl.
Once again, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz do a stunning job capturing every page in Tomasi's script. From the thunderous strikes to the intense displays of emotion, this visual team killed it. There's a few moments where the work on Darkseid feels a tad rushed, but it wasn't too distracting and he's often heavily shaded. The views inside of Batman's helmet and some of the close ups really allowed us to appreciate just how much was at stake and just how much of a toll the experience is taking on him. There's a few bits that are sure to be very cheerworthy for Batman fans and I can definitely see them being taken out of context and spread around the internet to make Batman look even more formidable. Don't worry, because there's a few good ones for Darkseid, too. Hell, there's even a solid splash page which shows just how powerful this guy can be. It's devastating stuff. As for Darkseid standing with his arms behind his back, it's dedicated to a smaller panel but it was greatly appreciated and fitting in that sequence. Oh, and there's a double-page spread with Batman's allies and their reactions to the heartwarming moment is absolutely priceless. It really hits you with the weight of the scene.
Announcing whether Damian returns before this issue was released isn't something I can hold against the issue. If I didn't go into this issue aware of Damian's fate (will he return or will he remain dead and another will take his place?), the handling of the Batcave scene would have had me legitimately wondering what will happen. Sure, I'd be rooting for Damian's return and thinking that's more probable, but part of me would have been wondering if this story arc ends on a tragic note. After all Bruce has endured on Apokolips, what if it only accomplished returning his son's body to his possession? Yes, he stopped the Chaos Cannon, but how dark would it be if Batman couldn't accomplish the one thing he set out to do? Unfortunately, having this information released ahead of time took away the possibility of an internal debate over Damian's fate, but the point is it was still handled in a way that would have had me on the edge of my seat. This doesn't impact the score, but I thought it was worth discussing. That said, the final page didn't pack the kind of punch it was meant to. I get why Tomasi did that -- it'll motivate Damian to unleash with these new powers as he now fights and does everything possible to save/protect/avenge his father -- but there's no real sense of danger; we know Batman will be fine. And that's not even because of solicitations; it's because other Batman books are taking place in the future and he's just fine. Ending it on them hugging -- the throwback to two powerful scenes in the volume -- would have been more powerful and gripping than immediately trying to hit us with even more danger. After all Batman has endured, that would have been such a heartfelt and well-earned way to leave readers. I just can't imagine anyone out there being shocked or concerned about Batman's fate at this point.
Minor criticism: Darkseid's one line of exposition about the shard and the Omega Beamsfelt like a forced and slightly out of character way to spell out what's going on to the reader. Something like Darkseid giving Bruce a backhanded compliment about the tactic and then Bruce elaborating would have seemed a bit more fitting. We're just talking about one dialogue box, so it's hardly a bit deal, but the exposition did take me out of the moment.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #37 is a huge amount of fun that's filled with enjoyably over-the-top moments. This is the kind of story that just demands to be turned into a DC animated movie. It refuses to slow down and never fails to entertain with ridiculously crazy and gripping action. Sure, it mostly plays out how you'd expect it to, so that means it's unlikely to surprise or stun you, but you can tell the creative team put everything they have into this one and wanted to make sure readers have a blast with it. The big clash doesn't disappoint and the adventure has just the right amount of heart. Robin Rises has been non-stop fun and I'm really looking forward to ROBIN RISES: ALPHA.