Death comes for all of us, but not equally.
Many heroes have died in the DCU, and most of them have returned within a few years. Sometimes their hiatus is a bit longer, but resurrection is almost always guaranteed. And almost none of these caped Lazarus’s brother talking about what lies on the other side. Can you imagine how strange that must feel for the unpowered masses? To them, death is permanent. Every cop, every soldier, every firefighter goes headfirst into the fray, knowing full well that no matter how heroic they are, no matter how many people they save, they are doomed to an eternity of nothingness simply because they don’t leap from buildings in brightly colored tights.
See, the question I’m raising here is not whether Damian Wayne, the latest of the fallen Robins, is going to return to the land of the living. That much is certain. The question I’m asking is whether he ought to.
Being a Robin is a lot like being a Red Shirt in Star Trek. You’re probably going to die to further the plot at some point. Dick Grayson has, thus far, managed to avoid that fate. But, given the events of Forever Evil and his own series being cancelled, how long he’ll manage to stay with us is up in the air.
Jason Todd rather famously perished at the hands of the Joker. Stakes were raised. Vengeance was re-sworn. There were consequences. Batman went on a rampage and swore there’d never be another child put in harm’s way. But, like many other fallen heroes, Jason returned. A lot of people lamented his resurrection. Frankly, I’ve always quite liked Jason and I felt like him taking up the mantle of the Red Hood and general philosophies about crime in Gotham were fairly pragmatic.
Then there was Tim Drake. The “perfect” Robin. Not much analysis needed there.
After him was Stephanie Brown, who happens to be my favorite Batgirl while simultaneously being a pretty terrible Robin. She also died. Kind of. Once more, Batman raised up a fist and growled “never again” to no one in particular. Anger, lots of punching, “you’re out of control,” and so forth. Tim came back home and all was back to the status quo.
Until 2005, when Damian Wayne told Batman he’d imagined him taller.
Damian was Bruce’s first biological child. Dick had been his ward, but acted more like a younger brother. Same with Jason. He’d just about adopted Tim after Tim’s father was murdered. It was a big step, even though Tim had grown up quite quickly and viewed Bruce more like a father-figure than an actual father.
But with Damian, things were different. Bruce wasn’t quite sure how to treat him. He’d spent years turning children into soldiers and was confronted with trying to do a bit of the opposite. Then, naturally, Batman “died.” Damian came into his own as Robin under the guidance of Dick Grayson, who took up the cowl. Later, when Bruce returned, Damian had to adjust to a whole new dynamic. He regressed a bit, becoming rebellious and bratty.
The New 52 relaunch didn’t help matters, emphasizing the negative aspects of Damian’s personality to make the character development feel more earned for new readers. By the time Damian was killed, most newer fans had only ever been treated to brief glimpses of his greatness, most of which were in Grant Morrison’s not-exactly-new-reader-friendly Batman, Incorporated.
With all that in mind, what’s the real benefit of Damian returning? How will another Robin’s return not seem utterly contrived? We’ve already seen two of them come back to life. I don’t really imagine any new ground would get covered with Damian joining their ranks.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the character. But, honestly, he was at his best when partnered with Dick Grayson’s more light-hearted Batman. Instead of the awkward power struggle between Bruce and Damian (let’s face it, either one of them actually coming out on top would make the other far less interesting), I’d much rather the Bat-writers spent their time fleshing out the other Robins.
Tim Drake has suffered greatly in the New 52. I think letting him come back to Gotham to re-train with Bruce would be a fantastic way to fix all the current issues the character has gone through under Scott Lobdell. Jason seems more than a bit aimless at the moment, even if his series has managed to stay mildly entertaining. Meanwhile, Dick is facing a major change if he survives the events of Forever Evil, and we’re just getting our reintroduction to Stephanie Brown. That’s not even mentioning the whole Harper Row situation, or the seemingly pointless cameos by Carrie Kelly.
When it comes down to it, I just don’t think the Bat-books would benefit from Damian’s return right now, especially with so much other ground to cover with the rest of the Bat Family.
Damian’s dead. And, for now, he should stay that way.
Ash Mahtani is a screenwriter in LA who spends entirely too much time thinking about comic books and marinating various meats. His luxurious 500-thread-count eyebrows keep his feelings warm as he works on bleak and depressing children's books. You can check out the blog he never updates at www.takeituptheash.blogspot.com or follow him on twitter @ashmaht.
May 15, 2015