We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of yet another Robin.
After the events of Batman, Inc. #8, I had to take a moment to allow the death of Damian Wayne to sink in, which I instantly regretted. If you don’t know by now, the Robin legacy is probably my favorite part of comics, and seeing another soldier die in the colors is hard to deal with. Well, unless said Robin is Jason Todd, then it’s okay. But much like the death of Stephanie Brown, Damian Wayne’s tenure as Robin was much too short, and he will be missed.
Damian Wayne first entered comics back in 1987, although no one knew him as Damian yet. First told as an Elseworlds tale, Batman: Son of the Demon focused on Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, along with her father Ra’s al Ghul. Bruce and Talia fall in love and are wed, and over the course of the story we learn that Talia is pregnant. The story ends with Bruce thinking the child is lost, the marriage dissolved, and the child Of Bruce and Talia adopted by a normal family away from the Bats and the Demons. This is where the life of Damian Wayne ended, and was considered non-canon until Grant Morrison introduced the character when he took over Batman back in 2006.
Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce and Talia al Ghul, had been raised by Talia as a member of the League of Assasins. Trained since birth to be the ultimate killing machine, he remained in that life until the age of 10, when Talia sent him to Gotham to live with his father, Batman. Of course, Batman was unaware Damian even existed, so dropping this murderous son into the caped crusader’s life effectively served as the cog in the machine that Talia was hoping for.
As soon as Damian showed up, fans were quick to hate the newcomer, and as he became a key member of the Bat Family he continued to earn the ire of the readers. The competition between Damian and then-Robin Tim Drake was the first strike against him for loyal Robin fans, which he followed up by breaking the ‘one rule’ and decapitating the villain Spook as he attempted to prove to his father that he was worthy. The relationship between Bruce and Damian wasn’t allowed to truly blossom at this point, as Bruce was soon presumed ‘dead’ after the events of Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis.
What followed was a Battle for the Cowl, which ended up with Dick Grayson taking over the role he had always steered away from. In a move that didn’t sit well with the rest of the Bat family, Dick took Damian under his wing as the new Robin, while Tim Drake was forced to take on the new identity of Red Robin. It was at this moment most fans started to come around to the new Robin, who for the first time in continuity actually was the son of the Batman. While his attitude and personality remained intact as he assumed the role of Robin, he repressed his assassin training in honor of his father and refrained from killing. Dick and Damian proved to work very well together, and the new dynamic of the Dynamic Duo presented readers with an opportunity to fall in love with Damian Wayne.
Which is exactly what happened. The interaction between Dick and Damian humanized the character, and as he continued to grow in the hearts of fans he further proved himself worthy as the new Robin. Even when Bruce returned, he was so impressed by the new team of Dick and Damian that they continued to work together while he pursued other matters. Bruce and Damian’s relationship reached a bit of a stalemate here until the events of Flashpoint changed everything. As Dick returned to his role as Nightwing, Bruce was once again the only Batman, and he kept Damian at his side as Robin. For the first time ever in years of history, Batman and Robin were actually the father and son team that Batman had aspired to with his adopted wards for years.
Of course, things weren’t easy between them. Damian was saddled with a ton of aggression towards Bruce, and his longing for the easy partnership he had with Dick. Bruce was unsure of how to act with his son, and remained distant as he had with the former Robins. Slowly but surely, over the course of the New 52, this attitude began to change between Bruce and Damian. The fatherly instincts Bruce had developed over the years with his adopted Robins started to affect his relationship with Damian, and the respect the boy had for his father continued to grow day by day. They were both learning from each other, and Damian was making a name for himself among his ‘family’ as a true Robin.
When Grant Morrison announced he was leaving the Bat titles he had directed for the last 6 years, it was with the understanding that something big was coming for Damian Wayne. He was well aware of the hatred fans had for Damian at his introduction, just as he was aware of how fond fans had become of the young Wayne. Robin’s role in the New 52 had been well defined, and he had been a huge part of almost every title that focused on Gotham. As events in Morrison’s Batman, Inc. and Peter Tomasi’s Batman and Robin began to build up over the last few months, fans began to notice certain developments that didn’t look too favorably upon Damian. And at the finale of Batman, Inc #8, Damian Wayne died fighting the war his father started, in a role he had truly earned the right to wear.
It wasn’t a death that most were expecting, and there was no huge moment that most comic deaths bring us. It was simply a death of a child, fighting a monstrous clone of himself created by his mother. There is little rhyme or reason to the death, except for the fact that Morrison is leaving with the character he created. There is obviously more to it than that, but I’m still a little emotional over the fact that another Robin I had grown to love over the years has once again been killed before their prime. Damian, who has been seen many times as the future version of Batman still fighting his father’s war years into the future, will never grow up to fulfill that destiny.
Is Damian dead for good? Hard to say, especially with fellow formerly dead Robin Jason Todd still fighting the good fight. Chances are pretty good he will stay dead for a while if it isn’t dealt with right away before Morrison finishes his run on Batman, Incorporated. With teases of a new Robin and the next few issues of all Bat titles showing a clearly mourning Bat family (except for Tim Drake, who seems morbidly happy about it), I would say the loss of Damian is something that will be another reminder to Bruce just how dangerous his mission is to those he loves. This is the beginning of a dark time for Batman and family, as history has documented before when Batman is without his Robin While it will certainly open the door for a ton of great stories over the next few months, one has to wonder if the cost is just too great.
Damian Wayne had earned his place as Robin, and as a member of the Wayne family. He went out as a Wayne first and an al Ghul second, and his final words to the rest of the Bat family were a perfect ending to the character. While I feel his death was handled well and I am satisfied with how it all turned out, I can’t help but still be a little upset. Damian didn’t just earn his place as Robin among the Bat family, he earned it among the fans as well. We will mourn for him along with the Bat Family. You can check out these released ‘Requiem’ covers from all the Bat titles this month that show just how they are dealing with the death of Damian Wayne:
Rest in Peace, Damian Wayne. We are going to miss you.
All Characters and Images: DC Comics