Change comes to everything, even Shipper Spotlight. As I have covered each book through issue six, and several books do not have much progression from issue to issue, Shipper Spotlight will be undergoing a facelift. Two to three Shippers will be covered, romantic or not, and the schedule will change to a less rigid bimonthly schedule, depending on how much progression or development we see happen.
To usher in this new face of Shipper Spotlight, I will have a guest reviewer this month! Please welcome Chris Kiser, reviewer over at Comics Bulletin.
Let us begin!
BATMAN AND ROBIN:
Issues 7-8: If you recall, Morgan Ducard, aka Nobody, took Robin under his wing. Robin, ever the son of Batman, played the part of willing associate but was actually attempting to take Ducard down. Unfortunately for Robin, Ducard has the upperhand. Unfortunately for Ducard, Batman is on his way, and he is angry!
Batman and Robin have certainly had a troubled relationship, but I don’t think anyone could say that neither has love for the other. Issue 7 highlights the fatherly love that Bruce has for Damian. There is no end to what he will do in order to get his son back. We see an uncharacteristically violent Batman in this issue, pounding Nobody down and even dunking him into a tank full of acid. His passion takes him to these lengths. Then he looks at his son and he realizes that he needs to always be an example for him, always.
After Bruce pulls Nobody out of the tank, he runs to his son’s side, telling him how he feared that he had lost him and while he may have doubted him for a second, he did not fully believe that Damian betrayed him. But can Batman fully trust a boy who has such a dark side? Can Damian be redeemed?
Issue 7 ends with Damian’s index and middle fingers in Ducard’s forehead. Despite the violent nature of this act, issue 8 makes the reader again become sympathetic with Damian when he explains that he did it for his father, in order to protect their kingdom. As Damian tries to apologize for the things that he has done, Bruce hurries him away, back to the cave. He is heavy-handed with Alfred, pressing him to take care of Damian and flashing upon memories of Jason Todd.
Do you remember when Bruce was on the search for Damian and he was narrating his past with Ducard, recording it? I had wondered whether he would give this recording to Damian, and in fact he does. After finishing the recording, Damian joins his father in Thomas Wayne’s study.
Finally the two have a heart-to-heart, being open and honest with all the issues on the table. Bruce fully accepts his son but warns about a ‘cycle of violence,’ because ‘if you walk down a road of vengeance then you should dig two graves, one for your enemy and one for yourself.’ Damian, in a moment of true innocence, pours his heart out, confessing that he does not want to be like Ducard but like Bruce. He has always wanted to be like his father. Yes, they have their differences, but they are father and son, and they both know that now.
It has taken six issues to get to this place, but it has been a worthwhile trip. All good relationships take time to grow and some of the best have faltering starts. These past two issues showed a marked improvement in the relationship between the two. Everything is out in the open, each accepts the other, and only good things will come from this newly formed family. As the issue closes, we see a hopeful future as Bruce and Damian play fetch with Titus.
BIRDS OF PREY:
Issue 7: ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ How often have we heard this age-old adage? I think it can be seen in no better place than Birds of Prey. Step by step from issue 1 we have seen the team being built, member by member; falter when a tried-villainess receives membership; and most of all, try to get past the mind-manipulation of Choke. Despite all of the hindrances and baggage within this team, it has come a long way. Will issue 7 continue along this line?
The issue begins with the team struggling in an office with several Cleaner agents. As team leader, Dinah makes the call that there will be no lethal force. Katana follows that order, but Ivy is heavy with her force and Dinah goes after her to prove her point. Now I ask you, as team leader, with your team outnumbered, is it a good decision to go after one of your own to get her to calm down? Probably not, especially when that in turn leads her and you to being weakened by the Cleaners. First hit to the team.
The second hit to the team comes in the form of Choke’s influence over two members of the Birds. The first is Ev who, after Choke is revealed to be Trevor Cahill, shoots Batgirl in the arm. Once Batgirl and Dinah meet up, Batgirl tries to explain that Ev is compromised. ‘You’re crazy. Ev’s the only one I DO trust, Barbara.’ Yikes! That hurts! Ev is again under Choke’s influence at the end of the issue when she tries to shoot Katana. Once she snaps out of it, Ev is utterly convinced that nothing happened and throws a barb at Dinah (see third and final hit).
The other compromised member is Poison Ivy, but she is poisoned in another way. Choke implanted a suggestion in her brain that the green and human sides of her should not be able to coexist. This will most likely kill her. Ivy ends up quitting, and leaves to tend her wounds. The positive side to all this is the fact that Ev tells Trevor to remove the suggestion. How far she and Ivy have come from issue #2 when Ev threatened Ivy!
The third and final hit to the team comes in the form of a shocking revelation. Choke tells the team that Dinah murdered her husband. This certainly leaves the team speechless and the team suddenly show a decrease in their respect for her. Katana disobeys the ‘no killing rule’ and decapitates Choke and Ev uses this knowledge as a way to throw Dinah’s words back in her face.
And they had been making such strides! It is difficult to imagine that while the team had been built up for six issues, it only took one to break it down. Where does this leave the Birds? Well, it just does not look good! The only hope for a positive future lies in the final panels, with Babs and Dinah making up and the mission forcing them to carry on.
Now, the moment you have all been waiting for…Chris Kiser.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #7-8
Last month when Grant Morrison goaded everyone on the Internet into retweeting him by saying that Batman was "very, very gay" because he spends all his time "hanging out with the old guy and the kid," he outright missed (or perhaps selectively ignored) the paternal dynamic at the heart of the Batman and Robin pairing. Of course there is nothing homoerotic—or erotic at all, for that matter—about such a relationship, something even Morrison himself must have known when he gave Batman's actual biological son Damian the Robin identity. Thankfully, Peter Tomasi has shown far less interest than his Batman and Robin predecessor in raising eyebrows simply for sensationalism's sake, instead crafting a moving story that gets to the root of what it means to be father and son.
The turbulent relationship between Bruce and Damian reaches its crux point at the end of issue #7 when Damian executes Morgan Ducard, the vigilante who has tormented the Waynes since the series began. Anyone who's ever read a Batman comic in the past 50 years knows that—above all else—killing is a surefire way to get one's backstage pass to the Batcave permanently revoked. We've seen the harsh treatment that past incarnations of Batman have dealt to the Huntress, Red Hood, and the Ducards themselves, some of whom merely entertained the notion of issuing to criminals a self-styled death sentence.
But things are different when Damian desperately does the deed because, well, Bruce Wayne wasn't any of those other folks' dad. The familial bond between father and son here opens the door to a concept quite often foreign to the Dark Knight: forgiveness. Though Bruce's conscience never waivers from the conviction that killing is wrong, he also openly admits to Damian his genuine temptation in the past to do it as well, trusting that the boy will learn and grow from this painful experience. When donning the cowl and utility belt as avenger of Gotham, Batman's role may be to punish and condemn, but his primary duties as a father are to encourage, educate, and love.
BIRDS OF PREY #1-7
Ever since Chuck Dixon had the enigmatic Oracle finally reveal her secret identity to longtime partner Black Canary in the early aughts, Birds of Prey has been the premier besties-fighting-baddies book in the DC Universe. But with the advancements in physical therapy and questions of whether Oracle ever even existed that have come with the New 52, it has fallen to writer Duane Swierczynski to build the gal pal shipping in this relaunched title from the ground up. While he's deprived us of a fair share of the pertinent character backstories so far, there have been enough revelatory glimpses to suggest an interesting pattern in the way that Dinah Lance relates to her new team.
With tensions strained between her and onetime BFF Babs, Dinah spends the early part of this story arc assembling a squad of misfits with increasingly checkered pasts. Starling is a fugitive from the law whose innumerable sins leave her nervous at the mere sight of a church. Katana is a tormented swordstress who isn't afraid to carry on a public conversation with an inanimate object (but it's normal, you see, because her dead husband's soul is inside it!). Poison Ivy is an ecoterrorist who—at least in the "Old" 52—rightly belonged tending the gardens at Arkham Asylum. Why would Dinah trust such a band of bad girls who are so eager to shoot, strangle, and behead?
The answer, it seems, is that Dinah herself harbors a skeleton in her closet: that of her murdered husband, in fact! At least, that's what the villain Choke (although maybe he isn't actually Choke?) believes, and while Dinah surely has a reasonable explanation up her sleeve, the extreme reaction she has to the accusation implies that her hands may not be quite so clean in the matter. It stands to reason that Dinah sees a bit of herself in these fellow outcasts with which she has allied herself, each of them in need of the same measure of redemption that she is.
It's also most likely why there's this mysterious wedge between her and the squeaky-clean Batgirl, although the conversation on the final page of issue #7 gives some confidence that the two will ultimately patch things up. Here's hoping that readers will soon be privy to all the details of Dinah's angst-unloading confession, because the relationships in this series won't be able to progress much further without some concrete information. Seven months is a long time to sustain ourselves on hints and teases alone, Mr. Swierczynski!
That’s it for this month’s installment of Shipper Spotlight. Will Bruce and Damian’s newly formed relationship survive the Night of the Owls? With the Birds survive all these intrigues? Keeping reading and stay tuned for the next Shipper Spotlight!
Posted by Stella Bowman