Overview: In Batman vs Robin #4, Batman and Robin battle for the final time with Mother Soul and Devil Nezha serving as their audience.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman vs Robin #4 begins deep within Devil Nezha’s lair on Lazarus Island; Nezha bathes in a Lazarus pit. Mother Soul notes that he must be the only being who finds it soothing, to which he replies that they were created specifically for him by his father. The two villains discuss their plans, and when Mother Soul comments on how Batman yet lives, Nezha notes that he wants to savor Batman’s death, that he wants this mere “mortal man” to suffer the same fate Nezha’s father suffered — death by the hands of his own son.
Mother Soul also brings up Nezha’s own son and his apparent apprehension and fear of this potential intruder. Nezha waves the concern away, claiming to fear the violence that will beget his son should he arrive.
Elsewhere on Lazarus Island, Batman discovers a stack of discarded magic users, their powers drained. Black Alice sits nearby, crying. Batman then finds the helmet of Dr. Fate, an item in which all of the magic users’ powers were channeled. Damian Wayne, now dressed as Batman 666, arrives, and the father and son fight once more.
The battle between Batman and Robin is fierce, as Batman is already weakened from his battle with the former Robins (see Batman vs Robin #3). Batman notes that Damian is well-trained, including some moves that he hasn’t shared with his father.
As the dynamic duo battle on, Mother Soul and Devil Nezha watch. Mother Soul nudges Nezha to don the helmet of Dr. Fate and end this once and for all, but Nezha is too wrapped up in his own pride, taking delight in watching Batman and Robin battle each other.
It’s too late when Robin realizes that Batman was keenly aware that this whole encounter was a trap, that Batman had already done some recon prior to walking into Lazarus Island this second time. Batman calls for Talia al Ghul, who knocks the helmet of Dr. Fate away from Nezha and into the hands of Batman.
Batman dons the helmet and uses it to free Nezha’s victims of mind control. He moves the former Robins away from Lazarus Island, as well as Black Alice. Pigsy intervenes, believing Black Alice and himself have yet a part to play.
Damian asks for forgiveness, to which Batman says he already forgave his son. He then tells Damian to help his mother “kick Soul’s ass.”
Batman engages Nezha in a battle of magic, keenly aware to keep on his toes. He doesn’t know magic as well as Nezha, so he keeps to the basics.
Damian, now back in his Robin costume, attacks Mother Soul with Talia. Quickly, the two gain the upper hand, pushing Soul back to a deep, cavernous pit. Talia kicks Soul off, but Robin intervenes, grabbing her hand. Soul smiles then drops down into the abyss.
Meanwhile, Nezha grabs hold of the helmet, ripping it from Batman. The helmet explodes. Robin leaps into the fray, and while Batman pleads for him to run, Damian ignores his father. Nezha takes advantage of the situation, aiming to kill Damian. Batman jumps in front of Robin, sacrificing his own life to save his son.
While Nezha gloats at Batman’s death, King Fire Bull, Nezha’s son, breaks into Lazarus Island. Father and son fight, with King Fire Bull claiming that Nezha murdered his real parents.
The Lazarus grows volatile, but Black Alice arrives, channeling it to bring Batman back to life. Batman will need more, but he lives yet.
Nezha flees with King Fire Bull in pursuit. Talia, Damian, Batman, and Black Alice narrowly escape. A volcanic eruption rocks Lazarus Island, with Pigsy still inside.
Analysis: Batman vs Robin #4 feels like two issues, one of which is fantastic while the other is just the middle of the road. The problem of this issue falls at the end, wherein this storyline rushes to set the stage for the “Lazarus Planet” event, which begins with Lazarus Planet: Alpha #1 in early January 2023.
The first half of Batman vs Robin #4, the terrific half, spends a lot of time focusing on the battle between Batman and Robin from Batman’s perspective. Artists Mahmud Asrar and Scott Godlewski deliver an intense, action-packed fight that feels earned and deserving of Batman and Robin. Jordie Bellaire’s colors make the battle pop, layering some eye-catching and vibrant hues in flashback panels that pepper the battle.
It truly is a spectacle that readers will feel. Batman’s brain analyzes every move Damian makes, noting the style and discipline. All the while, he reflects on their relationship, on the struggles between them, as well as the love. It’s beautiful and adds much-needed empathy and compassion, especially since it’s been previously established that Damian isn’t fully himself. He’s under mind control by Mother Soul and Devil Nezha.
Once the battle comes to a conclusion and Batman’s secret plan is revealed, the book quickly transitions to Batman immediately saving everyone, and the rest of the pieces on the chessboard rushed to their places. Talia shows up. Devil Nezha’s son arrives. Nezha flees. Mother Soul is knocked into a void.
There was such an intense, slow, carefully orchestrated momentum leading up to the moment that Batman gets Dr. Fate’s helmet, and after it’s taken away, Batman vs Robin #4 peters out. The emotion and tension readers are filled with dissipating as the “bad guy” flees, and everything abruptly explodes.
There isn’t much lead-in to Lazarus Island exploding, and Nezha’s abrupt departure is disappointing. Clearly, writer Mark Waid and the rest of the creative team, when left to their own devices, can deliver an incredible issue. The trouble lies in the upcoming Lazarus Planet event, which forced the rushing of non-ending to Batman vs Robin #4.
There’s a fantastic story here, but like the volcano on Lazarus Island, it’s been buried by DC’s insistence on big events.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.