Batman and Robin #22 brings to an end the short-lived Tomasi/Gleason run we were all so hyped up about. For the past two issues, we've been learning about the criminological leanings of the White Knight. We know he dopes his victims with Ketamine, issues instructions in their ear via a small receiver, and kills the relatives of anyone who spent time in Arkham. At the close of the last issue, we saw the bodies of several different people being prepared for sacrifice, for lack of a better word.
This issue opens with those same victims, in their angel garb, ready to take the plunge. Unfortunately, Batman and Robin haven't been able to find anyone and they're tearing through Gotham in their Batmobile, activating a jamming device to stop any transmission to the victims earpieces, when angels begin to fall from the sky. Back in the Bat-bunker, Alfred sets off the device and we see it save several of the angels, thrusting them into unconsciousness.
Batman and Robin eject, and begin shooting nets at the falling angels. They save as many as they can before driving back to the Bat-bunker. Once resituated in there, they watch some of the news feeds while they discuss the White Knight's motivation in all of this. There's a long discussion of nature versus nurture versus free will, and Dick concludes whoever is doing this is doing it to preemptively strike against these people, lest they or their bloodlines turn back.
On-screen, Arkham Asylum is shown to be under attack and "…lit up like a Christmas tree." Batman and Robin arrive in short order and assess the scene. Gordon and his men have been temporarily blinded and set-up the scene to let Batman know what he's walking into.
Inside, the White Knight walks up and down the main hall, speaking to the villains as their cells fill with glowing liquid. The right hand side of the page provides the most amusement. Jane Doe asks to wear his face, Joker showers and whistles, and Zsasz says nobody kills his family but him. Eventually he makes his way to Dr. Phosphorous, giving us his reason for all of this.
Years ago, when he was a small child, he saw his father murdered by Dr. Phosphorous, the burns on his back shaped like wings due to Dr. Phosphorous' corrosive touch. That was when he realized he needed to purify everyone so they could fly into the light. Just then, Batman and Robin arrive on scene.
White Knight accidentally shoots out the glass holding Zsasz back, and he holds a piece of glass to White Knight's throat until Robin disarms him with some batarangs. After placing Damian in charge of putting Zsasz down and stopping the flow of the glowing liquid, Batman runs after the White Knight. Damian follows Zsasz and slugs him in the face, causing a loud crack. He indicates that it's for all the kids he put through hell a few weeks back. Unfortunately, the editor doesn't make a note that for readers who are confused, they can check out Streets of Gotham. He also starts slicing Zsasz's skin with the Batarangs, asking if anyone is allowed to sign in.
We cut back to Batman for just a moment, in time to see him launch some sort of explosive at White Knight as they meet on the roof. Back in the asylum, Damian appears to be pondering whether or not he should save everyone in the asylum or simply let them all drown.
On the roof, White Knight tries to sway Batman to his side, saying they can both fight for the light. Batman ends up shot through with a light dart, while White Knight tells him symbols of darkness need to be taken away to give people hope. Batman ends up shooting White Knight in the head with the ear-points off his cowl, and watches him begin to fly away. Batman tosses some batarangs, which cause the White Knight's power supply to explode. Damian reappears and he confirms he saved the Arkham inmates, but notes the cowl ears sticking out of White Knights forehead and says Batman is meaner than he thought.
The story ends with Gordon, Batman and Robin looking into the White Knight's cell, where his wings are now attached and he's tending a bonsai tree. The second to last panel has an off-panel voice telling the inmates "Lights out", while we see White Knight attach a small Batman insignia and Robin insignia to the tree, before staring at the reader in the final panel.
Overall, I think this arc has been a weak arc and I'm a little disappointed because I've been reading Tomasi's work in Blackest Night and Brightest Day recently. Even though he wrote the concluding arcs of Nightwing, I just don't think he has a very strong characterization of Dick. When I was reading him as Batman, the lines kept getting blurred between Dick-Batman and Bruce-Batman.
He's definitely one of my least favorite writers for Damian. It's less awful than the first two issues of this arc, but this issue still makes him out to be a brat with none of the growth we've seen through the course of Batman and Robin evident.
The one thing I will give Peter Tomasi is the pages where White Knight is walking through Arkham and the Joker is showering in the glowing serum. I think that was well-played.
The art was nice, but nothing over the top special. I don't even have a standout panel this week.
Batman and Robin #22:
Reviewed by Melinda