So Batman Inc, #8 ripped my heart out.
*Spoiler Alert* – just so we are clear if you are waiting for the trade or your shop’s shipment got damaged, or you had 50 books to get through this week, and you don’t want to know what happened in this issue, stop here. I might also suggest that you step away from the internet, purchase earplugs and blinders, and find an underground bunker to hide in… because everyone is talking about this.
First of all let’s talk about this cover.
To the left of Damian’s face is a drawing showing the facial proportions for a baby, to his right is a drawing showing a child’s facial proportions. Is is just me, or does the one on the left look a whole lot more like him? When I look at this cover, it reminds me of a baby in a Christening gown.
So from the start, contents of this issue seem a little perverse. Damian Wayne looks like an infant with the phrase “R.I.P.” emblazoned boldly under him. So, babies, death, sounds like a good time right? Let’s read on.
Damian comes to the aid of his adult counterparts. While his father, Bruce Wayne (as Batman) is locked away in a safe underwater. Of course Damian’s mother, Talia Al Ghul, is busy as well; having put his father in the aforementioned safe, she has a responsibility as a Batman villain to give a long speech full of taunts and bravado. So obviously, they are occupied. He has escaped Alfred’s watchful eye, and Tim & Dick have no choice but to fight alongside Damian as all hell breaks loose.
There are an alarming number of adults who miss the chance to intervene and save Damian, from his grizzly fate. Talia, his mother, has abandoned him. Bruce, his father is caught up in his own conflicts. Alfred, his caretaker, has somehow lost track of him. Dick, his stepbrother, may be allowing him to behave so recklessly because of some sort of nostalgia for his own Robin days. Tim seems too concerned about his interpersonal conflicts with Damian to appreciate the danger he might be in.
I think all of these people would face legal action if Damian’s case was brought into a court of law.
First of all there is Talia al Ghul
She is the genetic mother of Damian Wayne, she and Bruce have a somewhat tumultuous past…
Naturally, she decides to genetically engineer a child that combines her DNA with that of Bruce Wayne. I mean… logically, right? But she doesn’t impregnate herself, she incubates Damian in a tank that looks like it once housed Zordon from The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. So far, Talia has managed to sleep with Batman, have his baby, and not get a single stretch mark or give up alcohol for nine months. This is enough to make me kind of hate her.
So, since she is going to all this trouble, surely she will be an excellent mother, spend all her time doting on little Damian and trying in every way to make his life as wonderful as it can possibly be … yes, that is what one would think, however; she sorta goes the other way with it.
As she admires the fruit of her test-tube; she lets Damian know that global domination is in his future. Oh, good. I know every mom seeing her kid for the first time thinks he or she is perfect, and possibly even more perfect than all the other babies whose mothers have ever looked at them, but I don’t know many who start planning out their kids careers at during their child’s first moments; and I don’t know any who start grooming them for world takeover before their child draws his or her first breath.
Ding! The timer goes off, and Talia welcomes Damian to the world with a smile and look of wonder that seem at home on the face of any new mother. This is pretty much the upper limit of their relationship, it doesn’t get much better. Of course, like any good mother she has plan’s for Damian’s education.
Talia trains Damian to become an assassin. This could be seen as abuse, but she always remembers his birthday, and its for his own good, right?
At any rate, Damian is put through years of physical and mental “conditioning” that result in him becoming a very talented but socially inept 10-year-old.
So mother-of-the-year, Talia is not. In some ways she loves Damian, and in some ways he loves her. He is a little boy after all, no amount of training is going to change that fact.
Eventually,Damian goes to live with Bruce, probably for the best right? I mean how could a kid in the hands of superhero possibly come to any harm? Even if it is an unstable environment, anything is better than getting your ass kicked on your birthday, right? Surely Damian’s lot in life will improve now that he has a whole support system of caring adults.
Yeah, about that…
So how did we go from movies and popcorn to a dead kid? Long story. First of all, Bruce and the Bat-family do try. He makes a genuine effort to take care of Damian and teach him how to do the right thing. He forbids Damian to kill, which seems like a good start. Most parents I know have the same rule.
Damian struggles a little with the house rules. Gets in trouble, you know the usual settling in with a new authority figure stuff.
No one really seems to question the implications of a 10-year-old needing to be expressly forbidden to murder someone. This is probably as good of a reason as any to get the kid in therapy. Red flag, anyone? No? Okay, then lets continue.
Since we have agreed that it seems acceptable for ten-year-olds to have homicidal tendencies, let’s talk about how Talia reacts to his new (and dare-we-say improved?) moral compass.
She resurfaces in Damian’s life to tell him she’s disappointed in him, aw Mom, you shouldn’t have… But lest you think lacks the commitment to completely destroy her son psychologically, she also formally disowns him.
Where’s Bruce while all this is going on, you might ask yourself… turns out he has a pretty good excuse for turning a blind eye to what’s going on, see he’s kind of, oh what’s the word… dead.
So Damian learned he had a father, lost said father, and was abandoned by his mother. No one has considered that perhaps Alfred and Master Dick aren’t exactly the dynamic duo of parenting, that maybe Damian could benefit from some normalcy, be around kids his own age, have some pizza, a cookie, maybe? No? Okay. Just checking.
Eventually as most dead superhero dad’s do, Bruce comes back… that’s a really long story… so let’s just go with it.
So what’s it like, having a kid who has grown up learning how to kill people come to live with you when you have dedicated your life to putting people like that away? On the other hand, what’s it like to have Batman for a dad?
It’s just PEACHY…
Bruce and Damian have their ups and downs. That’s for sure. Bruce tends to see him as another soldier in the war on crime, and Damian tends to overreach his means to try and win his father’s approval. They do have their tender moments.
Just look at this example of fatherly love. Bruce is carrying a beaten and battered Damian away from a fiery end… wait a second… what the hell was a 10-year-old doing in a situation like this to begin with? Well there has got to be one nice moment, hasn’t there?
There’s the money shot… So, Mom is evil, and while Dad occasionally allows him to be put in harms way; its essentially all sunshine and rainbows over at Wayne Manor, yeah?
Okay, so this was early on, but still, is this anyway to treat a traumatized child when you are a full grown man?
Not Bats finest hour…
But it all turns out well in the end.
Really? You’re bringing this up again? So it doesn’t end well? But I mean the kid had a few good years, right? Its not like he got put in the middle of his parents feuds, or had to take on emotional burdens beyond his years or anything….
Well… huh… okay, so I guess things got a little messy. His parents didn’t get along. A lot of kids parents don’t get along. At least they kept it hemmed up between themselves. He was never literally put in the middle of their fights or anything, never forced to choose between his mom and his dad….
Well, that sucks.
All right so Damian was mistreated, physically abused, mentally abused, neglected, abandoned, forced to choose between his parents, lost his father, and died. That’s terrible, especially when you consider how well most kids recuperate from early emotional trauma.
Touche’. Fair enough. I see your point. Bruce had a fairly idyllic childhood. His parents loved him, and put his needs before their own. One bad night changed him forever. Violence creates lasting scars and mental fixations that plague us for the rest of our lives.
Even under the best of circumstances, parenting can fall short and fate can take over.
Martha and Thomas loved Bruce, and they would have given anything to protect him.
I just wish someone had felt that way about Damian.
We all start out as kids, trying to live up to our parents’ expectation. Then some of us become parents’ trying be worthy of our kids. Missteps are easy. Children are precious. We have an ethical responsibility to make sure that they are cared for and loved. With all the things that can go wrong, why would we ever add to the challenges facing our children knowingly?
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