Batman vs. Robin #5 wraps up the series with a suitable amount of heart and bombast, even if the ultimate result feels familiar. While reading the previous Lazarus Planet issues isn’t required, some may find themselves a little lost if they only stuck to this mainline series.
Mark Waid’s script does a decent job of explaining what’s happened between issues four and five of the series. At this point, King Fire Bull has been defeated, but Damian is unaware that his father has been possessed by Nezha, which sets the stage for a final showdown. Waid uses the first three pages, filled with narration, to catch readers up, but it’s definitely not the most organic feeling summary. For those who only read the Batman vs. Robin series, only two of the Lazarus issues, Alpha and Omega, would be considered necessary reading. With that somewhat inelegant opening out of the way, Waid delivers a great moment between Nezha and Damian as the latter successfully pulls off a clever deception to escape. Damian plays along with Nezha’s plan to locate King Fire Bull and pretends to use the bat cave’s computers to search, only to play a one-hundred and fifty decibel alarm as a distraction. It’s one of those classic scenarios where oftentimes the hero won’t play along with the villain, even if it would help them out, so it’s refreshing to see Damian use his smarts to flee.
Mahmud Asrar’s work is exceptional once again, his pencils deliver excellent figure work and his eye for composition is the real deal. Something as simple as Damian secretly putting on earplugs, then pressing the emergency alarm button is slickly produced, with three small panels at the bottom of the page, trending downward to create a sense of momentum. Additionally, Asrar’s splash pages are also dramatic and deliver the appropriate bombast needed to maintain tension through the action packed issue. A splash page where Nezha emerges in the Batmobile behind Damian is stunning, with Asrar cleverly showing Damian’s reaction in the bottom corner. Jordie Bellaire’s colors are also vibrant, yet darkly atmospheric when appropriate, creating a book that maintains attention with the right amount of spectacle. Despite the sheer amount of activity on any given page, the art never feels overwhelming or devolves into unclear chaos.
The second half of the issue operates as a sort of redux of earlier chapters, which is both clever but repetitive. This time Damian and the fellow bat family members fight Batman but with the tables turned, as Batman is now possessed by Nezha. It’s fun to see Nightwing attack first, with Damian narrating that it’s “no surprise”, injecting some familial bonding into the fisticuffs. Nonetheless, the fight sequence feels more like a victory lap than a genuinely interesting action beat. The real fun comes in the form of Monkey Prince’s assistance, as he creates several clones of Damian to take the fight to Nezha/Batman. While the choreography is essentially non-existent in this part of the fight, the visual is unique enough to carry this beat until the next development.
At this point, Waid’s script gets a little unwieldy with the sheer amount of characters now involved in the final showdown. Zatanna, Pigsy, and Enchantress all arrive to finally remove Nezha’s hold on Batman. It’s here where we start to get editor’s notes to explain some plot points, but the gist of it is that removing Nezha’s possession will kill Batman. It’s a great, pivotal emotional crux that the entire series has built toward. While there really isn’t any other way for the series to end, there’s an increase in emotional scope that feels slightly incongruous to the intimate nature of the series’ early issues. Discussion of the ending will happen in spoiler tags below, but readers will likely be satisfied by how the series wraps up with its heartwarming final page.
Damian’s original plan was to sacrifice his own “life energy” into Batman to save him. It’s a great reveal that maintains the intimacy of the entire series to this point. Unfortunately, Enchantress informs Damian that it wouldn’t be enough. Waid gets a little lost in the semantics of life energy and how many fragments it would require to revive Bruce. This is when Damian decides to send a message to all of the citizens of Gotham, asking them to give a small amount of their “life force” in order to revive Batman. Comparisons to Dragonball Z aside, this moment does widen the emotional impact of Batman’s life and death to all of Gotham, something that the series itself didn’t necessarily reckon with beforehand. It’s a nice way to bring Bruce back to life without requiring a genuine sacrifice from Damian, but it definitely trades in a type of sentimentality that previous issues didn’t. Beforehand, the series could be seen as a lavish, over the top familial argument between father and son. Now, it ends emphasizing the importance of Batman for the greater good.
- Even if you didn’t read Lazarus Planet, this issue is a must to finish the series.
- Mahmud Asrar’s art is worth the price of admission alone.
- Damian and Bruce’s relationship is something you find interesting and heartfelt.
Batman vs. Robin #5 does a good job maintaining its high quality despite being momentarily interrupted by the Lazarus Planet event. Readers of the series may find themselves lost if they didn’t read the previous tie-in issues, but Mark Waid’s script manages to summarize past events efficiently, if not artfully. Mahmud Asrar’s art is wonderful to behold and never gets lost in the potentially unwieldy scope of the story and Jordie Bellaire’s colors are a treat to the eye. While the intimacy of the series is lost as it approaches its endgame, any fan of Bruce and Damian will be moved by its final pages.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.