This month’s Batman & Robin #12 proves once again that writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason are indeed a formidable one-two punch in DC Comics’ New 52 Universe. The superb combination of Tomasi’s streamlined, air-tight writing and Gleason’s sharply defined, Frank Miller-esque art has made Batman & Robin a series not to be missed. It’s definitely one of the best New 52 titles launched last September, and it looks like it’s only getting better.
Batman & Robin #12 completes the Terminus storyline, in which new archvillian Terminus and his cronies wage war on Batman and Robin for the disfigurement and suffering the Dynamic Duo have caused them. The underlying theme of this arc – that Batman’s true legacy lies in the people he’s scarred and disfigured in his war on crime, not the lives he’s saved – has added a weight and immense sense of depth to these stories, as Batman fights not only for his city, but also to prove that his true legacy is one of self-sacrifice and the purest form of heroism. In this final chapter of the Terminus arc, Terminus and his army of disfigured malcontents pull out all the stops and bring the fight to the very streets of Gotham. Batman and Robin (Damian Wayne) are fighting valiantly, but it’s clear from page one that Terminus & Co. are giving them a real run for their money. Not only do the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder have to deal with the little disfigured cronies, but Terminus himself has donned a gigantic, robot-warrior-like battle suit that makes him incredibly hard to kill, and incredibly powerful. Splitting up to “divide and conquer,” Robin takes on the other mutant baddies while Batman takes on the big guy himself, and in one of the coolest scenes in the issue, dons his own “augmentation” suit that looks awesome and levels the playing field between him and Terminus. What follows is truly a battle royale, as Batman and Terminus exchange blow-after-superpowered-blow in their battle suits and Robin is joined by Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Red Hood (Jason Todd), and Red Robin (Tim Drake) who have come to help their newest family member deal with the mutated miscreants swarming in the streets.
Patrick Gleason’s art truly shines in this issue – he’s got wide, panoramic battle scenes that add to the scope of the fight between Batman and Terminus, as well as little up-close-and-personal panels that get you right up in the middle of the action. His art is truly reminiscent of Dark Knight Returns-era Frank Miller, with his bulky heroes and beaten-to-a-pulp fight scenes. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Gleason is a better version of Frank Miller – his style is sharper, more defined and “crisper” than Miller’s; you get the sense that here is a talented artist taking a page from his influence’s book and improving on that to the point that he develops a style truly his own. There are some panels in Batman & Robin #12 that are the definition of iconic: Batman in his augmentation suit; Batman and Robin poised to strike with batarangs in hand; Batman ripping the power cells off of Terminus’s suit; Four generations of Batman sidekicks looking on together as their father – both literally (in Damian’s case) and figuratively (in the case of Dick, Jason, and Tim) – soars into the sky with the help of his augmentation suit to override a warhead loosed by Terminus upon Gotham. But perhaps most iconic of all is the full page spread of Batman, his cape flapping behind him like the wings of a bat, flying through Gotham’s sky in broad daylight, in a manner only Patrick Gleason could pull off.