The zombie storyline is taken care of fairly quickly, while at the same time revealing that the Joker was behind it all. In the following issue Robin goes to search for Alfred. He runs afoul of the Joker at the Gotham zoo, and finds himself facing off against an apparently brainwashed Batman. Ultimately Robin refuses to hurt his father, instead deciding to sacrifice himself. The end of issue sixteen reveals that the Batman was in fact a fake.
After the finale of the Death of the Family storyline, Bruce, Damian, and Alfred turn in for well deserved rest. They all have nightmares as well as good dreams, and this is the last issue showing any kind of domestic interaction between the characters before the events of Batman Incorporated issue eight.
Looking at these issues again, knowing what happens to Damian, I can’t help but get the feels (as the kids these days say). Batman and Robin was the place where I came to enjoy Damian as a character, as well as the great potential Batman having a biological son held. Their interaction showed a side of Batman we hadn’t really seen before. Yes he’s had adoptive sons before, but those he took in by choice. Damian on the other hand was the child he never expected to have, and seeing his inadequacy as a father made for an interesting read in the first several issues of this book. Which makes Damian’s fate so much more tragic, because of the lost potential more than anything else.
As for the actual events of these past four issues, I have to say that I really liked the art during issues fifteen and sixteen. It was very gruesome, perhaps a bit much so. But artist Patrick Gleason really makes the Joker’s face look like a mask. There’s a leathery quality to the skin, which I imagine it would have after a year of being dead. It makes him look a lot like some of your more classic movie serial killers.
My biggest issue with this story was the fact that Robin was tricked into believing that the fake Batman was actually Batman. Not only do I not buy that Robin would be that gullible, but at the end of issue sixteen we find out that the fake Batman was asian. Now, yes he was wearing a mask, but if there are enough markers in facial skeletal structure for forensic anthropologists to determine someone’s race just by looking at the skull, then I imagine someone as trained as Damian (I’m pretty sure anthropology would have been one of his field’s of study) would know how to tell the difference between his own father’s face (even when covered by a mask) and some random Japanese guy.
I can buy that perhaps Damian was still being affected by Joker’s toxins, and that it was a stressful situation, but it’s still the biggest issue I have with the story. It’s not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the issues, but it’s big enough to bear mentioning.
I also felt that the zombie story being tied into the Death of the Family story was a bit of a disappointment. Not that I was invested in that story, but it felt tacked on that the Joker was behind it all. Even if that was the plan from the beginning, it felt forced in there to make the books align. Almost as if the crossover caught Peter J. Tomasi off guard. That’s not necessarily the case, but it certainly feels like it.
With the exception of Damian’s last dream in issue seventeen, I liked Alfred’s dream best. That smile after blowing the Joker’s head away in his dream just says it all. If anyone was to ever finally end the Joker, my leading candidate is Alfred. Out of all the character’s that have suffered at the hands of the Joker, Alfred has been the one to be there from the very beginning to see all the pain that madman caused the Bat Family. For anyone else to finish off the Joker just wouldn’t work for me.
Overall these have been some good issues, though after reading all the other crossovers, I’ve grown really tired of having the Joker explain his theology again. It’s not a fault of the book itself, it’s more about the order that I read them in.