In 2006, the world’s greatest superheroes suddenly got three sons. In the film Superman Returns, we found out that Superman and Lois conceived a child way back in 1981’s Superman II. In DCU continuity, Superman and Lois adopted a Kryptonian son they dubbed Christopher Kent. And in the pages of Batman, Bruce Wayne found out that he had conceived a child with his lover/enemy perhaps during the same events narrated in the 1971 story that introduced Talia. Three sons introduced at the same time. Now, all of them are gone.
It has long been noted that Grant Morrison planned to kill off the Damian character as soon as he introduced him. In fact, the Batman and Son story ended with events that might have been interpreted as Damian’s death. But seven issues later, a quick scene established that Damian, thanks to his mother’s access to remarkable medical technology, would survive.
Damian played a major role in an al-Ghul crossover story, then reappeared briefly during the long storyline of Batman, RIP. After Battle of the Cowl, Damian had his longest time in the spotlight, as the second title character of the Batman and Robin title. While Damian has appeared in several titles over the past three and a half years, the centerpiece of his character development was in Morrison’s first sixteen issues of that new title, with Damian and Dick Grayson inverting the familiar dynamic of a serious Batman and a cheerful, punning Robin.
It appears to have been Morrison’s intention for this third long storyline, that of Batman, Inc, to have Damian be murdered by his own mother. It has been foreshadowed generally that someone would die, and specifically that Damian was the object of a murder plot, and now, with Batman Inc v2 #8, we appear to have seen this transpire.
We have also seen, in Batman #700, a future in which Damian becomes Batman, although this future was never guaranteed to take place. It resembles the one seen in Inc #5, and Bruce Wayne, following the information he saw at the end of time in Return of Bruce Wayne #6, took steps to prevent this from coming true. By firing Damian from the Robin identity, and as the heir as a subsequent Batman, Bruce Wayne effectively chose to save his city while sacrificing, on some level, his son. In the final scenes before Damian’s death, we saw the cat that would have been his pet had he gone on to be Batman in the future seen in Batman #666 and elsewhere. Small references taking the story backwards and forwards in time, like a double punch shared by Dick and Damian, and the minor character Ellie, first seen in the same story back in #664-665 where Damian returned from the dead.
Will he return from this death? Impossible to say. Inc v2 #1 ended with the apparent death of Damian, which proved to be a ruse. Batman: The Return opened with Bruce saving a man’s son from apparent death. The theme has been established. Whatever Morrison’s plans are, it could happen sooner or later in any case.
But what are Morrison’s plans for this story? A grand death has happened. Batman has suffered a tragic loss. The man who lost his parents to murder has now lost his son.
The solicits for upcoming issues run as follows:
9: The fallout from last month’s shocking turn of events has Batman on the run! Is The Dark Knight a murderer?
10: When only one can survive, which will it be: the man or the bat?
11: Batman’s world has been devastated by his war against Talia, but is he willing to give up on his own humanity?
These point to the flashforward seen in Inc v2 #1, where Bruce, mourning a loss, plans to quit the Batman role, upon which he is promptly arrested as a murderer. Clearly this is a plan on Talia’s part. Clearly, Bruce Wayne has to prevail on some level, and will save the world and Gotham from destruction, and also return to be its protector. But what of the loss of his son? When Grant Morrison took over the Batman character, he spoke of the grimness with which his predecessors had handled it. In an interview as well as in the pages of his stories, he included the death of Jason Todd as part of a pattern that had led Batman down too dark a path. How can Morrison feel that way then and kill Damian off now? We had Batman, RIP end with Batman climbing out of a grave to fight and win again. Jason Todd himself had died and come back, as did Dick Grayson in the old story Morrison cited, Robin Dies at Dawn. Will the grave, having let these other Batman and Robin return, prove inescapable for Damian?