Robin is Batman's son. It's a situation that's ripe for the picking and yet often feels overlooked. The father sends his son into battle constantly and the emotional ramifications of such actions rarely hold any gravity. It is nice to see this familial connection -- and all the emotions it can drop -- delved into with such force with "Batman & Robin" #6.
This story uses the trope of an old, and previously unknown, secret coming to light to impact on the present. The trope should not be slammed on sight; it is how it's used that matters. This glimpse into Bruce Wayne's past is telling even if mildly convenient. It's a good little 70s-style espionage vignette with violent moments of betrayal. The true test of this set up is not just how it impacts on the present but on how it effects one character specifically.
Damian Wayne is the character at the center of this issue, even if he's in the minority of pages. It's pleasing to see a son traveling in the footsteps of his father, and yet doing it in his own special way. Damian works this situation in an individual manner, and the outcome is dangerous and extremely gripping. This story is using him effectively while also making us much more invested in him.
The concept of violence used against a child, even one with such a tongue and who wears a mask, is still a shocking notion. It's not easy to reconcile and it shouldn't be. This book isn't trying to push new boundaries just to be daring or groundbreaking. It is simply addressing the next step options for the status quo this book lives in.
Patrick Gleason's art shows strengths and weaknesses in this issue. He showcases great posing and panel construction in all the superhero moments. His use of costumes makes the pages look just like a kinetic superhero book should. The main issue comes in his use of the actual characters. Anyone exposing skin comes off as stilted and unnatural. The modern story works well, but the espionage flashback loses zing for coming off flat and plain.
"Batman & Robin" is a superhero comic adding layers to one character and continuing to build new foundations for another. Damian Wayne becomes a much more detailed detective in training. His actions and implications generate quality new avenues for action and drama for our caped crusader. This is a dark tale and it'll show you what happens when you push these characters into uncomfortable corners.