Who is Carrie Kelly, really? What's her game plan? Why is she so interested in what became of Damian Wayne? All these questions and more go unanswered in "Batman and Red Hood" #20, written by Peter Tomasi and drawn by Patrick Gleason and Cliff Richards.
The reveal of Carrie Kelly at the end of "Batman and Red Robin" #19, from which this issue follows, kicked up quite a stir. (For those who don't recognize the name, she's Robin in Frank Miller's famed near-future story "The Dark Knight Returns.") It seems a bit premature to pitch a replacement Robin following the death of Damian, but Carrie shows all the prerequisite skills: spunky confidence, an inquisitive nature, an excellent memory, observational skills and sweet dance moves. Frankly, she's a little too perfect, a little too "Robin-y," which creates just a hint of a mystery that there's something else going on altogether.
It remains to be seen whether Tomasi is playing the long game, introducing Carrie now just as a teaser to be brought back when DC finally decides to make "The Dark Knight Returns" canon, or whether she really is primed to be the next Robin now that Damian is gone. I certainly hope for the former, since the comics world is overfull of characters who hardly make a ripple, let alone a splash, in the lives of those left behind when they die.
Fortunately, the various Bat-writers seem to share the opinion that Damian shouldn't be so quickly forgotten, and so does Batman himself. He's still hunting for a way to resurrect his son, and he turns to someone close to him for answers: the Red Hood, Jason Todd. This means that like issue #19, "Batman and Red Hood" #20 is a somewhat predictable story of a hero unhinged by loss. He rages, he punches, he refuses to accept the truth. It's nothing readers haven't seen before, but it certainly hits closer to home than the last issue as Bruce takes out his anger on a member of the Bat-family.
The art is also a bit more visceral than previously. Cliff Richards fills in for Pat Gleason on most of the book, and while his pencils aren't as polished as Gleason's, his dark, shadowy style fits the story better than Gleason's slightly cartoony look. The art does feel a bit rushed, which isn't surprising if Richards stepped in when Gleason fell behind schedule, but it fits plenty of emotion into the body language of the troubled heroes.
In fact, the whole issue is a little rushed-seeming, with a few editing errors that could have been avoided (Carrie refers to "an envelope filled with cash" when the last issue ended with a big old check). Overall, though, it's always good to see comics writers (and characters) taking the death of a major character seriously. It would be a bit cheap for Batman to succeed in his quest to resurrect Damian, but the journey itself is the point. As long as that journey doesn't end too quickly with a Carrie Kelly Robin, "Batman and the Red Hood" (or whatever it's called next month) will be worth reading, if only as a reminder that Bruce Wayne isn't a perfect man of ice.