Last issue closed with Robin apparently dead at the hands of a bounty hunter. This issue, we catch up with Damian’s mother, Talia, the woman who put the price on his head, as she visits her father, Ra’s al-Ghul, master of the League of Assassins.
There’s not much in the way of progression so far as the story begun last time goes; the damned Damian and his father, Batman, don’t appear. At least not in the present, anyway. For this is Talia’s tale, and the stars of the book take the role of supporting players as we travel through the life of the Daughter of the Demon, and see what makes her tick.
Promised the world by her father, she’d rather just have a mother around. Ra’s has told her she died in childbirth, but Talia knows him to be the ‘Lord of Lies’. He tries to distract her with gifts (‘I always wanted my own secret headquarters under London, thank you’, says Talia, as she takes over the place of a certain Devil Doctor of Limehouse), but as she grows from terror toddler to woman of wiles, Talia’s curiosity won’t be denied, and she turns to astrology for answers. Alongside a meeting she never expected, Talia gets the beginnings of an MO that will serve her well.
And in the present day, she finally makes her demon daddy proud.
I’ve never been a fan of the al-Ghuls – too James Bond for me, they’ve tended to take Batman away from Gotham to adventures on the international stage that didn’t suit him. But this is Batman Incorporated, and trans-continental crimefighting is in its DNA, and it’s something writer Grant Morrison presents exceedingly well. Here he, fittingly, incorporates old continuity points along with new details into a tapestry of Talia that lends her a measure of sympathy. Manoeuvred by her father into a one-sided love affair with ‘the Detective’ to further his own ends, Talia winds up hating both men. I’m not convinced we yet know her true feelings for Damian, only that if she really wanted his head, he’d be dead.
The theme of this issue may be misguided love, but there’s no ambiguity in my feelings for Chris Burnham’s artwork – I’d pledge my troth in an instant. Burnham captures Talia’s usual haughty poise, but adds real vulnerability. Raised to be a suitable heir to her father – or at least, to birth him a spare body – she’s never been allowed to relax, just be a little girl. And this fact is all over Burnham’s elegantly composed pages … his Talia has charisma to spare, and I look forward to seeing more of her.
Burnham also manages to draw Ra’s at a global pop fundraiser and have him fit in – no mean feat when we’re talking a hulk of a man with supervillain hair and no eyebrows. Add in the economic nous Morrison bequeath’s Ra’s, and you can believe the mysterious Melisande is drawn to him. Also, with colourist Nathan Fairbairn, Burnham pulls off Morrison’s cinematic opening spread, which sets the tone for father and daughter’s troubled dealings.
Burnham and Fairbairn’s cover speaks for itself, a movie style poster that hints at the goodies ahead. I can’t wait to consume them.