After an emotionally taxing battle across the Tomb of the Devil Nezha, AKA Lazarus Island, Batman has finally caught up to the evil, possessed Damian Wayne. With Damian's soul and the fate of all magic users across the world of DC at stake, Batman will have to once again stare down the most deadly magical force he's ever faced. So begins Batman Vs. Robin #4.(opens in new tab)
Batman Vs. Robin #4 is written by Mark Waid, drawn by Mahmud Asrar and Scott Godlewski, colored by Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by Steve Wands. Ahead of the issue's December 20 release, Newsarama sat down with Waid to discuss the shocking events of the issue, and how they lead into the upcoming DC event Lazarus Planet.
Before we begin, a spoiler warning: we get directly into the specific events of not just Batman Vs. Robin #4, but also the latest issue of Waid's other series, Batman/Superman: World's Finest #10. Both issues are out now, so read them before you read this.
Grant DeArmitt for Newsarama: Mark, before we talk about issue #4, I want to ask about the end of Batman Vs. Robin #3. In that issue, the Devil… how do you pronounce that name, Nezha? Is it "Nay-Jah?"
Mark Waid: [Laughs] Every interviewer asks that question! I say, "Nezz-ah," but it's really dealer's choice.
Nrama: Okay. So in Issue Three, Nezha possesses Damian and the other Robins. As they fight Batman, they are hurling these devastating insults at him, hitting him with all of his own insecurities. Coming off of that, how does Batman feel? How does he deal with that?
Waid: Some of them are grievances that he can dismiss because he's already dealt with them. Stephanie [Brown] is a good example. Stephanie's big grievance, of course, is, "You didn't give me a chance." Bruce feels like he really did give Stephanie every chance, and she's never going to see it that way. So that's not the kind of thing that gets into his armor.
He also knows that these are not real grievances. It's not like these characters had these secret axes to grind. It’s just that the Sword of Sin and Nezha have managed to just find the little, tiniest mustard seed of some grievance and multiply it into something huge.(opens in new tab)
Tim, on the other hand, Tim had a legitimate complaint. Damian shows up, and suddenly Tim's just off to the side. So that's something that Bruce is going to have to deal with. And Jason, Jason's grievance has been my grievance for 20 years. I've never understood why Batman didn't spend every waking moment looking for Jason once he realized he was alive again, and that’s hopefully something we can touch upon as we go forward.
Nrama: Understood. Well, at the end of Batman Vs. Robin #3, we get a message from the real soul of Alfred Pennyworth, who tells Bruce that the only way he's going to free Damian is by freeing himself from the guilt of Alfred's death. How is Batman going to do that?
Waid: He is going to have to learn to be realistic. Even Batman can't be everywhere at all times. It's that simple, but it's very, very difficult for Bruce to absorb because he is a control freak.
This also goes to the issue of why when he has the Helmet of Fate on his head. He can be incredibly powerful, but he will never be the consummate magician. Magic, at the end of the day, is all about surrendering yourself to something bigger. Some force beyond you. And for all of Bruce's skills and abilities, complete surrender is not something he is capable of.
Nrama: So that's why Batman doesn't typically use magic?(opens in new tab)
Nrama: That's very insightful. I'm glad you brought up magic because I wanted to ask; moving into Batman Vs. Robin #4, how do you keep magic from becoming a deus ex machina?
Waid: You couple that with the idea that magic comes at a cost, that there's a price to be paid for everything. Even Black Alice, who was being used as a puppet, still has a price to pay for what she has done, even though it wasn't of her will. That will come into play in Lazarus Planet as she becomes a bigger player. They all do.
That’s why we can't just have the Spectre wave his hand and everything is set right. Especially because of the Lazarus Planet event – magic is spewed all over the world because it has been absorbed into the Helmet and then disseminated across the globe. Nothing is working right. And all the magicians have to be very, very careful about what they do and how they do it.
Nrama: For people that have come into this series without reading Shadow War, can you tell us what Lazarus Resin does? Besides keeping people alive, like Ra's Al Ghul.(opens in new tab)
Waid: In this case, it is combined with all of the world's magic, which was distilled into Dr. Fate's helmet and now has fallen into the pit. The combination of those two things lets loose the magic around the world, and it's not in the form of a gentle rain. It is a magic typhoon, a thunderstorm, a hurricane across the planet. Lightning is striking ten times worse than it ever has before. Cities are toppling. Science is failing in certain places in the world because the laws of nature and of science have completely been overwritten by the laws of magic. It's complete chaos.
Nrama: So it's different, case by case?
Waid: Yep, and that's by design. We knew we wanted to use this as an event to charge up some of our characters, to take some B-Listers and give them new purpose. So I deliberately wrote it in such a way where the effects of the Lazarus magic were whatever the writer wanted them to be, within reason, because that gave them the most flexibility as storytellers.
Nrama: Well, one person that seems to be very specifically affected by the Lazarus Resin is Batman. In Batman Vs. Robin #4 he's literally brought back to life by it.
Waid: And why not? Because we all know Batman's not dead, so that's not the cliffhanger. It's not, 'Will Batman survive?' It's, 'How will Batman survive?' That's a much more interesting cliffhanger.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: What kind of changes will the Lazarus Resin make to Batman?
Waid: In the immediate future, he's weak. He's not on his game. He's very, very susceptible to the effects of the Lazarus Resin as it radiates across the world and the things that it does to him. Lazarus Planet will then spill over into Batman Vs. Robin #5.
Nrama: And will any of that have to do with King Fire Bull, the son of the Devil Nezha? We meet him in Batman Vs. Robin #4; will he be an antagonist in Lazarus Planet?
Waid: The Lazarus Planet event is really the antagonist but he certainly is a key player in the Lazarus Planet event. He came to me from Gene Yang, who I've been working very closely with on this and on the World's Finest arc that introduced Nezha, because of how it tied in with the Monkey Prince mythology that he himself was drawing from. At first, he and I were both working with the same mythology without realizing it. That coincidence just turned into opportunity.
Nrama: That’s a crazy coincidence.
Waid: Yeah, two writers turning to one ancient bit of Chinese mythology at the same time is pretty ridiculous. But it certainly worked to our advantage.(opens in new tab)
Nrama: Alright, speaking of World’s Finest, I do have one final question for you. I know we’re supposed to be talking about Batman Vs. Robin, but the most recent issue of World's Finest ends on quite a bang. That is, that the mysterious Boy Thunder is actually the Kingdom Come villain Magog. Will Magog feature in Lazarus Planet?
Waid: He will not. But that doesn't mean I'm done with him.
Damian Wayne may not be in World’s Finest, but Newsarama explains why Robin is still the star of the series.