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The Lazarus effect: How Batman vs. Robin eliminates a DCU staple

Batman vs. Robin provides the full ending to Lazarus Planet with a drastic change for the DCU.

Cropped illustrated cover of Batman vs Robin 5 featuring heroes of DC like Nightwing and Red Hood
Image credit: DC Comics
Note: There are spoilers in this article for Lazarus Planet and Batman vs. Robin.

Ever since Ra’s al Ghul and his shadowy family have been antagonizing Batman, the supervillain and his associates have relied on the mystical Lazarus Pit to recover from even the most grievous injuries and gain immortality. Though there are caveats and a cost towards using the Lazarus Pit for resurrection, the pits have been an easy way for characters in the DC Universe to cheat death since their introduction. However, by the end of the crossover event Lazarus Planet and the conclusion of its inciting miniseries Batman vs. Robin, the Lazarus Pits have effectively been nullified, not only eliminating this plot device for the foreseeable future but potentially lending a sense of permanence to death in the DCU.

Here’s how Batman vs. Robin plunged the entire world into a chaotic state inflicted directly from the Lazarus Pits, how the Lazarus Pits had become particularly prominent in the months leading up to Lazarus Planet, and what the removal of the Lazarus Pits could mean for the greater DCU moving forward.

A father and son duel

Nezha confronts Robin
Image credit: DC Comics

The opening story arc of Batman/Superman: The World’s Finest, by Mark Waid and Dan Mora, introduced the ancient demon Nezha, who was sealed away for centuries on the remote Lazarus Island. Prior to his imprisonment, Nezha created an elixir capable of granting immortality, which served as the basis for the resin that gave the Lazarus Pits their incredible life-restoring properties. Though the Dark Knight and Man of Steel managed to exile Nezha in the Phantom Zone, the demon escaped shortly after Bruce Wayne’s son Damian visited Lazarus Island for the first time and used him as a pawn to gain revenge on Batman and subjugate humanity.

In the subsequent miniseries Batman vs. Robin, by Waid and Mahmud Asrar, Damian mercilessly pursued his father while the whole DCU magical community fell prey to Nezha. With that state of magic in complete disarray, Batman and Robin’s showdown culminated in a confrontation which caused a large volcano on Lazarus Island to erupt. However, rather than emitting magma and ash, the eruption coated in the DCU in a magical rain derived from the Lazarus Pit at the core of Lazarus Island, causing even further widespread chaos.

The rise and fall of Lazarus Planet

Lazarus Island and its resin are rendered inert
Image credit: DC Comics

With the Lazarus Pit-fueled acid rain effectively making conventional strategies useless, Robin recruited a team of heroes to help him stop the rain from continuing its magical devastation. Though ultimately successful, magic throughout the DCU remained unstable while Batman himself was possessed by Nezha. With the skirmish between father and son pivoting to one between Damian and Nezha, Robin was faced with the dilemma of how to purge the demon from Batman’s body without killing his father in the process.

With help from DC’s magical superheroes, Damian launched a desperate plan calling the world to unite and lend its life force to safely exorcise Nezha, seemingly for good, restoring Batman to full health. One unexpected consequence of this strategy was the apparent eradication of Lazarus resin around the world; with Nezha gone, so too was his most prolific contribution to the DCU. And this removal comes at a time when DC’s recent use of the resin perhaps was too prominent for its own good.

The growing prominence of Lazarus Pits

Tim Drake uses the Lazarus resin
Image credit: DC Comics

Historically, characters had to be submerged in a Lazarus Pit to benefit from its effects, emerging completely healed, including from death, albeit with a temporary bout of insanity. The 2021 publishing initiative Future State took away this watery requirement, with the raw Lazarus resin extracted from the pits and spread around the world. During Future State, Tim Drake used Lazarus resin to gain an unstable set of superpowers and heal himself on the fly while the resin would resurface in the main DCU during the subsequent Infinite Frontier era.

After going rogue during Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, and Julio Ferreira’s Suicide Squad run, Amanda Waller would target shipments of Lazarus resin for her own fiendish uses while Robin found the source of resin on Lazarus Island. In response to the growing proliferation of the resin, Red Hood was placed in charge of a black ops squad known as Task Force Z, in a series of the same name by Matthew Rosenberg, Eddy Barrows, and Eber Ferreira, populated by undead villains brought to a state of unlife through a chemical dependency on the resin. Task Force Z was tasked with stopping illegal Lazarus resin smuggling around the world, ahead of the substance being destroyed in the wake of Lazarus Planet and Batman vs. Robin.

The DCU’s tricky’s relationship with death

Jason Todd rises from the Lazarus Pit
Image credit: DC Comics

Death has been a cynically predictably fleeting element of the DCU since before the famous death and return of Superman in the 1992 crossover event of the same name. But with DC’s flagship superhero cheating death so openly, it felt like virtually any major character who shuffled off this mortal coil had the extremely probable likelihood of bouncing back from even the most gruesome demise. These resurrections — be it Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, or the Flash — weren’t entirely facilitated by the Lazarus Pits, in fact, many of them didn’t involve the use of a Lazarus Pit at all. However, the Lazarus Pit had come to symbolize just how cavalier death and resurrection had become in the DCU, with characters like Jason Todd returning from the grave after a quick dip in the pit.

The 2009 crossover event Blackest Night by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado, seemed poised to reinstate a sense of finality to death in the DCU. Dead heroes and villains rose from the grave through the unholy energy of the Black Lantern Corps, with even characters who were temporarily dead susceptible to the Black Lantern’s lethal forces. By the event’s ending, the Black Lanterns were banished and the dead returned to their graves, with the survivors speculating that dead would likely be permanent, though this speculation would eventually be proven false in the wake of additional resurrections.

What the eradication of Lazarus resin throughout the DCU suggests is that Ra’s and his associates no longer have an easy out whenever they are killed or grievously wounded. Beyond the League of Assassins, characters similarly don’t have a handy syringe or edible amount of resin as the ultimate cop-out to death. The effects of Lazarus Planet are still reverberating around the DCU, including the loss of the Lazarus Pits, but at least one overused plot device is no longer in the mix, hopefully leading to more creative ways for deceased characters to defy the reaper for the foreseeable future.

Written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Mahmud Asrar, colored by Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by Steve Wands, Batman vs. Robin #5 is on sale now from DC Comics. The Lazarus Planet hardcover collection is on sale Aug. 8 and currently available for preorder.

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Sam Stone

Sam Stone: Sam Stone is an entertainment journalist based out of the Washington, D.C. area that has been working in the industry since 2016. Starting out as a columnist for the Image Comics preview magazine Image+, Sam also translated the Eisner Award nominated-Beowulf for the publisher. Sam has since written for CBR, Looper, and Marvel.com, with a penchant for Star Trek, Nintendo, and martial arts movies.


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