My Ecstatic Review: Batman & Robin #1

Gosh, I really enjoyed this one. Batman returns to Gotham City–but this time, it’s Dick Grayson under the cowl, with Bruce Wayne’s son Damian as Robin. Plotwise, there’s not a whole lot going on: Batman and Robin catch a Henchman, Mr. Toad, and grab his payment, a suitcase full of dominoes; Dick and Damian verbally spar as each makes his own attempt to follow in Batman’s footsteps; and the new villain Pyg sends his crew to rescue Mr. Toad and begins making some new “human dolls.”

What makes this soar, beside that flying batmobile, is a set of familiar Morrison and Quitely tropes, arranged with aplomb. The first issue figures out a few neat ways to ask the big vital question that has surrounded Batman for 70 years: what are the limits of humanity?

I’ll put up with any sort of delay to get Quitely art. He’s a master of wrinkles and folds, which makes his work alternately comfortable and horrifying (think of an old sweater, or an old hag). Batman and Robin’s capes have never looked more natural; Pyg’s dolls feature body hair and flabby necks. The page design is neoclassical. Widescreen action panels mark Mr. Toad’s wild ride, while he’s trapped in tight vertical panels as Batman hangs him upside down. Check out that nifty layout of Wayne Tower, too, which looks to be the current base of operations, given the condition of the batcave.

This issue also contains some classic Morrisonian dialogue. The winner is Pyg’s musing that “the worst place in the world can be . . . anywhere” as he prepares to operate on a small time crook in a dingy apartment. Thematically it’s rich too, as Morrison layers Dick’s loss of Bruce Wayne over the loss of both his and Wayne’s parents. How would Batman act if he lost his role model as an adult? This is the Batman we now have. Dick is also kinder, less sharp, and less mindful. He slips up by calling Robin “Damian” in the field. He bases investigations on personal experience, knowing from Mr Toad’s dialect that he must hail from a European circus troupe. He lets the “small fry” henchmen escape, which allows Pyg to get his hands on them by issue’s end.

We don’t know too much about Pyg yet, but he claims he wants to make everything perfect at the issue’s close. The new Batman and Robin are chasing perfection, too–the ideal model that Bruce Wayne represented. To do so they take on the clothing and habits of their mentor. What will separate them from Pyg’s dolls?

Grant Morrison’s Batman run has felt slightly off, even when it’s bursting with ideas. Luckily, Batman and Robin #1 clearly picks up on some of the pieces that we might otherwise mistake as incomplete, dashed-off ideas. Watch then as Morrison and artist Frank Quitely breathe life into earlier, disjointed storylines:

RIP: even if Batman isn’t really dead, he’s definitely not in Gotham City. RIP ended with Batman digging himself out of a grave and defeating his enemies, once again the most resourceful and prepared man on earth. Since no one can measure up to that standard, the job becomes dangerous again. It’s refreshing to watch someone else try to handle the task of cleaning up Gotham city, a tide of villainy that even Bruce Wayne could only stem.

Damian: once merely the smug son, now Damian has purpose and even occasionally displays politeness and respect. He’s also taken on the mannerisms of his father (that “-TT-” sound), and attempts to improve on his father’s work . . .

The Batmobile. In Batman RIP, the New Batmobile premiered. Many were underwhelmed–including Bruce Wayne. Now it returns, flying through the air, fixed by Damian’s improvements on his father’s prototype.

Pyg: while this villain is run-of-the-mill horrorshow so far, he has already been teased in Batman #666, when Future Damian battled one of his Dollotrons, and the third replacement Batman reverse-crucified him.

Other, less vital questions: Speaking of Batman #666, Damian now seems poised to grow into this future version of Batman. Will Dick Grayson be able to forestall this future, or is he responsible for it? Why does Mr. Toad seem excited at the prospect of his own death? What’s the deal with the Dominoes?


1 Response to “My Ecstatic Review: Batman & Robin #1”

  1. 1 Eric June 4, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Sounds cool. A friend of mine advised me to be on the lookout for this, so I’m glad to know it’s out. Nice that Morrison is obviously not interested in yet another ever-more-dark version of Batman.

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