Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Batman and Robin #1 Review

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely

After a great deal of disappointment with the last half of Grant Morrison's run on Batman, I am so glad I took a chance on his and Frank Quitely's Batman and Robin. It is very much the continuation of the duo's All Star Superman collaboration, right down to the Silver Age trappings, except this time it is in continuity and picking up on the aftermath of Batman RIP by focusing on Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as Batman and Robin.

I think the opening pages pretty much make you a believer in this book or turn you off of it. It features a frog-man led group of villains escaping from a bank robbery when Batman and Robin show up in a flying batmobile to put the breaks on their getaway. It's ridiculous in a Silver Age manner, but I thought worked perfectly compared to Morrison's previous attempts with Batman at Silver Age meta commentary and storytelling.

It certainly helps, though, with Frank Quitely's art. I absolutely loved how he blended the spelled out sound effects into the artwork, such as explosions spelling out 'boomboom' or the splashing of water as a car lands in the river spelling out the words 'splash' and so on. It was a simple, yet highly effective addition to the style of story that has to be seen to truly appreciate.

My favourite part of the issue, though, has to be Damian. While many, including myself, found him annoying and an unnecessary addition to the bat mythos when first introduced, he has really grown in the time since Morrison last wrote him and I couldn't get enough of him in this issue. The thing is, the changes to his character are so subtle that it's hard to really describe just how different he is since you can tell he's the same arrogant, spoiled brat, but it's like he's found his own little niche as Dick's Robin now that Bruce is 'dead'. It's like he has a begrudging respect for these people he used to have such contempt for. Things like him calling Alfred by his last name or any of his interactions with Dick (loved the 'I can give Tim Drake his old job back' bit) really sold me on a character I had generally disliked in all previous appearances. That and it's so much better than how Tony Daniel wrote him in Battle for the Cowl.

However, while I did really enjoy this issue, it wasn't perfect either. When I said this is very much in line with how the duo did All Star Superman, I meant it. To many, that should be enough to get them to buy the book, but this is also an in-continuity story. Many of the Silver Age trappings that work for a like All Star Superman do not work in the context of the current Batman and DC Universe.

In many respects, it's like their work on New X-Men. It will be great off on its own with Morrison at the helm, but no one else will be able to handle the high concepts or continue with the same theme and stylings. Does anyone honestly expect Judd Winick to write this Batman and Robin in his Batman title and have it actually be good? Can you see any other DC title being able to reflect these fundamental changes to Batman and Robin and have it not come off as a joke? I just cannot see how this book will interact with a line of titles like the Bat-family nor the DC Universe at large and, sadly, much like New X-Men, this will all be retconned or forgotten or changed in some unrecognizable way as soon as Morrison is finished on the title. I, quite honestly, think the greatest failing for this issue and the future of the book is that it is not an All Star or Elseworlds title.

Verdict - Must Read. In this issue, you'll see flying batmobiles, outlandish villains, great characters that put the dynamic back in dynamic duo and some beautiful artwork from Quitely. While it has its faults, I'm willing to overlook them for this first issue and give it a resounding Must Read. Can't wait to see where Morrison goes with this.

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