Robot 6

Robot reviews: Batman and Robin #1

Batman and Robin #1

Batman and Robin #1

Batman and Robin #1
by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
DC Comics, 32 pages, $2.99.

See, this is how it should have been from the start.

Much was made when Grant Morrison took over the writing reins for Batman, though few ultimately found merit in the confusing and at times even dull slog through canon and character that the book turned into (though, of course, the series does still have its fans. I also understand there are people who collect milk bottles).

Batman and Robin chucks all the excess baggage that hampered Batman R.I.P. — the elbow in the ribs riffing on classic tales of yesteryear, the need to make an important statement about the character, Tony Daniel — fills up the gas tank to its flying Batmobile with rocket fuel and proceeds to floor that puppy out of the cave with nary a glance backward. The result is a streamlined, but no less surreal or smart, tale that’s one of the most satisfying superhero reads I’ve had so far this year. This is a really fun comic book.

Now, I haven’t been following Battle for the Cowl at all, so I have no idea what has or hasn’t been revealed up until this point and thus will probably unleash all manner of spoilers without meaning to. You’ve been warned.

That being said, I think everyone by this point is aware that Nightwing/Dick Grayson has assumed the Batman mantle of new Batman with Bruce Wayne’s illegitimate and surly son, Damian, serving in the sidekick role.

One of Morrison’s traits (or quirks, if you prefer) is that he tends to define his characters and their relationships to each other as quickly as possible. He’s an economic writer when it comes to dialogue and not one for exposition; he’d rather cut to the chase. This can be a useful tool but also detrimental to the overall story and reader immersion (I think it ultimately hampered Final Crisis).

It works wonderfully well here though. One of the things that impressed me the most about this comic was how succinctly and effortlessly it set up the central relationship between the two characters. Halfway through the book we know just about everything we need to about Grayson (professional, dedicated, willing to assume the role, but far from eager) and Damian (cocky kid with violent past who’s perhaps a bit too eager).

The comic kicks off with a thrilling car chase involving a frog-faced villain and doesn’t really pause for a moment to catch its breath. Morrison has spoken in interviews about how he’s wanted to create a “psychedelic noir” feel that evoked the 1960s TV show but still felt relevant and modern, not to mention occasionally creepy. He certainly delivers on that last part in the final two pages, a reminder, perhaps, of just how good Morrison can be at evoking horror and dread.

But none of this would have worked half as well if Morrison didn’t have Quitely working with him. The artist’s not-quite-caricature, not-quite-photorealistic style serves the material astoundingly well here, particularly in depicting some of the more gruesome and new additions to the rogues gallery. (Just imagine what Quitely could do with a war horse like Dick Tracy.) Beyond the pronounced jaws and hyper-detailed costumes, however, is a really smart and playful layout, that carries the reader through as speedily and effortlessly as possible yet still has time for a one-page sequence involving Alfred’s trip to the Batcave that evokes those great schematic “a look inside” maps of yore.

Really, it’s hard to imagine any of Morrison’s critics, especially those who claim he’s too “clever” or esoteric, finding something to complain about here. This is one of the most straightforward, economic and, as a result, immersive comics he’s ever written.

OK, there were a few “Hey, wait a minute” moments, like: How have they attempted to explain Burce Wayne’s disappearance? Has Grayson inherited the Wayne fortune as well? And didn’t Damian kill somebody? Wouldn’t that be a stain on his crimefighter resume?

Oh, but those are all questions for the future. This first issue is nothing but setup. And what a wonderful setup it is, tantalizing and immediate and fun in a way that doesn’t neglect new readers or the party faithful. I can’t wait for the second issue.

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27 Comments

I actually really enjoyed Morrison’s Batman run, although I did prefer the first two volumes better(ya know, the one with the NINJA MANBATS juxtaposed with comic book artwork and JH Williams III’s murder mystery). But this just might be my favorite one yet. Morrison is really at his best in these short, punchy 3-4 issue arcs(most of JLA, JLA Classified, New X-men, etc). I’m getting a “E for Extinction” vibe from this. The best creative team in the industry taking a superhero series and injecting a giant dose of fresh, clever fun that still feels like the respective franchise, all in the span of a quick 3-issue arc. And, because E for Extinction is probably my favorite X-men arc ever, I’m GREATLY looking forward to this issue.

I liked Morrison’s Batman run, but I usually love Morrison’s stuff. I think the quality of his Batman stuff was directly proportionate to the artist he was working with (the JH Williams III arc was great, the Tony Daniel stuff ranged from mediocre to horrid). Overall, I would rank it well within the lower echelon of Morrison’s output.

I cannot wait to get my hands on this, though. Morrison’s best superhero stuff (and some of the best non-superhero stuff as well) has come with Quitely providing the art, and this looks to be no exception. I am almost tempted to run out and buy a copy of this right now at a different comic shop than my usual local, even though I have a copy on reserve that I will get later tonight. I know it is wasteful to drop another $3 on an extra copy of something in order to get it a few hours earlier, but I am just that excited about this book.

This is one of those books where I consider breaking my “wait for trade” rules.

hooray!

R.I.P’s “elbow in the rips riffing” ? This was as serious as it gets. Right down to psychological appearance of Bat-Mite. Personally, I liked Daniel. Very Dynamic. And what’s wrong with making a statement`?

Batman and Robin will have a hard time topping RIP.

I liked most of Morrison’s Batman except for that awful two-parter after RIP. But despite that, I’m still looking forward to reading this book when I get it along with the rest of my monthly shipment.

Batman The Brave and the Bold “Legends of the Dark Mite” was perfectly wonderful but Batman RIP was horrid. What an f-ing joke. Someone here has had a major cerebral infarction and it’s certainly not me. If you bother to look a little deeper into Batman RIP AND Jack Kirby’s Fourth World then you’d get a very good Idea of Grant Morrison’s storyline.

85% of everything Grant Morrison has written has been excellent. And, yes, Final Crisis was very good too – MUCH BETTER than Marvel’s Secret Invasion and the Sinestro Corps War crap.

Richard Pachter

June 3, 2009 at 11:14 am

Not to be Mr. PC but describing a kid as “illegitmate” is like referring to a woman a spinster. Archaic, to put it as kindlly as possible.

“Batman and Robin chucks all the excess baggage that hampered Batman R.I.P”

…This is incorrect. Grant’s still writing the book :-P

“Not to be Mr. PC but describing a kid as “illegitmate” is like referring to a woman a spinster.”

…No, it’s like calling the kid’s mom a whore and/or a slut.

I can’t believe the people still think that Morrison is a great writer. His stuff is unreadable & overhyped.
Plus for a title like Batman & really need a more dynamic artist than Quitely

I picked this issue up today. I usually don’t like Morrison’s stuff, but this was an excellent read. I’m really looking forward to the rest of it. I usually can’t stand Quitely’s art, either. It’s usually too ugly for me, but this wasn’t bad. The new rouges look excellent.

it was great!

“This is one of those books where I consider breaking my “wait for trade” rules.”

This is actually the first single I’ve ever bought. I just HAD to have this issue, and it was worth it.

SO. GOOD.

I actually truly enjoyed this issue. I have a love/hate relationship with Grant Morrison. For example love Arkham Asylum, hate Final Crisis. But for the most part he’s on the “meh” list. The same list Frank Miller circa 2004 is on. But hot diggity damn was this a good issue. No lie, I read it back to back. I NEVER do that. I had a great time trying to piece together some of the clues Grant left in his run before this i.e. Professor Pyg in Batman 666. This should turn out great……….. I hope.

i enjoyed most of grant’s batman run…started off most strongly with the ninja manbats and the son of batman stuff

the prose joker experiment was a disaster…much of the rip run, i thought, was pretty good…although it was a little sloppy and convoluted in places

overall, however, i very much looked forward to each new issue

(the new xmen run, i think, is overrated…i much prefer whedon’s astonishing to morrison’s new xmen)

i picked up batman and robin about an hour ago and read it right away (in a hot car!)…a little disappointing…hoping it improves…

i like quietly’s work a lot…although i wouldn’t want a ton of copycats…and i’m not sure it’s right for this book

also, i’m not sure the characterization of dick and damien is very true to most of what we’ve seen of them before…not even consistent with grant’s use of them in his own just finished bat-run

hoping it gets better but right now color me unimpressed

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm

His first Batman run was a slog UNTIL you got to RIP, and saw that it had all been set up for that tour de force.
And what was the important statement on the character?
RIP was all about how much arse Batman kicks – he’s always prepared!
That’s what it was about.

Nothing to complain about? A flying Batmoblie?!? How that for starters? And just wait. Before you start to fawn over this series just wait a few issues. It will stink. It is going to stink just like Final Crisis and Just like Batman RIP. And then when it hits absolute rock bottom they’re going to bring Bruce Wayne back. Batman is on a crash course to the bottom.

We need to stop kissing up to famous authors. This comic was decent. Nothing even close to great and nothing horrible. But it is going to get horrible and then people will be moaning about how bad it is, just like they were at the end of RIP. Just wait and see.

A FLYING BATMOBILE!!!!

Flying cars have been invented in real life. Why is it so strange for someone with that kind of money and access to technology to have one?

And let us not forget Batman’s sci-fi closet!

The flying Batmobile reminded me of being a kid and seeing something so awesome in a cartoon that I wanted a toy of it right that second.

I don’t know why you’re convinced this will end horribly. Morrison and Quitely have been terrific together in the past. Haven’t you read All-Star Superman?

“I can’t believe the people still think that Morrison is a great writer. His stuff is unreadable & overhyped.
Plus for a title like Batman & really need a more dynamic artist than Quitely”

There are so many ways to be wrong in this world.

AgentoftheBat

June 3, 2009 at 8:15 pm

I find it hilarious that the Morrison fan boys out there can still say Final Crisis was good. I work at a comic shop. I saw the people buy the issues. I was also there when they came back the next week asking me why the hell they buy that crap because it’s so damn bad and they have no clue what was going on. Of the probably fifty regular customers that bought it monthly, I don’t think we had one person that came in and said they liked it. Some just shrugged and said it was okay. Most scowled and launched into long winded tirades about how bad it was.
And I would have to agree.
I also hated 90% of hit Batman run too, especially RIP.
I’m glad he got the Chris Claremont treatment and they gave him his own book so he can stop crapping all over the real Batman title.
Honestly, I read this, I didn’t like it and while a fan of Quitely, I found this to be HANDS DOWN the worst his art has ever looked! Did a 110 year old man ink his stuff? Every line is squiggly except for on the vehicles in the first few pages.
I honestly wouldn’t be sad if I never read another Morrison book ever again.

Like mckracken and Neal K., I loved R.I.P. – the entire Morrison run in fact and Neil Gaiman’s two-part epilogue as well. Thought both were not only compelling explorations of the Batman mythos but terrific and moving stories as well. The plot seemed a bit too obscure at times in R.I.P. but if anything it added more to its mystique than subtracted.

With Batman and Robin – hey, I thought it was a really cool read. Don’t like Damian as Robin – and “Battle for the Cowl”/post-Bruce Wayne structure doesn’t intrigue me much either – but the issue itself really was a great balancing act between wonder, humanity and freakiness.

“Joe
June 3, 2009 at 10:24 am

I liked most of Morrison’s Batman except for that awful two-parter after RIP. But despite that, I’m still looking forward to reading this book when I get it along with the rest of my monthly shipment.”

Is that a reference to Neil Gaiman’s “What ever happened of the Caped Crusader?” 2 parter?
Anyway Morrison always been a love/hate kind of writer. Some love him, some hate him. Fan-boys in general can’t stand him cause he’s sentimental about old sliver-age comics. And loves to have fun writing in that vein, in a modern edge. So I’m loving this throw back to a more surreal area, before the nihilistic self-loathing, doom and gloom returns.

silverbluehues

June 4, 2009 at 9:03 am

“OK, there were a few “Hey, wait a minute” moments, like: How have they attempted to explain Burce Wayne’s disappearance?”
Ever read a Batman comic book before? If you did you would have known the answer to that question by now (Dini’s run on Detective would answer your question). Also I admit that you wouldn’t need to read Battle for the Cowl to know who’s the new Batman but if you didn’t then you’re not even qualified to write this review.

Your statement about people collecting milk bottles, I find it utterly disrespectful and ignorant. Just because you didn’t like the last run of Morrison’s would not make it true that it was a bad run.

Anyway, I loved this book…although it didn’t pack quite a bang a debut series could have but it’s still a very good issue. My only complain about the book was that Frank Quitely’s artwork’s inconsistent when it came to close-up to faces. From afar his Damien looked alright but from up close he sometimes looked like a chimpanzee or some other simian and other times he looked like an 80 year old man, I’d say too many wrinkles…even for Alfred, who looked like he just got outta the coffin.

I really loved the pacing, the art and the creepiness of this book. It was better than Morrisons prior Batman run. I also liked Damian for the first time, I’m hoping that this personality sticks. I read this book and followed it up with Dark Avengers and it was a jarring contrast, This book told more in five pages than the entire issue of Dark Avengers.

Oh hey, look, some guy talked to 10 people at his store and now he has enough to judge the merits of Final Crisis.

Go ahead and judge it for yourself, but leave the comic book sociology to others.

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