Batman and Robin #1

Together again for the first time.

Together again for the first time.

“Batman Reborn – Part One: Domino Effect”
Author: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Cover Artists: Frank Quitely and J.G. Jones

For all intents and purposes, Batman and Robin #1 is the real All-Star Batman and the Boy Wonder. Anyone who’s read Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman (and Frank Miller’s woeful All-Star Batman) will know what I mean. This Dynamic Duo returns for this new limited series Batman and Robin, with an all-new Batman and Robin.

It’s at this point that I should issue a general spoiler warning for those who haven’t read and intend to read Battle for the Cowl. It’ll be impossible for me discuss future issues, or indeed any future Batman titles, without first disclosing the outcome of that battle. Henceforth, I will no longer tread around the identities of the new Batman and Robin.

Here it is: Dick Grayson is the new Batman, and Damian Wayne (al Ghul) is the new Robin. Tim Drake’s new role has not yet been addressed, but I assume he will be headlining the new Red Robin series. Now, onto the story!

Grant Morrison’s back with his trademark verve and kineticism. The style of this series is very much a throwback to the Adam West TV series and that good ol’ Silver Age magic, albeit with a mature, modern twist (as Morrison is in the habit of doing). The book opens with Batman and Robin bearing down on Mr. Toad and his band of miscreants in a flying Batmobile. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, that just happened. Now, the difference between what you’re probably imagining, and what ended up on the printed page, is that Morrison actually makes it work (as Morrison is in the habit of doing).

Frank Quitely’s flying Batmobile is beautifully retro, as are Alex Sinclair’s colours. Quitely’s pencilwork is crisp and clean, though his ruddy inks belie a fondness of wrinkles, for better or worse. I think it makes for expressive character work, though others may beg to differ. If you’ve seen his work before, you’ll know what to expect, and he certainly doesn’t disappoint in my view. His incorporation of the onomaetopoeia into the actual artwork (water splashing forms the letters ‘SPLSH’, for instance) is quite clever, and not something that I’ve seen before. The sparseness of Morrison’s script has really allowed Quitely’s art to breathe, and it’s clear the team are comfortable in each other’s company here.

Bat-Shark Repellent is well-known for its Morrison worship, and for the sake of journalistic integrity, I make a point of highlighting this fact on every occasion. But allow me to highlight this as well: there’s a reason for it. One being that he always gives the most satisfying pseudo-scientific explanations! He gives one for the flying Batmobile, and it fits perfectly within comic book sensibilities and the Batman mythos.

The other reason, in this case, is just how well he makes all the elements mesh together. The new Batman and Robin suit the colourful tone of this book in a way that Bruce Wayne never could – there was always a heaviness and a seriousness to the post-80s Bruce that doesn’t lend itself to these kind of stories. Dick Grayson is Batman, but he was also the first Robin, and it’s clear here that that personality hasn’t been swallowed whole by the Bat-symbol. He still pays his dues to his Father and Teacher, and he wears the cape and cowl with a certain pride and trepidation, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously either. Which is a good thing when you have a handful like Damian al Ghul for a sidekick! Robin’s witty retorts and sense of entitlement are a hilarious counterpoint to a more patient and casual Batman – and why not? This Batman’s been Robin before; he just shoots back an even wittier reply and smiles knowingly.

Morrison is quick to establish this character dynamic, and also to distinguish this duo from previous incarnations. Then again, when was the last time you saw Batman and Robin really work together? I thought so. Watching them interrogate Mr. Toad is particularly entertaining.

This issue sees a villain known as Pyg and his Circus of Strange announce themselves as disturbing additions to Batman’s rogues gallery. Pyg is as deliciously creepy as any of Arkham’s inmates, while his henchmen are ‘themed’ villains in the vein of Batman’s more obsessive foes. His torture methods are the frightening antithesis of the Dynamic Duo’s interrogation. I mean it, he’ll give you the chills. The Circus of Strange is another well-meshed concept given Dick Grayson’s circus background.

If none of this makes sense to you, fear not! This is by far the most accessible Batman story I have read in a long time, possibly ever. The storytelling is simple, the dialogue is sparse, and yet it’s packed with plenty of brilliant concepts and comic action. I can think of no better time or place to jump in than here and now.

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One Response to “Batman and Robin #1”

  1. kariyanine Says:

    “If you’ve seen his work before, you’ll know what to expect”

    I’ve never been a big fan of Quitely’s work, so I am not sure if my love of the Batman universe is going to be enough to get me through this.

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