Batman And Robin #1 - 'Batman Reborn Part One: Domino Effect' - Morrison and Quitely
Story - Grant Morrison is that most frustrating of creators, the mad auteur with brilliant ideas, but so often, his execution of those ideas is sorely lacking, his recent work, with the exception of All-Star Superman has been very poor indeed, Final Crisis started out well, but soon spiralled into a crapstorm of epic proportions, the same can be said of his Batman run, and the pure unfettered badness that was RIP, so by all rights, I shouldn't be excited for this new book, it's the second Chapter of Grant's Bat-plan, it should be just as confusing and infuriating as before, but it isn't. There's one important difference, and he's probably the reason why ASS was so much better than it's contemporaries, Frank Quitely. I have more to say about him in the art section, but it's safe to say that he brings out the best in Morrison, and Batman and Robin #1 is a totally different animal to Morrison's recent embarassments, it's actually good!
The set up for B&R #1 is simple, Bruce Wayne is dead (or in the past, or something, let's say he's dead) and now Dick Grayson, the original Robin, and previously Nightwing is the new Batman, and Bruce Wayne's son, Damian, also the son of Talia Al Ghul, is the new Robin, and they fight crime together! Biff! Zap! Pow! I really think this is a good concept, and progression for the Batman concept, for the last 15 years or so, Batman has become stagnant, Bruce is Batman, Tim is Robin, Dick is Nightwing, they continue to have meaningless adventures, but this shake up here was sorely needed. I know Nightwing has his fans (his poor, deluded fans), but for me, that identity has always been pointless, but now that Dick is Batman, he actually seems more interesting, he has the weight of his predecessor and mentor on his shoulders, and has finally achieved his potential. Damian as Robin is also interesting, Tim Drake is an excellent character, but he was never really Batman's sidekick was he? Most of the time he was off having his own Spider-Man-lite adventures, he never worked with Bruce as a regular team like Dick and Jason did, plus, he was a bit too old to be Robin, now that Robin is a crazy 10-year old, he needs to be monitored, and it's a return to the more interesting duo set-up. Of course, it's also an inspired reversal of the classic Dynamic Duo, we are used to a grim, violent Batman, and a lighter, more fun Robin, with this, it's flipped, Damian is the darker character, and Batman is slightly lighter, it's a fun twist on an old concept, and it can keep the book going for a while.
But as I said, Morrison's concepts are good, but his execution can often be not quite there, it doesn't matter how many interesting character progressions or 'inspired reversals' there are if the comic is a confusing mess. Fortunately, this is a very well-told, straight-forward action book that zips along at a brilliant pace, it moves quickly, but not at the expense of the story, like Final Crisis for example did. We open with a chase sequence, a new villain, Mister Toad is fleeing from the new Batmobile, which can fly! Yeah man, flying Batmobile, pretty cool. Dick and Damian catch up with him, and find out he's been paid in dominoes, which is kind of odd yeah? After pulling a classic fake out trick on him, they head back to their new HQ, an awesome skyscraper. I much preferred when Batman was based out of the tower in I think the 70s, as it made sense for such an urban hero to actually be in an urban environment, rather than out in the country. The Dark Knight movie used the same idea, and this fresh new Batman and Robin team deserve a more interesting base than Wayne Manor. We are then introduce to a second new Villain, Mister Pyg, who is creepy as hell, and it is there the issue ends. The book is light on story, but it doesn't really matter, because what is there is just bursting with fun and energy, the new villains, something sorely needed in Batman are interesting, the action scenes are strong, the dialogue is sharp, and the characters compelling.
Even if like me, you've been sorely disappointed with Grant Morrison's recent work, I recommend you check this out, it's a sea-change from his other Batman work, in fact, it's so new-reader friendly, you may as well forget all that crap ever happened. This is a fresh new take on a hoary old franchise, and I would like to see Dick and Damian as a team for quite a while, even if, in all probability Bruce will be back within the year, 2 years tops, because DC have no balls, but it'll be fun while it lasts.
Art - Frank Quitely! The name that strikes terror in the hearts of Jim Lee loving fan boys everywhere! Has there ever been an artist so divisive in comics? You seem to either love him or loath him. Me, I fall firmly in the love camp, I don't see how anyone could read ASS or We3 and not be amazed at what he does, there's more invention and ideas in his pencil than in most artist's entire body of work. One thing I like about Quitely is how is work is slightly different for each project, and this is no exception, he's using a slightly different style here than he did for Superman, it's darker, more scratchy, more suitable for Batman, Quitely also tries out some new tricks here, most notably the sound effects, he's working them into the art, so when there's an explosion, it makes a 'BOOM' in the smoke, and when there's a splash, the water makes a 'SPLASH!', it's fun, and it seems to me to be much more palatable than normal sfx, which have been the bane of Batman's life since the TV show. I also particularly liked the page showing the Bat-Tower, and the panels cutting into it, showing Alfred's progress down, as a kid I was very interested in stuff like this, images showing the structure of buildings, cut outs, dioramas etc, and this was a nice example of this, and a good example of something that only comics can do, and the kind of innovative structure Morrison and Quitely play with. Also, that aplash page of Batman and Robin jumping out of the Batmobile was the tits. Good stuff, and I just hope Morrison can keep up his writing without Quitely.
Best Line - 'Batman and Robin. Together again for the first time'