Morrison's Batman saga continues, but art problems continue to bring it down.
Batman and Robin #11
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Andy Clarke
Inks: Scott Hanna
In the comic book industry today, it is very hard to keep secrets. “Surprise” guest stars show up on covers and solicitations and other marketing strategies spoil plot points and stories. That’s what makes Morrison’s Batman and Robin so special. Month in and month out, I am constantly surprised, and issue 11 is no exception.
The issue follows Batman as he investigates clues to Bruce Wayne’s return in the caverns under Wayne Manor, while Robin and Oberon Sexton defend themselves against the assassins of El Penitente. Morrison handles the concurrent stories well, and neither feels like they were slighted to make room for the other. The best part is that we are finally being given the pieces to fit together the dynamic story Morrison has been telling since 2006. The best part of the book is a surprise appearance by Deathstroke at the end of the book, controlling Damian to take down Dick Grayson. This threw me for a loop when I first saw the panel where he appears, and my gut reaction was one of anger and confusion. Deathstroke hasn’t even been mentioned in Batman and Robin, and the character really came out of left field. However, after thinking about it for a while, I came to be really excited for this development. Slade has been fighting Dick since he was Robin, and it is interesting to see his reaction to him becoming Batman. There are many subtle clues to his appearance during the early parts of the book that are obvious on a second read. This really strengthens the payoff, and makes it more than a sales grab guest appearance. One mediocre part of the story though is the assassins that serve as the main threat in the book. It feels like Morrison is trying to tell us that we should be afraid of these guys, but they come off as expendable and boring.
However, the art does not achieve the heights that the writing does. Andy Clarke, while not as mind-numbingly awful as Phillip Tan’s arc, is not up to par with Frank Quietly and Cameron Stewart. The characters and environments look sharp, but they don’t go above and beyond normal superhero work. There are moments in the art where the panels don’t flow very well, almost like moments in the art are missing. The normal cover by Quietly is also rather dull. I really wish that the Andy Clarke cover were the regular cover.
I am very excited to see where Morrison goes with this story. Everything is being set up for a return of Bruce Wayne that is actually satisfying, unlike a certain Marvel hero that was recently resurrected. The middling art doesn’t detract too much from an engrossing read.