In the comic book crossover event Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne was apparently killed by Darkseid. But since it’s a comic book, he was actually transported back in time. In his absence, Dick Grayson, the original Robin, has assumed the cowl and Bruce Wayne’s son (by Talia al Ghul), Damian, becomes Robin.
Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn, written by Grant Morrison, collects the first six issues of the new Dynamic Duo’s adventures. You can tell it’s a different kind of Batman and Robin just by the collection’s cover (a reprint of the first issue’s). There’s no dark, brooding Batman on the cover. Instead, Batman and Robin and pose in front of a yellow background.
The body language says a lot about their relationship: Dick, who spends much of the book trying be the adult and keep Damian in line,
calmly crosses his arms, while the assassin-raised Damian, defiant and arrogant for the whole book, looks eager for a fight. It’s a reverse on the usual dynamic, showing a lighter Batman and a darker Robin.
The art reflects the pulp-nature of the book. It’s gritty and kind of jagged for most of the book, which can occasionally makes the fight scenes hard to follow, but it makes the book feel like a pulp novel come to life. It’s also appropriate for some of the more twisted character designs.
The first half of the book is the “Batman Reborn” arc (issues one to three). The main villain of this arc is Professor Pyg, a twisted surgeon in a pig mask who melts hideous masks onto his mind-controlled followers and victims. He also employs bizarre circus freaks, who Batman and Robin face in the book’s first fight, an exciting showdown in the police station.We are also introduced to one of his victims, Sasha, who is later recruited by Jason Todd, the Red Hood, and adopts the name Scarlett.
The second half of the book is the “Revenge of the Red Hood.” Red Hood and Scarlett and ruthlessly killing criminals and starting an internet campaign of slogans (“Red Hood and Scarlett say…”), phone polls and videos. Batman and Robin try to stop to them, leading to some good fight scenes and confrontations between Dick and Jason.
This book also introduces the mysterious author Oberon Sexton and the psychotic, lobotomized, and flamboyantly dressed Flamingo, the main villain of the last issue.
Overall, this is a good read. It’s not the deepest or most complex Batman story out there, but it’s a fun read and very enjoyable. The conflict between Batman and Robin is interesting, though Damian could be more fleshed out (he’s a deeper character in later issues). It’s also nice to see a younger and more light-hearted Batman, and it’s well-balanced with Grayson’s uncertainties about assuming the mantle. The new villains are also creepy and disturbing and add a lot to the story. The collection also comes with some backstory behind the covers and character designs, a nice bonus that increases your appreciation of the book.
Admittedly, I wish they went a bit farther with Red Hood’s internet campaign, as I feel deeper issues can be explored beyond YouTube videos and polls.
Not everyone will like this. Some will hate the fact it’s not Bruce Wayne under the mask, and Damian is guaranteed to annoy many. Admittedly, Dick isn’t as dark or interesting as Bruce Wayne but he’s still a well-written and likable character. And Damian works well as both a foil and challenge for him.
If you want something dark and complex, look elsewhere in Batman’s catalog. If you want a good, straightforward pulp adventure, pick up Batman Reborn.