Archive for the ‘Comic Books’ Category

Batman and Robin, bonding.

The next installment of Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin series sees the duo trying to revive Bruce Wayne and fighting a bat-worshiping cult.

The story starts with Dick Grayson, the new Batman, searching for a Lazarus Pit in London. Assisting him are Knight and Squire, England’s equivalent of Batman and Robin, and, later, Batwoman. They discover it after facing off against eccentric British gangsters who are also mining for it.

They throw what they believe is Bruce’s body into the Lazarus Pit, but instead of resurrecting Batman they reanimate an insane clone created by Darkseid. This results in a good Batman versus Batman fight scene, but the clone manages to escape, steal the Batwing, and make it to Gotham.

Damian Wayne, the new Robin, was left paralyzed at the end of Batman Reborn. His mother, Talia, managed to get a new spine created for him, but he’s stuck in a wheelchair for the time being. The Bat-clone finds him alone in Wayne manor and hurls him off a roof. Luckily, Batman shows up (via suborbital, of course) and manages to defeat the clone.

Dick realizes this means Tim Drake, the last Robin, was right about Bruce: he’s not dead, but trapped in the past. Batman and Robin, now fully-recovered, search for clues in the caves beneath Wayne Manor.

Soon Robin begins to lose control of his body and attacks Batman. It turns out his new spine has some weird, comic book technology that lets his mother control him remotely. I’ll stop discussing the plot here to avoid more spoilers, but a bat-crazed cult, Oberon Sexton, and Deathstroke also show up.

Dick Grayson (right) fights a crazed Bruce Wayne clone (left)

The art in the first half of the book is a more cartoony than the last collection, but it’s also clearer and better-looking. I prefer it to the art in the second half, which emulates the grainy style from the last book and isn’t as nice.

The collection ends on an unfulfilling cliffhanger and the British villains aren’t as good as the last collection’s, but its still a good follow-up.

I like the direction the story is taking, but it seems Morrison’s rushing to bring Bruce Wayne back before Dick can really shine. I like his run as Batman and Damian’s more likable this time around.

It’s good to see Batman doing detective work and Robin developing as a character. I wouldn’t say Dick and Damian are bonding, but they are growing on each other, and that’s another positive. Morrison is easily two for two with this run of Batman collections.

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"Batman and Robin, together again for the first time." - Dick Grayson

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.