Batman and Robin #1
“Batman Reborn, Part One: Domino Effect”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Frank Quitely/J.G. Jones (variant)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Now this is what “Batman: R.I.P.” should have looked like.
The overall tone of the storytelling in this debut issue is quite reminiscent of what writer Grant Morrison delivered throughout his run on the predecessor title Batman. The difference is that here, he’s teamed with an artist whose style is more in line with the writer’s mad sensibilities. Quitely’s hyperdetailed, over-the-top style is perfect when it comes to bringing this odd amalgam of Silver Age campiness and 21st-century darkness to life. Morrison’s script is quite accessible — it acknowledges that Bruce Wayne is gone, that Dick Grayson is carrying on his mantle and that Bruce’s intense, violent but brilliant son has taken up the Robin role — and it doesn’t elaborate beyond that. Nor should it. Morrison handles this new beginning as he should, rather than dwelling on the various super-hero events (Final Crisis, Battle for the Cowl) that led up to this point.
Dick Grayson has cast off his Nightwing identity and has donned the Batman cowl to carry on his mentor and father figure’s mission against crime. Accompanying him is Damien, Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul’s son, whose gruff and bitter nature makes for a much different voice for the new Robin. Damien has an arrogant, even possibly malevolent streak in him, but he’s also full of potential, so the new Batman has agreed to train and watch over him just as the original did for him. Little does this new Dynamic Duo realize that it’s about to face a terrifying new threat: a criminal mastermind and madman with his own twisted underlings.
Quitely wows his audience with the very first panel in the book, as he reveals that he’s incorporating sound effects into the artwork itself. I love the billowing letters of “Boom boom” that actually make up the explosions in the background, and it’s a trick he trots out again later in the book. That first panel is symbolic of Quitely’s approach here, as he combines the broad strokes of yesteryear with new methods. The action is exciting and incredibly well choreographed, and the sleek new design for the Batmobile is in keeping with Morrison’s previous takes on the Batman as something of a super-science hero.
The artist’s designs for the new twisted villains of the story are simple but eye-catching, and they reflect the corrupt and creepy nature of the character concepts in general. Is there anything more disturbing in appearance than a Kewpie doll? Quitely’s take on that look for a number of characters is appropriately chilling. Perhaps the most important visuals contributions he makes are his depictions of the title characters. Damien’s youth shines through in his tiny frame, but so does his arrogance on his face. I was most impressed with Quitely’s decision to keep the new Batman fairly lean. Dick Grayson is an acrobat originally, so this more lithe look for the new Batman makes a lot of sense. Even his face is a bit thinner; no lantern-jawed, powerhouse of a hero here. I also appreciated the slight tweak Quitely makes in the utility-belt design.
This issue includes about 22 pages of story and art, and on top of that, DC borrows a trick from a couple of recent Geoff Johns-penned Justice Society of America comics and gives its readers a taste of things to come in Batman and Robin. What appears to be a new Red Hood really has me interesting, and it appears the Black Glove is set to make a return as well.
This is a big debut for DC, and given the characters, the milestone the story represents and the creators behind it, it’s a safe bet this comic book will be one of the top 10 American comics shipping this month. If Marvel was publishing this book, I suspect we’d see a $3.99 US cover price; it’s done so with some of its big new titles as of late. DC has maintained its $2.99 price for this book, and in the industry as it stands right now, that merits acknowledgement.
While this issue clearly sets the stage for a significant storyline featuring something that will apparently be dubbed “the Circus of the Strange” (I love it), the real meat of this issue is the interaction between the new Batman and Robin. Dick Grayson has a softer approach to his mentor role, and I love that Morrison has opted to maintain Dick’s personality rather than to transform him into the man he’s replaced. Even more captivating is Damien’s personality. I didn’t much care for the character when he was introduced, but I’m truly interested in him now. I love how Morrison can sum him up so easily with just a word or two of dialogue. When he calls Alfred just his surname, it demonstrates the emotional distance between him and the rest of the Bat-crew, his hidden insecurities and the slow melt of his cold facade. 8/10