or – When G-Mo got his caps back


I picked up Batman and Robin #1 today and sat down to read it with great trepidation.  I haven’t been the greatest fan of what has happened to the Batman titles over the last three years (as evident on the site), and certainly was not a fan of the person behind the curtain pulling the strings to shape the DCU to his world view.

I made sure to only drink water throughout the morning to keep the body and mind pure, and ate a light lunch so as not to upset my constitution.  I took my time reading the first issue that features Dick Grayson as the new Batman, and Damian Wayne as the new kid-side-kick.

I’m done reading.

I don’t feel like throwing up.

In fact, to borrow a phrase from Rodrigo – “I liked it.”

Batman_and_Robin.jpgThat’s right true believers, I really like what Grant Morrison has done with the new Batman and Robin.  From the first page explosion to closing pages that introduces a villain that could rival Black Mask, I really liked every single page.

What really makes me appreciate what Grant Morrison is doing in this inaugural issue is that he isn’t writing a Bruce Wayne Batman story.  He already had his chance to do that, and it didn’t work from this reviewer’s perspective.  Bruce Wayne is a really screwed up person, so he can be bitchy, dark, and brooding and it fits with his character.  Morrison tried to change the direction of that barge, and there was too much resistance from long time Bruce Wayne Batman fans.

Here, Morrison gets a second chance to tell a different Batman story with Dick under the cowl.  Dick, while having gone through a lot of tough times, has always had a lighthearted approach to crime fighting, and in the pages of Batman and Robin #1, Morrison doesn’t allow the mask to take away from Grayson’s personality.  It’s clear Dick isn’t Bruce, as he spends almost as much on page time out of the cowl as in.  From the way Morrison is spinning this version of Batman, I doubt there will ever be a question of which personality is the real one; it’s always going to be Richard.

I loathed Damian when he was first introduced. I loathed him in such a way, that as soon as he was introduced, I almost dropped every Batman title DC published.  He was portrayed as a real prick, and if he had is own Damian Dickness Meter, he would have eclipsed anything his father could have come up with.  I don’t know if the events of Battle for the Cowl played any part in the change, but Damian has mellowed out quite a bit when readers are re-introduced to the brat in this issue.

Instead of snapping at Alfred and treating him as a being far beneath him, he at least elevates the Batman’s batman back to the level of trusted servant.  Even in his interactions with Dick, Damian keeps his attitude in check, and there is a mutual respect for one another.  Damian willingly allows Dick to call the shots due to age and experience, however, beneath the surface, readers can see Damian’s desire to be the team leader bubble to the top as Morrison practically slaps us in the face by showing Damian’s brilliance and willingness to jump into the fight.

The Black Glove story seemed to take forever to build to any kind of drama, but Morrison gets right to the action here.  The introduction of the villains of this arc is built up quite well, as readers are presented with intercut shots of things taking place elsewhere, with no indication of who, or what, these characters are until things heat up and smash the reader in the face once more.  Readers learn about Pyg through one of his lackeys, and the mystery of the role a case of dominos play in the story takes center stage immediately after the opening action sequence.

I think it is the opening sequence that sold me the most on this issue.  It felt so much like a James Bond movie opening, that I half expected Frank Quitely to layout the final pages before the first ad break in the shape of the new Batman logo.

Even with the action, there are quiet moments in this issue as well, as Dick and Alfred finally close shop on Wayne Manor and move to new digs downtown.  Morrison really is closing the book on everything Bruce Wayne related, going so far as to use a parting shot of Dick looking back on the graves in the Wayne family cemetery as the duo drive away.  Touching.

Of course, all of this could be wiped away with the very next issue.

With all this praise I’m giving to this issue, it doesn’t mean I have changed my mind about what Grant Morrison did before.  I still don’t like it. I think it was a heavy handed way of pushing an agenda to get to this point in story telling.  As i’ve always said, a writer is only going to be as good as his most recent work, and from what I’ve seen in issue one, Morrison is on the right track to regaining the trust and respect of the readers he turned off with his previous DC series.

As far as the Quitely artwork goes, I didn’t care for his portrayal of Superman in the All-Star series, and I think it was the key factor in me dropping that series before issue #6.  However, I thought his art was quite appropriate for Batman and Robin.  His Batman looks real, but not too realistic that it falls into that 2D version of the Uncanny Valley that turned me off of All-Star.

I love how he incorporated sound effects into the art as well.  He most certainly could have gone for the BIFF! BAM! KRAK-A-DOOOOOOOOM!  lettering over the action that we see in other titles, but instead Quitely makes the explosions, splashes and everything else form the sound effects.  I’ve seen this done in a similar fashion in a couple of action movies released over the last decade, and it works.

The only thing that might keep the reader from thoroughly embracing this new status quo, is the big elephant in the room.  Namely the question of, “When is Bruce Wayne coming back?”  I seriously hope DC give Bruce a rest for at least five years before digging him up again.  I want to see writers stretch their legs and give this new dynamic duo a chance to show readers what they are capable of.

Batman and Robin feels a lot like an Ultimate Batman reboot and if DC plays its cards right, could make this title the number one title for months to come.  I’m hoping the coming issues are as high caliber and fun as this one has been.  Batman and Robin #1 has renewed and rejuvenated my interest in the Batman titles once again, which before today was at my lowest interest level in decades.

Batman and Robin #1 features exciting action, interesting character interactions, and a story that I find engaging from the get go, earning a well deserved 5 out of 5 Stars.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to reread this issue again…

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. mosdef
    June 3, 2009 at 4:06 pm — Reply

    Not a big Batman reader, i see all the love most people on this site have for him and i think im gonna pick this up. it gives me a chance for a fresh start on batman, im kinda excited. Thanks for the review

  2. Ricco
    June 3, 2009 at 4:13 pm — Reply

    I just looked through and it felt like an All Star Superman issue, meaning out of continuity, which Grant Morrison does well. So I may get it in trade if it continues in this vein.
    The previous at the end with Batman fighting Batwoman while another Batman comes out of what seems like a Lazarus pit gives me a bad vibe, Doctor Hurt holding the Wayne manor’s keys and Red Hood (who I’m guessing is Jason Todd) seem like good storylines thou.

  3. Rowan
    June 3, 2009 at 4:28 pm — Reply

    I’m very intrigued by the freaky ass doll people and these circus folk and the relationship between Damian and Dick it is gonnna be GREAT ! and the whole Damian calling Alfred just Pennyworth he is so sassy ! and I want one of those Sandwiches Dick speaks so highly of !

  4. Samson
    June 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm — Reply

    First of all, let me say that I very recently asked why the “G” in “Grant Morrison” was always lowercased on this website.

    I’m usually not a DC reader, but I decided to give this a try today on a whim. I was quite pleased.

    As soon as I saw the review for this issue on the website, I had to laugh. It was a great start. I didn’t get into RIP, Last Rites, and Final Crisis. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground about those Morrison works. People either love them or hate them. However, I was quite pleased to see Mr. Morrison reclaim his capital “G” with this issue. Hopefully he keeps it up!

  5. ~wyntermute~
    June 3, 2009 at 6:46 pm — Reply

    Okay, I’m sure you’ve all been waiting to hear what _I_ think, amirite? No? Oh…. Okies. Sorry. I’ll just keep my thoughts to mys…. Nah. I’m gonna spill anyway. So. Like, okay. I “get” what they are doing here, and I don’t even hate it or anything. I like the BatmoHovercraft, and the Paracapes strike me as a very “Nightwing” touch to the Bat/Robinsuits. I can handle Damian being a bit of a snot — for a while — and the new HQ gives them new opportunities in that regard as well. It is a “reboot” in the modern-entertainment sense of the word, and it is not a bad one. The art got to me a little bit and — this is not a good or bad thing — struck me as a little “webcomicky” at times. I do not know ANYthing about producing art, however, so that might just mean that Mr. Quitely uses some of the same digital tools as some webcomic artists. I’m “just sayin”, that’s all. I _did_ see the resemblance to All-Star Superman, but that’s pretty self-explanatory. Overall, I must honestly and fairly say that this book pretty much does what it set out to do. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it, I dunno how long I’ll read it for, but I am not giving g-mo his capital letters back because of it or anything wacky like that! ;)

  6. Sarcasm Kid
    June 3, 2009 at 8:42 pm — Reply

    I remember the main villain, Pyg, from Batman #666, although I had quiet a different impression of him before I read this. I thought of this guy as some type of college professor/scientist (from the suit he was wearing when they found his body) who was really a sick pedophile, murdering little girls and then turning them into his “Dollotrons”. This guy’s even WORSE.

  7. albert
    June 3, 2009 at 9:35 pm — Reply

    Absolutely fantastic! Morrison does his thing and magic comes out. All that and a bag o’ potato chips.

    I didn’t enjoy Batman before because he was too dark, gritty, and real of a character for me. The concept seemed out of its element in a universe with aliens who move planets, intergalactic police officers, and mythological deities roaming the earth. I only started to appreciate Batman through Morrison and the new Brave and Bold cartoon. This is a Batman comic I can totally get into.

    And it looks like Stephen grew up. Much respect for the caps back. In the words of Kup in Transformers: The Movie, “I knew you had potential, lad.”

  8. ~wyntermute~
    June 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm — Reply

    “And it looks like Stephen grew up.”

    But alas, he seems to be the only one. Oh well.

  9. Dork
    June 4, 2009 at 1:59 am — Reply

    Meh. Wait a while. If Batman can prove itself again for a while, THEN pick it up. Give it time. It needs it.

  10. Salieri
    June 4, 2009 at 6:29 am — Reply

    @Ricco: Despite editorial meddling, Morrison has stated that he wants the final outcome of his run to be five TPBs, containing one continuing story which you don’t have to read anything else to get.

    However, because of said meddling you may have to read “Final Crisis” and one or two others. But the principle is there.

  11. renfield1969
    June 4, 2009 at 8:56 am — Reply

    I still don’t like Damian as a character. I don’t like the Batmocraft thing, it’s too much a Batman-of-the-future gimmick, and unless he’s borrowing it from the new Batwoman, the Bat-symbol should not be red. I really like Frank Quitely’s art, but while his style was perfect for All-Star Superman, I find it misplaced in this title. Maybe his detail work is too good, but boots that can be bought at K-Mart don’t sell the image of a cool superhero to me. I also hate that Grant Morrison has blatantly admitted that he’s writing for the trade.

  12. June 4, 2009 at 9:58 am — Reply

    I’m with you, renfield1969. With All-Star Superman, you have this modern, futuristic Metropolis and it works. This is Gotham… in continuity Gotham. We don’t need (or want) super-techy flying batmobiles.

    I love Quitely’s art. It is beautiful. My problem is that it is so stylized and detailed that it pulls me out of the story. I find that it can overshadow the narrative at times.

  13. June 4, 2009 at 10:28 am — Reply

    Really liked the issue it looks like it maybe the start of a great series. There were a few things that didn’t work for me but it was nice to see new story line for a little while before they bring Bruce back. Because we all know he is coming back, don’t fool yourselves. Anyway in talking to my comic shop owner about the Final Crisis death and the Batman R.I.P. death we were a little confused… what is the real story? We are confused… can someone clarify?

  14. Ricco
    June 4, 2009 at 10:48 am — Reply

    @Albert: I always found it distasteful to mock the people who give you a voice, unless it was a joke of course in which case disregard the following.

    We get to voice our opinions thanks to him (among others) so don’t be condescending, you can disagree with his and Matthew’s reviews all you want but stay respectful, specialy since I’m pretty sure they’d be the firsts to defend your right to speak your mind.

    @Salieri: then there is still hope (IMHO), I liked Seven Soldiers, loved All Star Superman but his run on RIP and Final Crisis didn’t live up to their names. I mean that literaly, in RIP Batman didn’t die and Crisis was anything BUT final. If it’s truly a standalone storyline with no real repercussions on the long term futur of The Batman mythos Grant Morrison can do great storytelling and this series could be worth picking up.

  15. June 4, 2009 at 1:36 pm — Reply

    I’ll say this for the book…

    It’s got me considering a pull slot for a Batman title, something DC hasn’t done since Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle…

  16. ~wyntermute~
    June 4, 2009 at 3:11 pm — Reply

    @Albert: I always found it distasteful to mock the people who give you a voice, unless it was a joke of course in which case disregard the following.

    I was going to leave things alone with my oblique comment on maturity, but since somebody else thought that he was out of line I have another thought I’d like to share.

    The whole thing was supposedly about the lack of capital letters. So now they’re back, and Stephen basically makes a public concession that the story was good enough to have earned them. Ostensibly, this is a “win” for Albert, inasmuch as there is any sort of competition going. So, like, dude. Take your trophy and be pleased. To gloat about your victory, however, is different from acknowledging it, and is just poor form in ANY realm. I wonder if the issue is really the “g-mo” after all? Anyway, that last bit is blind speculation that deserves no further comment. And speaking of no further comment….

  17. Scott Isaacson
    June 4, 2009 at 10:30 pm — Reply

    High praise indeed. I’m thinking the red on the new flying Batmobile is a nod to the sixties tv show. Just like nearly everything else Morrison did with Batman over the last three years. Those “Batman II and Robin II stories our parents may or may not have read in the sixties? They’re happening now :)

  18. Dan Hunter
    June 5, 2009 at 1:05 am — Reply

    And I liked it!
    DC have finally given me a reason to like Batman again. Can’t wait for the next issue so for the time being this is now on my pull list. I just hope that Dick is Batman longer than he was in the Prodigal storyline.

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