Or – “Parent Issues Abound…”


Bruce Wayne, driven by the loss of mother and father.  Dick Grayson, driven by the urge to please “dead” surrogate father who raised him after the loss of mother and father.  Damien Wayne, forced to accept a surrogate father figure due to the loss of biological father, all the while struggling with the mother and grandfather’s training.  And if the man under the Red Hood is Jason Todd, he’s metaphorically given up his ties to an adoptive father and adopted the symbolism of his father’s sworn enemy, even though said enemy beat him to death with a crowbar.

I believe their Freudian slips are showing…

BR2_1.jpgPreviously, on Batman And Robin: Gotham City doesn’t know that they’ve lost their crimefighting champion, thanks to the intervention of former Nightwing Dick Grayson, who has picked up his lost mentor’s mantle to serve as Batman.  With the help of Wayne’s biological son (by Talia Al Ghul) Damien, Dick has already crossed swords with new crazies in the Gotham lineup, including Professor Pyg, The Circus of Strange, and a mysterious new Red Hood making his presence known.  His relationship with the new Robin is tenuous, though their first mission at least helped them to better understand one another, and Dick’s new role means facing more than just villains, as even longtime Bat-supporter Commissioner Gordon is unsure of his actions as the Bat.  During his recent reign of crime, Professor Pyg began somehow affixing masks to innocent Gotham citizens, leaving one young girl horribly disfigured and confused, allowing her to hook up with a mysterious man in a crimson helmet at the end of the last arc.  The streets of Gotham City haven’t been this unpredictable since the earthquake, and Dick and Damien have a treacherous road ahead of them.  High on the new Batman’s agenda: find out who it is that’s been terrorizing Gotham’s criminals.  Y’know, OTHER than himself…


The first thing I notice about this issue is the absence of Quitely art, as the very-stylistically-different Philip Tan is our penciler this month.  We are treated to the sight of  a minor villain called “Lightning Bug” (a cousin of Firebug, perhaps?) plying his larcenous trade in the streets, only to get a faceful of flying Batmobile.  The Bug flees the Dark Knight, only to run headlong into a difffernt vigilante…  Tan doesn’t have the creepy lumpiness that Quitely’s work does, but he easily conveys the disturbing nature of Scarlet’s face, as she and the Red Hood take him down, and even upload images to Faceyspace as a warning to tech-savvy criminals (and 14 year old girls, presumably.)  The Diabolical Duo escape, leaving Batman and Robin to wonder exactly what just happened, and pick up the pieces.  I have to say that this is a strong sequence, but it might have been stronger if we’d had a slightly high-profile Bat-villain, someone minor like Firefly or the Cavalier to take the hit.  The brand-new villain (at least as far as I can remember) somewhat dulls the effect of the Hood’s brutal take on crimefighting.  We’re also given a taste of Dick Grayson-Wayne’s business life as well, forced to attend a Wayne Foundation function and cover for the prolonged absence of the head of the company.  With all the madness of RIP, Lucius Fox is concerned that the “brand” has been permanently damaged, but Dick sticks with his cover story, that Bruce Wayne is off clearing his family’s name.

A mysterious masked man called Sexton appears (and he’s not a villain at ALL, nope, nosirree) and cryptically greets the new Batman before we’re whisked away to the Red Hood’s underground lair.  Scarlet is worried about her mask, terrified to take it off for fear her face will peel away with it.  She asks the Hood who he is, and what he really wants, but the mysterious vigilante just chuckles.  “I guess this is about the revenge of ONE crazy man in a mask on another crazy man in a mask.”  If he’s really Jason Todd, he’s even more unstable than before.  Batman and Robin, meanwhile, are on stakeout downtown, and Dick tries to question Damien’s choice of a loose hood in battle.  Batman sweeps it forward to prove that it’s a liability, but Damian has already thought of this.  “I CAN FIGHT BLIND,” responds Robin with a couple of deft blocks.  In a surreal moment, Batman smiles quietly to himself at the abilities of his Robin, and it’s just WEIRD.  The caped crusaders are staking out a meeting of criminals and lowlifes, each concerned about the problem of the Red Hood.  The selfsame Hood sweeps in to wipe out the criminal scum, but Batman arrives just in time to keep the Penguin from getting murdered.  “Batman shielding a known felon,” intones Hood, as Dick seems to recognize the voice of his “little brother.”  R.H. and Scarlet leap into action, guns at the ready, screaming  “LET THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME!” as we fade to black.

It’s interesting to see Grant Morrison’s unorthodox writing style with a more mainstream artist, and oddly, the effect (as with Tony Daniel in the ‘RIP’ arc) is more unsettling than having the stylized renditions of Quitely or Richard Case.  Having the characters and the city look so very much like your average bat-book, with the outre concepts that G Mo brings to the table makes the madness that is Batman even more entertaining.  I’m not usually a bat-reader, but the first arc of this book was a high-speed thrill-ride, with an arc that was short and to the point rather than drawn out for potential trade paperbacking down the line.  This issue joyfully kicks off a new arc, and it’s only real downfall is that I, at least, can’t think of anyone else for the Red Hood to be other than Jason Todd.  If there were other characters built up, it could be a mystery, whereas this seems more fait accompli to me.  Dick and Damien’s jostling for control of their relationship seems to have simmered down a bit, and I’ve yet to grow restless with the “new kid in the cape” schtick, so overall this issue is a win/win.  Batman and Robin #4 earns a well-done 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the protagonists, let alone the villains, that should keep things interesting in the long run.  If Morrison can keep the meat of the story solid, I will be reading B&R for some time to come…



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. The “J-Todd” out seems too obvious…. Unless it’s as part of a bigger swerve, y’know? This _is_ g-mo, after all. Nothing’s ever obvious or easy, right? There’s some sort of vocal distortion/morphing rig inside the ‘red helmet’ that lets him sound like anybody he wants — it’d unsettle criminals to hear ‘their boss’ sentence them to death. Maybe Jason’s under mind-control, or has been paid by Black Mask to make NewBat irrelevant because “there’s a meaner vigilante in town”, or any number of comic-booky possibilities.

    • The following is purely… “thinkery-out-louditude”: Is “the joker” tied too much to “bruce’s batman” for it to be weird having one without the other? I can’t even answer that for myself, let alone “for the masses”, but I think it’s probably the big question that will eventually be answered.

    • Except, of course, for Dini.


      As with his run on Detective Comics and his overseeing of the Countdown disaster, Dini is employing his usual approach that whenever a character displays any kind of development – be it the Joker’s psychosis being explored with a more in-depth focus or Catwoman acknowledging that she is her own woman and doesn’t need Batman putting her on a pedestal – he will, metaphorically, put his fingers in his ears and go YADDA YADDA YADDA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

      Much like his contemporary, Jeph Loeb, Dini is on a book where he gets to have his pet characters run around being pet characters. I’m not saying you have to love Morrison’s Joker; I just think Dini is a complete idiot for just shoving the old one into our faces again with nary an explanation as to why Harley freaking Quinn would be more important to him than – say – BATMAN DYING.

  2. …Am I very very sad for recalling that one of the first of your reviews I ever read was an Outsiders issue featuring Todd vs. Grayson, where you postulated on their Freudian slips?

    Or was that Stephen?

  3. Finally; I am convinced that in Morrison’s stories, Oberon Sexton is the Joker, operating in disguise. You can see in one of his introductory panels, the lining of his mask seems to cling to his smiley scar lines.

  4. It was a mixed bag for me.

    Who were the bad guys killed in this issue? Are they just disosable cannon fodder to emphasize that the Red Hood and Scarlett are killers? I like the new status quo, but it feels like Dick’s tenure will end up being erased by Tom Welling punches or a deal with Mephisto.

    I like the fact that Scarlett is the result of a defective Dollotron procedure; that differentiates her from Harley Quinn, which is necessary, imho. Scarlett’s daddy issues add to the father figure motif.

    Whether Oberon Sexton is the Joker or not, his outfit is too over-the top. C’mon, a guy dressed like that in public, and nobody raises an eyebrow? He’s basically wearing a superhero/supervillain outfit to a formal dinner, and yet Gordon is introducing him to Dick like there is nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe Quitely’s art would have better accomodated such an outlandish outfit (and leap in logic) given his normal visual absurdities.

    If Luscious Fox is trusted enough to run Wayne Enterprises, wouldn’t bruce have left him an automatic “Last Will and Testament” as he did for Alfred and the rest of the Bat Family?

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