I got on board Grant Morrison’s run on Batman just a month or two before the “Batman R.I.P.” storyline began. I was so fascinated (and sometimes frustrated) with what I read that I went back and bought every issue he’d written since #655.
After a brief interval taken up by the bombastic and exceedingly anticlimactic “Battle for the Cowl,” Morrison is back to writing the Caped Crusader. But this time, it’s Dick Grayson as the Dark Knight, and Morrison’s own controversial creation, Damian Wayne–the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul–as Robin.
I’ll admit I’m one of those people who think you really can’t replace Bruce Wayne. That particular superhero/secret identity dyad is too iconic, like Clark Kent and Superman. At one time, fans might have pointed to Wally West’s Flash or Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern as evidence that this “legacy” idea can work, but–aside from the fact that Barry Allen and Hal Jordan are back anyway–both of those heroes had their own predecessors in the Golden Age. Unlike them, Bruce Wayne has been Batman since before the very first Flash or Green Lantern appeared in comics. The time to replace Batman was the early Silver Age, before the 1960s TV show cemented Batman and stately Wayne Manor as American cultural icons.
What’s more, it’s largely Morrison’s own fault it’s hard to accept anyone else as Batman now. It was Morrison who created the “Bat-god” in the pages of JLA, and this characterization was carried into the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. As Morrison has suggested in interviews, “Batman R.I.P.” was essentially a mediation on that idea.
The upshot of all this is: enjoy the ride while it lasts, because chances are Bruce will be back in the cowl within a year or two. With that in mind, Batman and Robin is shaping up to be a fun–and profoundly weird–ride.
Batman and Robin #1 starts a lot like “Batman R.I.P.,” with Batman and Robin in the Batmobile chasing down a perp. The difference is that this time, the Batmobile flies. It’s just one of many campy touches that, according to Morrison, are going to pepper this run.
While my favorite aspects of writing (characterization and dialogue) don’t appear to be Morrison’s strong suit, he has tons of great ideas, and it’s a blast to watch them spill out all over the page. He still has a very steep uphill battle to get me to like Damian (who I dislike not so much for his characterization but for his very existence), but I’m ready to see how Dick does with the Bat-mantle.
I know a lot of people love Frank Quitely’s art, but I can’t get into it–at least not here. Morrison has been very upfront about his desire to make his comics less grounded in “gritty realism,” particularly in this title, so Quitely’s super-detailed boots and wrinkly faces undermine the hallucinatory, out-there vibe Morrison is going for. On the other hand, I know Morrison really wants to pay tribute to the 1960s TV show in this run, so maybe it’s all intentional.
One last thing: as of right now, I’m not 100% sure Dick won’t be dead at the end of Morrison’s 12-issue run. This is due to a combination of my reading of Batman #666 and Dan Didio’s well-known attempt to kill the character during Infinite Crisis.
Toy Potential: There have been precious few figures from Morrison’s run on Batman outside of the Batman and Son line, but I suspect DC Direct may be prepping some Batman and Robin figures. Quitely’s designs are unique enough that I can see them making it worthwhile for collectors to purchase yet another Batman.
For me, the greater question is whether I want to see these designs in DCUC–particularly Robin, since he’s the more radical redesign. I think the answer will depend on whether either outfit becomes the “marketing” outfit. My impression is that Quitely’s designs are a variation on the “official” new designs, which can be seen on the cover of Batman #687. The most obvious difference on the new Bat-suit is the smaller gloves (which aren’t nearly as cool as full gauntlets).
Damian’s Robin suit is okay, but I still think Tim’s post-Infinite Crisis suit (the one that appeared in DCUC3) is the best Robin suit design. And I’d much rather get either a Dick Grayson Robin or a green-and-red Tim Drake Robin before a Damian one in DCUC.