Believe it or not, there has not previously been a comic entitled "Batman and Robin". Batman, Detective, Batman Confidential, Legends of the Dark Knight, Brave and the Bold, Robin.... sure. All of those. But on Wednesday, DC Comics released the first issue of "Batman and Robin".
the all-new dynamic duo!
Generally, for established talent, I prefer commenting on a storyline as it wraps rather than issue by issue, especially at the beginning. There's simply too much unknown in the early issues of a comic. Its not that you can't form an opinion (and a valid one at that), but in many ways its sort of like reviewing an album based on one or two songs, or running out of a movie after the first fifteen minutes and writing a review.
Grant Morrison took over the title "Batman" in late 2006 and proceeded to take two years to spin out what became clear was just part of a multi-year effort. He wrapped his run into DC's mega-event "Final Crisis" (in itself a 7-issue series with multiple tie-ins), culminating in the disappearance/ seeming death of Bruce Wayne.
Morrison then took a break to make room for what I'd consider to be some serious filler material in the way of the "Battle for the Cowl" storyline. Hey, at least I enjoyed Neil Gaiman's two-part stand in with "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?".
Morrison is also the author of such highly recommended works as "Invisibles", "We3", "Vinamarama", "New X-Men", "JLA", "Animal Man" and the most defining work on the character in a generation, "All Star Superman".
Art is penciled by the amazing Frank Quitely, whose work with Morrison elevates both talents. He's probably now most famous for "All Star Superman", but his "New X-Men" run is pretty stellar. My personal favorite of his work is still "We3", but he made his real mark with "Flex Mentallo" with Morrison. The work has never been collected due to a law suit from the Charles Atlas company.
The first issue begins with the new status quo of former Robin, Dick Grayson, in the Batsuit. Those unfamiliar to recent events in the comics will be surprised to learn that Batman's bastard son (both literal and figurative), Damian, takes on the mantle of Robin. There's enough exposition to catch up a casual reader or possibly explain to someone utterly unfamiliar with Batman as to what's going on.
Dick and Damian go for a ride!
Morrison does what he so often does, and injects a relaxed cool to the high octane proceedings (these superheroes don't flinch over something like an explosion). Dick and Damian have put together the first flying Batmobile, and are in hot pursuit of a Mr. Toad (who both physically resembles a toad and who is on a wild ride).
There's much in the way of exposition to catch us up, but which also fills in gaps for the reader who may wonder how we got from the end of "Battle for the Cowl" to this point.
But nasty things are afoot in Gotham City as the issue wraps, unveiling the first glimmer of bizarre goings on with the newest additions to Batman's rogues gallery.
All in all, its a great start to the series, and should give those who were left scratching their heads at the end of Batman RIP and Final Crisis a huge jolt of faith in Morrison. One also realizes how much Morrison's work is enhanced or detracted from by the art talent with whom he's joined. One saving grace for Final Crisis was that I felt he was lucky to land two great artists (I really dig Doug Mahnke's stuff), and I'm not sure Tony Daniel really did much to carry his part of the load in Batman RIP.
For myself... I was not at all a fan of the continuity-lite six issue runs that came out of the early 2000's. I was raised on Claremont X-Men and Alan Grant and Co. dominating the Bat-titles. So I very much appreciate DC's decision to let Morrison spin his web across the Bat-titles (just as Johns, Robinson and Rucka are building a phenomenal, multi-year arc on the Superman titles).
This is going to sound odd, but something about the issue vaguely gave me the same charge as those old Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle issues of Batman and Detective used to give me. I think because there was so little distraction. No Dan Didio harping about "Batman RIP" for a year in advance. Just a story, great art and characters. There's not too, too much else in common, but it reminded me of the relentless insistence on the "event" that's been going on in Bat-books for a long time.
The book ain't necessarily for kids. Just felt I'd remind our eager-beavers in the interwebs to be careful what they put in the kiddos' hands.
Morrison said something about trying to mix the psychedelia of the Adam West Batman with some creepier aspects. Whatever he said, fine. The first issue was downright fun. It really is a gorgeous comic to look at, and I'm excited its out there and look forward to the next issue.