I have been summarily unimpressed with what DC has done with the Batman family. The only Batman title that I will be collecting until Bruce’s return will be Batman and Robin. And the reason for that is because I enjoy the creative team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Even though I am not enamored with Dick and Damien assuming the mantles of Batman and Robin I still have a feeling that this title is going to be a wild read. If nothing else, Morrison is not going to deliver a boring story. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Batman and Robin #1.
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the Mr. Toad and two of his flunkies (one of them named Lev) being chased through Gotham by Gotham Police cars and helicopters. The villains take out one of the cop cars. Mr. Toad gloats that the Gotham Police cannot stop them. That it would take the Batman to stop them. And the Batman is dead.
Suddenly, one of Mr. Toad’s thugs looks up into the sky and stammers “No, no, no, no.” We see a flying Batmobile appear on the scene and flying right behind Mr. Toad’s car. We cut to inside the Batmobile with Damien telling Dick that he knew it would work. That Damien took Bruce’s blueprints and got the Batmobile to fly. Dick apologizes for ever doubting Damien.
Dick then fires a rocket at Mr. Toad’s car. Mr. Toad’s car spins out of control. Damien reminds Dick to never use their real names while in the field. Damien says that those were Dick’s words. Dick says that he is glad that Damien has been paying attention. Dick comments that when he was Robin that he would have killed for a flying Batmobile.
Mr. Toad’s out of control car is about to crash head on into a bus. The Batmobile swoops down and uses a magnet or something to grab a hold of Mr. Toad’s car and lift Mr. Toad’s car into the air. The Batmobile carries Mr. Toad’s car over the river and then drops Mr. Toad’s car into the water.
We cut to Mr. Toad crawling out of the water and onto the docks. Mr. Toad comments that he is too slippery for anyone to catch him. Suddenly, we see Dick and Damien standing in front of Mr. Toad. Dick and Damien punch Mr. Toad at the same time and take him out.
Mr. Toad drops his briefcase and it flies open. The briefcase is full of dominoes. Dick wonders what kind of drug dealer gets paid in dominoes. Dick says that the cops can handle Mr. Toad’s two thugs. Dick tells Damien that they are taking Mr. Toad to the Batmobile.
We shift to Mr. Toad regaining consciousness. Mr. Toad is blindfolded. Dick holds Mr. Toad out of the Batmobile by Mr. Toad’s ankle. Dick tells Mr. Toad that he is 300 feet above the road and that Mr. Toad is a slippery fellow and that Dick is starting to lose his grip on Mr. Toad’s ankle. Dick asks Mr. Toad why he is in Gotham City. Mr. Toad replies that his doctors told him that the Gotham air would be good for his complexion. Mr. Toad then says “I’m telling you nanti! Where’s my dinari?”
Dick replies “All I need to know.” Dick then let’s go of Mr. Toad’s ankle. We pan back and see that Mr. Toad was only a couple of feet off the ground. Mr. Toad pulls off his blindfold. The Batmobile flies away. Toad screams “You wait ’til Pyg comes! You’ll all wish you’d never been born!”
We slide over to the Batcave where Dick and Alfred have completely shut down the Batcave and covered up all the various computers, equipment and memorabilia. Alfred asks Dick if he is having second thoughts.
Dick replies that he always knew that this is what he would do if something happened to Bruce. Dick says that he just did not want to face it. That this was Dick’s worst nightmare as a kid. That as long as he was Nightwing he could pretend that he would never have to take over as Batman. That Bruce would always be here.
Dick then asks Alfred what he is getting himself into with Damien as Robin. Alfred answers that Damien can certainly be difficult, but that Damien is his father’s son. That beneath all of Damien’s defensive bluster is Bruce’s courage, determination and desire to do what is right. Alfred says that if anyone can bring out the best in Damien that it would be Dick.
Dick and Alfred drive away from Wayne Manor. Dick stares at the gravestone of Thomas and Martha Wayne as they leave the grounds of Wayne Manor. Alfred says that Bruce was always so proud of Dick. And that Bruce would be especially proud of Dick right now.
We cut to Dick and Damien in a modified Batcave facility underneath Wayne Tower in downtown Gotham. Alfred enters the underground facility with food for the boys. Damien is busy working on the Batmobile. Damien curtly tells Alfred to put the food by his tool kit. Damien then thanks Alfred.
Alfred comments on how impressive Damien’s work on the Batmobile has been. Alfred says that the gyroscopic array was a source of endless frustration for Damien’s father. Damien responds that he promised to finish what Bruce started. Damien then says “That will be all, Pennyworth.”
Alfred then serves Dick his food. Dick compliments Alfred on his excellent cooking. Dick then says that Mr. Toad does not show up in any databases that the JLA, Titans or International Club of Heroes have. Dick says that he knows European circus slang when he hears it and Toad was definitely speaking it.
Alfred comments that Dick has now kicked off in earnest his first week as Batman. Dick responds that he cannot shake the feeling that he is wearing a shroud. Damien walks over and tells Dick that if Dick is not up for it then to stand aside and let Damien be Batman. Damien says that he was bred for the job. Damien says that he was trained by the League of Assassins. Damien says that he could easily continue his father’s work on his own.
Dick replies “Maybe one day. But not today.” Dick tells Damien to put on his mask and get into the Batmobile. They then race off into the streets of Gotham city.
We cut to Toad in prison. Toad screams that he has friends and that the Police won’t be able to keep him in jail. Toad yells that Gotham will soon belong to “us.”
We cut back to Dick and Damien flying through Gotham in the Batmobile. Damien tells Dick that Dick can have his respect when Dick earns it. Damien reminds Dick that he is not Damien’s father. Dick tells Damien to lose the attitude and that Dick can still offer the position as Robin to Tim Drake.
Dick tells the Batmobile to hover. Dick asks Damien if he is ready to test the paracapes. Dick says that it is time for Batman and Robin. That they are back together again for the first time.
We slide to Commissioner Gordon and a couple of cops on the roof of the police headquarters. Gordon has turned on the batsignal. One of the cops says that Batman has not been seen nor has Batman answered the batsignal for months. Gordon replies that it is still worth a try to turn on the batsignal and see if Batman responds.
We then see Dick and Damien gliding through the sky where the batsignal is located. We cut to outside the police headquarters. A car screeches up to the headquarters and a man made of fire tumbles out of the car. The man then attacks a couple of cops.
We cut to the apartment where Niko, one of Mr. Toad’s thugs from the beginning of this issue, is frantically packing his luggage. Niko tells his daughter to get ready to leave. Niko says that he just escaped from the Batman and that is something you do not do twice.
There is a knock on the door and Niko opens it. An unconscious Lev, the other thug from the beginning of the issue, falls through the doorway. Pyg and a bunch of his thugs who look like deformed dolls enter the room. They knock Niko out.
Niko wakes up and finds himself tied to a table. Pyg is standing there wearing a pig mask over his face. Pyg says that Niko should never have betrayed him. Pyg then says that he is going to give Niko a new face. The doll-like thugs place a mask like theirs over Niko’s face. The mask burns itself onto Niko’s face.
Pyg says that there is always pain when ugliness is burned away. But that pain is the beginning of perfection. Pyg says that Niko has been a bad man, but that Pyg will not make Niko perfect. The doll-like thugs hand Pyg a tray of surgical tools.
Pyg says that Niko’s daughter will be next. And that Niko will help Pyg with her. And that when Pyg is done that both Niko and his daughter will be lovely dolls together. Pyg says that he will make Niko’s daughter perfect. Pyg says that he is here to make everything perfect. Niko’s daughter screams. End of issue.
The Good: Batman and Robin #1 was quite an enjoyable read. Morrison does a fine job building off the themes that he was playing with in “Batman RIP” concerning Batman’s wacky Silver Age stories from the late 1950’s and 1960’s. However, Morrison does so in a much less meta-fictional manner. Instead, in Batman and Robin #1, Morrison simply takes some of the feel and look of the Silver Age Batman and subtly meshes into the post-Battle for the Cowl world of Batman.
Morrison takes some of the Silver Age themes of the Batman mythos and incorporates them into a story that has a modern sensibility. It is not nearly to the level of what Morrison did with All Star Superman. Instead, it is just enough to give the post-Battle for the Cowl world of Batman a distinctive flair. And that is important as it emphasizes the absence of Bruce and allows for not quite such a grim and dark take on Batman’s world.
Morrison wastes no time injecting the Silver Age feel into Batman and Robin by debuting a flying Batmobile. That was brilliant and put a smile on my face. This opening scene serves notice on the reader that Morrison is going to deliver a version of Batman that is stylistically opposite of the post-Frank Miller Batman that we have gotten since 1986. The outrageously styled flying Batmobile is also a stark contrast with the more “realistic” urban assault vehicle that Batman employs in the past two Batman movies.
Morrison knows that part of what made the Silver Age Batman so entertaining were Batman’s wild and outrageous gadgets and equipment that sometimes bordered on ludicrousness. Morrison also unveils the paracapes that allow Batman and Robin to fly through the air in stylish fashion.
Morrison also makes a concerted effort to change the setting for Batman in the Post-Battle for the Cowl world. Gone is Wayne Manor and the Batcave. The new Batman and Robin call Wayne Tower in downtown Gotham their home. And the new Batman and Robin utilize the secret base underneath the tower as their “Batcave.” It is interesting to note that this new headquarters for Batman looks quite reminiscent to the underground facility that Batman uses in the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight.
The new headquarters for Dick and Damien help to further carve out their own identity as Batman and Robin independent of Bruce. By changing the setting of the Batman world, Morrison is able to give Dick and Damien their own independence from the long shadow of Bruce Wayne that is ever present in Wayne Manor and the Batcave.
What was particularly surprising and enjoyable about Batman and Robin #1 was that it was rather new reader friendly. Morrison made an effort to make this issue relatively accessible for new readers. It is not necessary at all for the reader to have read Battle for the Cowl. Morrison nicely incorporates some back-story on Damien and Dick in a succinct manner that does not interrupt the flow of the story. This brings newer readers up to speed with a minimum of effort and allows Morrison to waste no time in kicking off this debut story arc.
Batman and Robin #1 was well paced. Morrison massages the flow of the story wonderfully. The issue starts off with a rousing chase scene. Morrison then slows down the story with more dialogue heavy scenes that flesh out the characters and the initial story arc. Morrison then cranks up the intensity in order to deliver a good hook ending.
Morrison also delivers a nicely plotted read. Batman and Robin #1 is a tightly crafted story as Morrison has a clear destination in mind with this story. Morrison remains focused throughout this issue and lays the foundation for what should be a detailed story that is going to progress with a purpose. There is plenty of substance to the story in this issue without it becoming obtuse or too dense.
Morrison crafts some fine dialogue. All the characters have good external voices. The character work is particularly impressive. Morrison does a fine job with both Dick and Damien. Morrison nicely distinguishes the two “brothers.”
Morrison has flipped the traditional Batman and Robin roles as Batman is now the lighter and more positive character and Robin is the darker, more intense and focused character. And just like Dick brought balance and light to Bruce, Dick will now have to do the same with Bruce’s son.
Morrison takes effort to show the differences between Dick and Bruce. And I appreciate this effort. I am glad that Morrison is allowing Dick to retain his established personality rather than morphing Dick into a Bruce Wayne clone.
Dick clearly brings his own style to being Batman. And that is how it should be. Morrison also makes a point in this issue to emphasize Dick’s circus background. And that is important since Dick’s circus background is a unique aspect of his character that separates Dick from Bruce, Tim and Damien.
Morrison does a nice job with how he has Dick accept his new role as the Batman. It was important to stress that it was not a matter of not wanting to be the Batman, but more a matter of not wanting to think about it. That life was easier when Dick was Nightwing and he could just act like Bruce would always be around. This is the typical state of denial that most children experience once they become truly independent adults.
This is the moment where Morrison plays with the theme of the father/son relationship. A son will always want to believe his father will always be around. A son never wants to think about the reality that one day he will have to bury his father. And the fact is that some sons do have to eventually step into their fathers’ shoes. Dick always knew that he would be Batman one day. That Bruce would not live forever. But, it was something that Dick simply did not want to think about.
On the flip side, Morrison takes great effort to show how similar Damien is to Bruce. Damien’s focus, drive, intensity and curt dialogue are all reminiscent of Bruce. Morrison seems to be the only writer who understands Damien’s character. We do not get the shallow bratty punk that Daniel gave us in Battle for the Cowl. Yes, Morrison has Damien act a bit bratty at moments, but that is given considering his upbringing and his age.
The fact is that Damien is the son of Talia and Bruce. And Damien was trained by the League of Assassins. Someone with that pedigree and training would most certainly have an inflated view of themselves and an incredibly large ego. So, while Morrison does have Damien act like a brat at moments; Morrison also pays equal time to Damien’s positive traits like his amazing focus, incredible intelligence and his impressive technical skills.
The scene where Alfred serves Damien his dinner while Damien is hard at work on the Batmobile really hammers home the similarities between Damien and Bruce. Damien acts just like a young Bruce Wayne as Damien is completely focused on the task at hand and simply directs Alfred to put his dinner by the toolbox. That is in contrast with how Dick yammers on about how good the food is. Still, Morrison also makes sure that Damien does not come across as a complete jerk. Damien does thank Alfred for the food. Even if it is in a cursory manner like Bruce used to do.
It was a wise move by Morrison to use Alfred to point out to the reader the various similarities between Damien and Bruce as well as the positive aspects of Damien’s character. This was a smart way to try to get the reader to warm up a bit to Damien’s character. Alfred is a beloved character and if he can find the positive aspects of Damien then hopefully the reader will be more likely to do so as well. This is a good way to sell a new character that has been having trouble gaining traction with many readers. Myself included.
I particularly enjoyed the cool public unveiling of the new Batman and Robin as they paracaped their way through the batsignal in the sky. It had a nice dramatic effect without being too over the top. That was a fine way to kick off the careers of the new Batman and Robin.
Morrison presents the reader with two good villains in this issue with Mr. Toad and Pyg. Mr. Toad is a classic Silver Age styled villain. Old school Batman villains always had a funky gimmick and Mr. Toad certainly has that going for him. And I enjoyed the cute nod to the old defunct Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World with Mr. Toad’s wild car chase scene in the beginning of the issue.
Morrison nicely contrasts Mr. Toad with a much more modern styled villain in Pyg. Pyg is incredibly creepy. Pyg’s ghoulish doll-like thugs further his eerie persona. The entire circus of the grotesque as the theme for the villains is a nice choice. And it builds off the Theater of the Grotesque theme of the villains from “Batman RIP.”
At the end of Batman and Robin #1 Morrison gives us a teaser page with four panels of events to come later this year on Batman and Robin. In one panel we see Damien turning his back on Dick. In the second panel we see the new Red Hood. In the third panel we see Dick and Batwoman fighting next to what appears to be a Lazarus Pit with Batman’s body rising out of it. In the fourth panel we see Dr. Hurt holding a set of keys to Wayne Manor.
We all knew that at some point there would be the inevitable moment of conflict between Dick and Damien. We are also going to be getting a new Red Hood. I remain cautiously optimistic with this plotline. I hope that the new Red Hood is a character that we already know. The scene with Dick and Batwoman in what appears to be a Lazarus pit is interesting.
That panel that interested me the most is the one with Dr. Hurt holding the keys to Wayne Manor. I am glad to see that Dr. Hurt will be making an appearance at some point. Morrison simply left way to many plotlines unresolved with the ending of “Batman RIP.” Therefore, I am thrilled that Morrison is planning on addressing the various dangling plotlines from “Batman RIP.”
I loved the look of Batman and Robin #1. Frank Quitely did a masterful job with the artwork. The layout for this issue was fantastic and Quitely manages to bring Morrison’s story to life in a fine fashion. Quitely is able to blend plenty of Silver Age styling cues into the modern era of Batman. The cutaway shot of Wayne Tower and the secret underground base was a neat old school method that you do not see that much of in modern comic books. The amount of detail that Quitely delivers is impressive. I love how Quitely handles little things like Damien’s body language in order to convey his stand-offish and haughty personality.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.
Overall: Batman and Robin #1 was a fun read. This issue immediately hooked me on this new title and I am looking forward to the next issue.
I would certainly recommend this issue to Batman fans. And do not be scared off from Batman and Robin because of the fact that Morrison is writing it. This is not Final Crisis or “Batman RIP.” Batman and Robin #1 is a straightforward read that is actually quite linear. For a Morrison penned issue, Batman and Robin #1 is easy to digest.