Batman and Robin #2 Review

I enjoyed Batman and Robin #1. Despite the fact that I found the Battle for the Cowl to be terribly hackneyed and despite the fact that DC’s handling of Batman is nothing more than a watered down version of what Marvel has done with Captain America. Morrison managed to turn in a brilliantly creative debut issue on this title that immediately captured my interest. I am confident that Morrison will turn in another quality read with Batman and Robin #2. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Dick back at the Bat-bunker with his head in his hands. Alfred is standing next to Dick and asks Dick what happened. We flashback to Dick and Damien landing on the roof of the Gotham Police Headquarters where Gordon is waiting by the Bat-signal. Gordon tells Dick that Mr. Toad will not talk. Suddenly, Gordon is radioed that there is trouble in the police headquarters. Dick and Damien race down the stairs into the building.

One of the cops next to Gordon asks if both Batman and Robin used to be taller. The cop adds that Batman also sounded different. Gordon says that Batman sounded different but familiar. Gordon adds that he has also seen Robin before. Gordon and the two cops then follow Dick and Damien into the building.

We cut to inside the first floor of the police headquarters where the flaming guy, Rex, rushes inside and proceeds to burn several more cops. Big Top then steps out of the car that the villains drove up in. Big Top is an extremely fat woman (?) and she has a large gun that she fires at the police. The gun fires several gas canisters. We see Dick and Damien on the first floor with their gas masks on. We see four circus thugs enter the headquarters to serve as support for Rex and Big Top.

Damien immediately leaps into battle and attacks the four thugs. The four thugs prove more than Damien can handle by himself. Dick tells Damien to step aside. Dick then springs to action and takes on the four thugs. Dick kicks ass on the four thugs. Dick then tells Damien to stay by his side. Damien ignores Dick and goes after Big Top who is making her way to Mr. Toad’s cell. Damien attacks Big Top.

We see Dick battling with Rex. Dick yells out that he needs Damien over here. Damien does not answer. Dick then uses a fire extinguisher to take down Rex. Dick then yells out “Robin! Where the hell are you?” We cut to Damien still brawling with Big Top.

We slide back to Dick tying up the four circus thugs. Gordon appears on the scene. The circus thugs are all talking in circus slang. Only Dick understands what they are saying. Dick says that Mr. Toad’s crew has been trading in some next level mind control drugs with Russian people traffickers.

We zip back to the present with Dick and Alfred in the Bat-bunker. Dick says that their first mission together at the police headquarters was a disaster. That four cops go killed in the fight. Dick says that he knew one of them from when he was on the police force in Bludhaven.

We cut back to the brawl at the police headquarters. We see that Damien is beating on Big Top. Gordon and a couple of cops pull their guns and order Damien to stop attacking Big Top. Damien continues to beat on Big Top and is demanding to know what kind of attack Big Top’s boss is planning on unleashing.

Dick then appears on the scene and pulls Damien off of Big Top. Damien snaps at Dick that he almost had beaten the information out of Big Top. A couple of cops look inside of Mr. Toad’s cell and see that Mr. Toad was killed during the brawl. There is a domino in one of Mr. Toad’s hands. Dick notices the domino. Gordon demands to know how a suspect was killed in his cell right under their noses and no one saw it.

We shift to Dick and Damien arriving back at the Bat-bunker. Dick yells at Damien that intimidation is one thing, but that there have to be limits. Dick says that if they step over the line then Gordon will not hesitate to hunt them down. Damien scoffs at Dick’s suggestion. Damien growls that he already promised his father that he would not kill. Now, Dick is telling him that he has to be nice to police? Damien wants no part of that.

Dick rants that being Batman and Robin is not about working alone and thinking with your fists. That it is about detective skills. It is about learning to follow a direct order. Damien smirks that Dick’s pathetic impression of Bruce is making a mockery of Bruce’s memory. Damien tells Dick to keep his clues, detective skills and limits. Damien says that he is going to do this his way. Dick replies that Damien is ten years old. Dick says that Damien has a lot to learn. Damien spits that he will go find a teacher that he respects.

Damien marches off toward his motorcycle. Dick yells for Damien to get back here. Dick yells that it is an order. Damien brushes off Dick and leaves. We cut back to the present with Dick and Alfred still talking. Dick says that he sounded like an idiot trying to order Damien around. Dick said he sounded fake; like a kid trying to do Batman’s voice. Dick wonders where Damien went.

Alfred says that he has no idea where Damien went. Alfred says that he came down into the Bat-bunker to tell them that the Quad-bat is ready for a test drive. Dick asks Alfred if he was such a brat when he was Damien’s age. Alfred replies that Dick had loving parents. That Dick had role models of the highest caliber. Damien, on the other hand, was raised by assassins and thieves. Dick grumbles that he is irritated by Damien’s know-it-all super-villain attitude and sneer.

Dick says that it is not just Damien. That Gordon and the police do not think he is Batman. That nobody believes Dick is Batman. Dick says that he spent years building up respect as Nightwing and now he is being viewed as a psychotic Batman impersonator. Dick says that the whole idea of replacing Bruce was insane. Dick says that he hates the cape. That the cape was the first thing he got rid off when he became Nightwing.

Dick says that he is way off balance. Dick then reigns in his complaining and apologizes and says that Alfred does not need to hear this. Alfred tells Dick that Dick does not have time to lament his situation. Alfred tells Dick that he must go test drive the Quad-bat. Alfred mentions that Dick’s job is not all that bad.

Alfred then tells Dick that Dick’s parents were show business people. Alfred tells Dick to not think of his Batman as being a memorial. Alfred says that they both know Bruce would hate that. Alfred tells Dick to think of his Batman has a performance. Alfred says Dick should view the role of Batman as a great role like Hamlet or even James Bond. Alfred says that Dick should play the role to his strengths.

Alfred says that there is no doubt that Damien is racing toward trouble. That the curtain is up and the spotlight is on Dick. Alfred continues that everyone is waiting for the hero to take the stage. Dick puts on the cowl. Dick tells Alfred to never let him forget the golden rule: The show must go on. Alfred tells Dick to “Break a leg.”

We cut to Damien arriving at the abandoned circus where Pyg’s Circus of the Strange is hiding out. Damien sees a person being held captive in a cage. The person calls out for Damien’s help. Suddenly, Damien is overwhelmed by a bunch of Pyg’s thugs. Pyg enters the scene. Pyg says “The hour of the pig has come! And the night belongs to me!” One of Pyg’s thugs activates some explosives that blow up Damien.

We then cut to Dick racing through Gotham on the Quad-bat. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Batman and Robin #2 was a solid read. While this issue was not as good as Batman and Robin #1, there was still much to enjoy with this issue. Morrison delivered an excellent character study with Batman and Robin #2. Morrison eases off the gas pedal and slows down the story so that he may closer examine the relationship between Dick and Damien as well as Dick’s adjustment to wearing Bruce’s cape and cowl.

Despite the slower pacing, Batman and Robin #2 was a properly balanced issue. Morrison treats the reader to a good blend of action scenes and character driven scenes. The excellent fight scene at the police station keeps this issue a lively read despite the lack of any plot progression.

The real strengths of Batman and Robin #2 were the well crafted dialogue and the impressive character work. The main purpose of this issue was to take an up close look at the relationship between Dick and Damien. This is not exactly the same legendary teamwork that the reader has seen with previous versions of the Dynamic Duo in the Bruce and Dick combination and the Bruce and Tim combination.

Morrison takes the time and effort to show the reader the challenges that lie ahead for this current version of the Dynamic Duo. Morrison emphasizes how things are much different in the wake of Bruce’s “death.” The reader sees how Dick and Damien fight as separate units instead of as a cohesive team. And the result is that several cops end up getting killed and Mr. Toad is also killed before our heroes can extract any valuable information from him.

Morrison also shows how Damien has a complete lack of control in the way that he deals with criminals. Damien has no problems at all with beating a confession out of a criminal. And this puts Damien not only at odds with Dick, but also with Gordon. The friction with Gordon was an interesting little wrinkle since it has been a long time since Gordon has not worked hand-in-glove with Batman and Robin. Morrison hints at the fact that Gordon may not have the same trust in the new Batman and Robin that he did in Bruce and Tim. A possible rift with Gordon would be yet another headache for Dick as he endeavors to bear Bruce’s heavy mantle.

Morrison does a fine job stressing the philosophic differences between Dick and Damien. I like that Damien has a complete lack of respect for Dick. This is exactly how Damien should be handled. It would have been forced and inconsistent with Damien’s character if Morrison had Damien blindly follow Dick right from the start. This type of friction is to be expected and will place yet another challenge in front of Dick in his new role as Batman. Dick is a disciple of Bruce’s belief in the power of the mind over fists. Dick respects the amazing cerebral detective side of Bruce’s personality. On the other hand, Damien respects the physical power and aggressiveness of Bruce’s personality.

Morrison wisely has Alfred point out the differences in Dick and Damien’s upbringing. This was important to remind the reader why Damien acts the way he does. Morrison is the only writer who understands Damien’s character and who knows how to properly write Damien. Damien is not simply a spoiled brat.

Damien is a product of his environment. Since birth Damien has been raised by murders, assassins and thieves. It would make no sense for Damien to act any different than the way that Morrison had him behave in this issue. It is completely understandable that Damien would chafe under the restrictions placed upon him by Dick. By reminding the reader of Damien’s background, Morrison is attempting to get the reader to view Damien as something more than just a one dimensional brat.

The necessary friction and strife between Dick and Damien at this early point in their relationship should allow for some strong growth and evolution in their relationship. Hopefully, Morrison will be able to have both characters mature into their roles as Batman and Robin.

I am enjoying the little details that Morrison is putting into the story concerning this new Dynamic Duo. These small details are seamlessly placed into the story and help to act as small cues to the reader that this is a new Dynamic Duo. A good example of this is when the cop next to Gordon off-handedly mentioned how both Batman and Robin are shorter than they used to be. It is important that Morrison continue to write Dick and Damien differently than Bruce and Tim.

Batman and Robin #2 contains a wonderful character study of Dick Grayson. Morrison displays quite a nice feel for Dick’s character in this issue. Morrison is able to have Dick experience a moment of self-doubt and inadequacy concerning his attempt at playing Batman without making Dick look too mopey and whiny. Morrison does not shy away from the fact that Dick is most certainly not Bruce. Instead, Morrison embraces this fact and has fun using this to give Dick his own distinct take on the Batman.

I like how Dick fells like a kid faking the Batman voice. I also enjoy how no one recognizes Dick as Batman. Not Damien, not Gordon and not any of the villains. This feeling out process on how to play the Batman role is critical for Dick to bring his own style to being the Batman rather than just trying to be a Bruce Wayne clone.

Morrison stresses the differences between Bruce and Dick by playing up the fact that at his core Dick is a circus performer. And Dick’s past which is rooted in show business gives Dick a much different style than Bruce. Morrison takes the circus theme and extends it from Dick’s past into Dick’s future as Batman.

The use of show business terms by Alfred were well played. Alfred’s suggestion that Dick play the Batman as a great role like a true show business performer was a brilliant take on Dick assuming the role of Batman. The show must go on and Dick viewing himself playing the role of Batman like any other great role gels nicely with Dick’s background and personality.

Hopefully, this will enable Morrison to make Dick a more flamboyant Batman than what Bruce brought to the table. It would be nice to see this reflected in Batman’s fighting style. Bruce is a larger and more powerful man than Dick. And Bruce used a more brutal and no-nonsense style of fighting. Dick, on the other hand, is a smaller and more athletic man. It would be neat to see Dick as Batman employ a more acrobatic and high-flying style of fighting.

Morrison ends Batman and Robin #2 with a solid hook ending with Damien in peril and Dick racing to the rescue on his cool new toy, the Quad-bat. Morrison continues to show a vivid imagination when it comes to Batman’s gadgets and vehicles. The Batmobile that we got in the previous issue was delightfully outrageous. And the Quad-bat is more of the same. This is a neat little nod to the Silver Age Batman with the fantastic vehicles and gadgets that he used to employ.

Batman and Robin #2 is a wonderful looking issue thanks to Frank Quitely’s distinctive and imaginative artwork. Quitely is bringing such a neat and unusual look to the Batman’s world that combines both the modern era of Batman with the Silver Age of Batman. Quitely is easily able to keep pace with the strange characters and outlandish gadgets that Morrison is able to create. The design and layout of the panels in this issue make Batman and Robin #2 a fun and unique looking issue.

The Bad: The biggest defect of Batman and Robin #2 is the lack of any plot progression. This issue is quite stagnant as plot wise nothing really happens at all in this issue. The reader is basically at the same spot that they were at the end of Batman and Robin #1. The reader does not learn anything new about Pyg or his Circus of the Strange. Morrison basically put the story on hold in order to perform some character work and flesh out the dynamic that exists between Dick and Damien. This robs Batman and Robin #2 of some of the excitement and strong pacing that the first issue possessed.

Overall: Batman and Robin #2 was another good read. Morrison is doing a fine job with this title as he continues to make Batman and Robin very new reader friendly. Morrison gives just enough background information about Dick and Damien without getting in the way of the current story and boring long-time readers. Morrison also continues to deliver a nice linear read on this title. Readers who may have avoided Batman and Robin out of fear that they were going to get something like RIP or Final Crisis should have no fear. Batman and Robin is much different in style and structure than either RIP or Final Crisis.
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Rokk

2 Comments

  1. Allow me to join in on the critical hallelujah's and say, yeah, this book rocks.

    But was I the only one kind of thrown when I flipped to the last page and they threw in a full-page ad for some new "Hush" release? It couldn't have been more awkwardly placed.

  2. Well Rokk, I'm afraid you are close to losing me from following your site (it was even hard to find a post of yours to write to). I understand your efforts to get other reviewers to do reviews so you can have more reviews and lighten your load. Where it hurts my readership is all the other 'columns' (especially Groovy Superhero' which I'm sure you enjoy but I decidedly do not). Really, I came here for reviews and while they are still present, they are a minority (or so it seems) of the posts. I'll try a little longer, but unless there is soon an easier way to just see reviews and none of the other stuff, that might just be it for me.

    Thanks for a great couple of years.
    – werehawk

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