Down the Grant Morrison rabbit hole we gooooooooooooooooooo!
BATMAN AND ROBIN
There are some pieces to the puzzle missing in this issue due to Morrison's usual dependence on trying to connect everything with everything else instead of telling a straightforward story about mysterious tunnels and chambers discovered beneath Wayne manor.
That said, this issue was mostly a fight scene in the Wayne graveyard. It's hard to twist up a fight scene in convoluted storytelling, so this issue wasn't too bad, despite that it's unclear exactly WHO Robin and a British detective are fighting because they seem to come from another book. Can't remember if Morrison was still on the main Batman title at this point, but this is probably a plot point from there bleeding into this title.
All that aside, I really like the art on this issue. It has a very "Brian Bolland" look to it, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Oh for God's sake, Grant Morrison.
Damian Wayne is being remote controlled by Talia Al Ghul and Deathstroke to attack Batman. Batman fought a giant bat-demon beneath Wayne Manor (or at least I think so. It took place off panel for some reason and is mentioned in passing). And the cherry on top of this rancid Morrison Madness sundae is that the cultured British detective Oberon Sexton is actually the Joker in disguise.
The Joker reveal has to be one of the most ridiculous things I've read in a long time. Morrison makes Dick Grayson look like a chump that can be fooled by a mask after spending YEARS fighting the Joker. No bueno.
We're in deep, people. Personally, I'm at the point where my "Morrison Meter" is in the orange and I'm starting to not want to read the next issue.
So now we have the 5th artist in 13 issues. I really like Irving's dark, moody art. His depiction of the Joker is one of the best I've seen. Very nice on the art end of things.
As far as the story goes. . .
Once again, it seems like most of the background material for this issue is actually somewhere else. For God's sake, why can't Morrison keep a story in one title? He did it for the first 6 issues.
So I guess the world thinks Thomas Wayne (AKA Bruce's dad) is back from the dead, but it's really an immortal Devil Worshipper (Also named Thomas Wayne) from the 1700's. Wait. . .what?
That nonsense aside, there's some nice story moments between Commish Gordon and Batman about how well Dick Grayson is filling some mighty big boots. There's also a nice tense confrontation between Joker and Damian. Also, Professor Pyg returns. So aside from the wacky Thomas Wayne crap, the rest of it was actually pretty good.
This issue starts extremely strong with the Joker using Damian Wayne to escape. A very nicely done scene.
Unfortunately, the rest of the issue is a mess. It's completely off the rails, and not in a good way. I won't even attempt to describe the convoluted plot.
That said, the opening scene, the fantastic artwork, and just the general WRONG of Professor Pyg keep this issue from being completely bad.
In this issue, we have Batman and Robin teaming up with Joker to take on Doctor Hurt (AKA Thomas Wayne. . .immortal devil worshipper and all-round A-Hole) and Professor Pyg as Gotham riots under the influence of a mind controlling virus.
Oh. . .and the real Batman shows up.
It's bad. Really bad. God damn you, Grant Morrison. You've taken the fun out of reading Batman and Robin.
That said, the art is still superb and the last page reveal of Batman's return was great, so it wasn't ALL bad. . .just 95% of it.
There's 3 artists on this issue (making it 7 artists in 16 issues for those keeping count). The difference between the three is jolting, as none of them have a similar style. I'd have to say I like Burnham's the best, with Irving second. Stewart's art is pretty much "Comic Stock" and is just sort of there while the other two are superb.
This issue (Thank God!) ends the current arc with Batman returned, Joker escaped after burying Doctor Hurt alive, Professor Pyg captured again, questions about what's going to happen to the Dick Grayson/Damian Wayne Batman and Robin team, and the public announcement of "Batman Incorporated".
There's some fantastic art in this issue, and a sweet fight scene with the two Batmen and Robin against all comers that elevate this issue from no bueno to pretty good.
That said, this whole convoluted arc seemed like nothing more than a vehicle for Bruce Wayne's return and the introduction of Batman Incorporated.
Hopefully, now that required DC business bizniz is out of the way, they can go back to some more straightforward storytelling and a bit of fun.
Praise the LAWD!
Grant Morrison turned his attention toward Batman Incorporated and away from Batman and Robin!
Along with the new writer, there's also another artist on this issue (That's artist #8 in 17 issues). His art is pretty good, with a sharper, more angular, "Comic Booky" style that fits the story nicely. My only complaint is that the artist draws Damian too old. He's about as tall and buff as Batman (Still Dick Grayson, as Bruce Wayne is globetrotting to gather international heroes for Batman Inc.) instead of looking like a 10 year old kid.
The story isn't the greatest, but at least it's straightforward and doesn't depend on silver age fan service and self-referential continuity. It has some fun moments, and isn't full of the "Everything must connect, everything is bigger than it seems" pretentious crap that is Grant Morrison's hallmark. Thank God he turned his attention elsewhere.
I might actually be able to finish reading this run without forcing my way through it.
So, two artists on this issue. . .making it 9 in 18 issues. Once again, the styles aren't particularly complimentary. The change becomes obvious when Robin suddenly shrinks in stature from being a buff teen to a young boy. Neither art style is spectacular, but they aren't bad either.
The story is pretty straightforward and to the point (Thank God), telling the origin of "The Absence" (The villain of this arc). There's some good parts, but the fact remains that The Absence is a completely ridiculous villain. But then again, I got what I asked for, right? Straightforward, simplified stories that bring a bit of fun back to Batman and Robin?
Unfortunately, it reads like 70's schlock. Would it be too much to ask for a happy medium?
This issue concludes the first non-Morrison arc. All in all, it was a straightforward story that had a few good moments and built up to a pretty good ending.
The villain was sympathetic, but really ridiculous. She reminded me of some of the Batman books I grew up on in the 70's. Is that a bad thing? I was just glad I didn't have to go to the internet for reference, so I think I can forgive a bit of schlock and camp.
All things considered, this arc was pretty good. Not great. Not even close to great. Just pretty good. A bit fluffy compared to Morrison's weighty crap, but there's nothing wrong with that, as far as I'm concerned.
And there you have it. . .issues 11-19 of Batman and Robin. Only 7 issues left.
I have to tell you, it was a real effort to make my way through to the end of Morrison's run. I just about gave up on it around issue 14. I guess I'm just a sucker for punishment.
Coming Next. . .putting the wrap on Batman and Robin. Be there or be square!
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Issue # 1