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Grant Morrison’s Run on Batman & Robin – Batman Reborn, Batman vs. Robin & Batman Must Die! (Review/Retrospective)

December is “Grant Morrison month” here at the m0vie blog, as we take the month to consider and reflect on one of the most critically acclaimed (and polarising) authors working in the medium. Every Wednesday this month, we’ll have a Grant Morrison related review or retrospective.

I am going to be honest. I didn’t love Grant Morrison’s tenure on Batman. It felt a bit awkward and continuity-heavy – don’t get me wrong, I appreciated his attempt to tie together just about every aspect and iteration of Batman ever, but it just felt a bit too much. Yes, Batman can be the grim avenger or the charming ladies’ man or the camp crusader or the superhero or the urban vigilante or the world’s greatest detective or a swinging icon, but – in reading Morrison’s run – it felt too awkward to make Batman all of these at the same time. Perhaps, then, it’s because Batman & Robin sets itself a more modest goal (in that it doesn’t attempt to reconcile every aspect of the character’s seventy-year history) or just because Morrison appears to be enjoying himself far more, but this second act in Grant Morrison’s epic Batman saga is a much more engaging read.

The run gets off to an explosive start…

Grant Morrison’s relaunched Batman & Robin follows the supposed death of Bruce Wayne, with the original Robin, Dick Grayson, adopting the identity in order to preserve his mentor’s legacy. Dick is joined by Bruce’s ten-year-old genetically-engineered trained-by-assassins son Damian as Robin. It’s an interesting dynamic, allowing Morrison to write a relatively light-hearted Batman and a rather dour and serious Robin (“you sound just like,” the Joker observes before a beating, “like him” – referring to Bruce), an inversion of the usual duo dynamic. Together, they fight crime. Or, to borrow a quote from the pair, “crime is doomed.”

Anyone expecting a particularly grim and gritty iteration of the iconic character would perhaps be best served to look elsewhere, but that isn’t to say that Morrison tones down the creepiness of proceedings. Although Morrison (again) steers clear of the traditional Bat villains, he creates more of his own here – each just and sinister and disturbing as any of Batman’s longterm foes. There’s groteque home surgery, narcotics addiction, vigilantes willing to kill and a viscious beating with a crowbar, but all set to a bright neon pallet.

Batman and Robin take flight…

A lot of people rue Adam West and the Batman! television show from the sixties. They believe that the camp nature of the show – with the dancing and the “old chum” and the stilted delivery – almost killed the character, and he was lucky to endure that. I’ve never subscribed to such a radical idea (in fact, Batman! reflected the camp wackiness of the comics for the time rather than inspiring it, it just gave the character some mainstream exposure), perhaps because I remember watching reruns of the show as a child. Sure, in the years since we’ve had Tim Burton’s gothic Batman and Christopher Nolan’s neo noir Batman Begins, and both are undoubtedly more mature and considered iterations of the character, but we tend to ignore or forget the bright neon colours and surreal nature of certain parts of Batman’s history.

Grant Morrison’s sixteen-issue run on Batman & Robin perhaps offers an attempt to reclaim that period – an attempt to suggest that the colours can be bright and the stories goofy, while still being clever and complex. It is as if Adam West’s Gotham was crossed with Salvador Dali or Andy Warhol. Morrison’s long-term collaborator Frank Quitely provides the artwork for the first arc and the covers for the full run, and it’s his style which undeniably sets the tone for those that follow. There are numerous little touches which lend the series an almost retro appeal – be it Quitely’s revised flying Batmobile or the decision to draw sound effects (like the one above) or even the recurring motif of a corny “double punch” into the comic.

Does Dick get off to a good start, right off the Bat?

While Philip Tan would provide his own style on The Revenge of the Red Hood and Frazer Irving brought a grotesquely beautiful perspective to Batman & Robin Must Die!, the entire series is heavily influenced by Quitely – Cameron Stewart and Andy Clarke both offer a bright and cartoonish approach to the material which works well. In fact, in the supplemental material, Morrison remarks that he sought to play up the cartoonish aspect – of the series logo, he remarks, “I especially liked its cartoon-ish quality, which suggested some unseen animated show.”

Morrison seems to make a conscious effort to allow his series to stand on its own. Although it is tied into Morrison’s earlier work on Batman – and, specifically, the “death” of Batman in Final Crisis – the series isn’t a quagmire of obscure references to past adventures or long-forgotten issues. When Morrison does reference events and issues outside his run (for example, the demon Barbatos), he provides enough information that it doesn’t seem like he is consciously excluding the reader. It’s a nice approach and one which works well. Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that a reader could jump into Morrison’s run at this point without at least having read Batman R.I.P., but this run of issues is far more accessible than most of what has come before.

A very dynamic duo…

On reading Batman & Robin, it immediately seems clear that Morrison is working a lot more fluidly than he did during his original Batman run. Dick Grayson just seems a better fit for all the neon gothic weirdness that the Scot seems to have cooked up, while Bruce almost seemed ashamed to trudge through Silver Age memories like Batman: The Superman of Planet X! or Robin Dies at Dawn! even if Morrison retconned these ridiculous experiments into an attempt to get inside the Joker’s psyche. It felt awkward to shoehorn Bruce Wayne – a character consciously distanced from the camp excesses of the fifties and sixties – into these types of stories.

For some reason, Dick just works better. Perhaps it’s the fact that “the Boy Wonder” has always seemed a ridiculously campy idea, jumping around in bright-colour short-shorts – Robin’s arrival on-screen in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever marked the moment the franchise went from gothic adventure to neon camp, and the character has not featured at all in the Dark Knight trilogy (nor is he likely to). Somehow putting a man in a giant bat costume can be made even more ridiculous by giving him a teenage sidekick in primary colours. As such Robin – and, despite his career of Nightwing, Dick Grayson will always be most iconic as Robin – serves as a focal point for the weird neon vibe and camp of the franchise. Grant Morrison is just writing a book featuring two of them.

Morrison’s on fire when it comes to creating new villains…

“All this is for him,” Bruce confessed at one point in The Butler Did It, the epilogue to Morrison’s Batman run. He suggested that more ridiculously Silver Age elements of his career were simply done to keep a young Dick Grayson engaged – to stop the involvement of a child in his war on crime becoming sad or tragic. “I hate the pranks and the puzzles. I’m tired of playing games with clowns and quizmasters and circus people.” Indeed, it’s worth keeping in mind – as Morrison does – that Dick Grayson is a “circus person”.

“As I see it, your parents were show business people, Master Richard” Alfred explains to the new Batman. “Those are your roots.” Alfred pitches Grayson’s attempts to step into Bruce’s shoes as “a performance” rather than “a memorial” – a reiteration of the character (“like a Hamlet, or Willie Loman… or even James Bond”). The Butler Did It featured a cutaway gag where Dick imagined Hamlet “if he’d decided to avenge his dad’s murder by dressing as Batman”, but Bond is the more interesting comparison (“I’m much cooler than he is,” Bruce assured his girlfriend Jezebel at one point). Bond has been played by quite a few actors, each with different interpretations of the same core character. If Bruce is Timothy Dalton, perhaps Dick is Daniel Craig.

It’s a (Boy) Wonder Dick puts up with him…

Still, it’s interesting how Morrison subtly alludes to Dick’s background in crafting an entirely new selection of bad guys for him. Indeed, Morrison’s first new set of adversaries for the character are “The Circus of Strange” (Dick is literally able to speak their language – “European circus slang”). Even Professor Pyg began his life as “a species of circus performer.” Morrison goes out of his way to create colourful new villains for Dick (as opposed to the darker and grittier ones he crafted for Bruce), designed to play to Dick’s more colourful nature. Even when the long-established Batman villain The Penguin appears briefly, he resembles the grotesque sideshow freak from Burton’s Batman Returns rather than the stocky businessman of comic book continuity. The only really established outside villain who appears (aside from Talia and the Joker) is Deathstroke, who has his own history with Dick and makes for an interesting foil.

However, as a circus brat, perhaps Morrison is alluding to how the Joker fits this facet of Batman as well. While the Clown Prince of Crime served as a healthy juxtaposition against Bruce’s firmly ordered thoughts, the psychotic circus clown makes a fitting adversary for a former child acrobat. Of course, you could argue that even putting Dick – a former circus performer – behind the cowl is another way of alluding to the Joker’s absence. As much as the opening twelve issues of the series are about the absence of Bruce, they are also concerned with the absence of his arch-enemy.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

From the use of the fairground from The Killing Joke in Batman Reborn to the conscious mirroring of Jason Todd to the Joker in Revenge of the Red Hood, Morrison makes the character’s absence keenly and unconsciously felt. There are two instances of a villain snapping a hero’s spine (once with a young Robin and  then Batwoman, a “crimefighting redhead” like Batgirl was), echoing the brutal treatment of Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke – of course, Morrison is far too optimistic to let such incidents lead to angst and resolves both cripplings with the space of an issue (using sci-fi surgery and a Lazarus Pit, two things which arguably could have cured Barbara Gorden by now).

Sure, nobody in the story really asks where the Joker is (they’re just glad he’s gone), but it hangs heavy in the air – a sense of anxious foreboding, although nobody dares articulate it. Why go looking for trouble, after all? “I hate it here,” is the closest Gordon comes to articulating the link between Pyg’s hideout and the place where the Joker tried to break him down. Until the final arc of the series, the Joker hovers over proceedings like a spectre, and Morrison does well to add a sense of dread without even explicitly referencing the fiend.

Damian raises the bar for the Robins…

Indeed, if Morrison’s Batman run was focused on the notion of duplicating Batman and how it was impossible without the human component (making Dick the only truly successful “replacement” Batman) – a theme he revisits here briefly in Blackest Knight with another Batman imposter who just can’t cut it – perhaps Morrison’s Batman & Robin is about the replication of the character’s most enduring adversary. The Joker is a multi-faceted creation, capable of being anything at any given moment, and it’s easy to see the character reflected back in Morrison’s many varied creations.

There are the obvious thematic comparisons. The Red Hood has ties to both the legacy of Robin through Jason Todd and the Joker through Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. The “zombie Batman” from Blackest Knight is a pale and decaying adversary who shares the tragedy of Batman’s origin, but his sanity cannot withstand the pressure – reflecting the observation that Batman has channeled his psychological trauma into something reasonably constructive, but the Joker hasn’t. Oberon Sexton is a match for Batman in terms of intelligence and sophistication, and yet his black mask renders him anonymous – much like the Joker arguably exists as a constant, but without any real identity of himself (in fact Morrison theorises there is no “real” Joker, as he reinvents himself continuously). Indeed, perhaps Oberon Sexton, with his dark outfit and serious manner, reflects the Joker’s “tribute” to his fallen adversary. Note that Oberon, before the reveal, has the exact same origin as the Joker from Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke as elaborated upon during the Pushback arc in Gotham Knights (“his face was scarred by criminals who killed his wife”).

Happy as a Pyg in…

However, the most striking comparisons between the Joker and these new opponents can be seen by examining Professor Pyg and the Flamingo. Pyg is the Joker as philosopher – the idea of the character we saw espoused in The Dark Knight, with echoes of other incarnations. He seems to remake (literally) the world in his own twisted image because he couldn’t take the psychological pressure. In The Killing Joke, the Joker seeks to prove that psychological pressure can break anyone, as a way of proving to himself that he isn’t a freak or an aberration – he’s “just ahead of the curve”. Pyg experiments upon and physically distorts individuals – and produces an “identity-destroying” viral agent he distributes in a form similar to the Joker’s venom.

The Flamingo is the Joker as a primal force of nature rather than a philosophical position. When the character appears, he just grunts and laughs at the pain he is causing and experiencing (“heh heh heh”). His purple attire and sinister grinning demeanour bring to mind the Joker. The Flamingo wasn’t always a monster – he was lobotomized and converted to one, in the same way the Joker was drowned in a vat of chemicals. I doubt it’s a coincidence that Morrison uses the two techniques of controlling the behaviour of the mentally ill as central gimmicks of two of his new villains (with lobotomy a favoured tool in the nineteenth century and psychopharmacology developing afterwards).

Real men wear pink…

Hell, inspired as the Flamingo is by Prince (and, in particular, Purple Rain), it’s interesting to see a meta-textual link between the characters. Prince memorably provided the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Batman, particularly several key themes for the Joker. Reportedly Prince was hired for the gig as an artist that Jack Nicholson greatly admired. I guess, in a way, that means the Joker looks up to Prince – adding another layer of self-reference (as if the narrative needed it).

By the way, it’s interesting to note the many references to Burton’s Batman we see in Morrison’s work here, from Professor Pyg’s parade (with gas!) designed to remind us of the Joker’s parade through Gotham at the climax of the first film, through to the Joker’s delirious dancing while taunting our hero, or even the villain of the piece’s television address to Gotham, it seems Morrison has an affection for Burton’s vision, one which admittedly gets too easily glossed over these days. Of course, there are countless other references to countless other stories, but that very clear link stood out to me.

Robin’s having a smashing time…

Anyway, given how, like with Batman, the Joker is the only one left standing at the end of the run after all the pretenders have been left in the dust (in fact, just like Batman in Batman R.I.P., the Joker survived by creating a new persona for himself) – implying that there’s something fundamental about the character which has helped him to survive and endure while those around him fall and crumble. The Joker is the Joker. He has always been the Joker, and he always will be (no matter how often you shoot him in the head or run him off a bridge in a Batmobile). The Joker is eternal.

I really like Morrison’s take on the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s interesting to see the Joker playing the role of detective. In Batman R.I.P., Morrison allowed Bruce to unmask in front of his foe. Here, it’s pretty much explicitly stated that the Joker knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne, and the new version was the old Robin. However, the Joker wants his Batman, and the loss of Bruce knocks him for a loop. He seems to try to replace Batman, to the point where even Damian suspects that his father might be hiding beneath the disguise. I don’t know if you’d call it a tribute or an impersonation, but the Joker does seem to adopt a vaguely anti-hero style, arriving to save Gotham and even punishing a murderous writer. “It was Sexton who killed his wife, did you guess that?” he teases Dick about his secret identity. “So I buried him alive with her body. That was karma. One last gag.” Is the Joker’s idea of justice as one big cosmic punchline reallythat far from Bruce’s vision either? After all, Bruce dresses as a giant frickin’ Bat.

This is gravely serious…

Morrison also seems to reject the notion, held by many writers, that the Joker is necessarily co-dependent with Batman. Sure, his personality and actions are motivated by the Caped Crusader, but Morrison suggests that the clown doesn’t need Bruce, at least to live. “I can make it solo,” the Joker remarks to himself, as if trying to convince himself. Sure, things will change without a big bat-themed foe, but the Joker has his own relaunch planned. “Starting today, I’m taking the act in a whole new direction. The Joker fights crime! When there’s no Batman… the gravediggin’ clown gets to be the good guy.”

Morrison continues his insinuations that the Joker is far more sane than he claims. Explaining how he deduced the Joker’s involvement, Dick confesses, “It’s that cranky, creepy attention to detail that gives you away.” Remind you of anybody “cranky and creepy”? Perhaps one how walks the line between deadly serious and completely ridiculous? In fact, it’s Damian who calls the Joker on his apparent insanity, levelling a criticism that a great many of people made about Joker’s claims in The Dark Knight the he simply improvises rather than schemes. “You say you’re an agent of chaos and you don’t plan anything, it just happens,” Damian states. However the evidence disagrees with this assertion, as the Boy Wonder points out. “But I’ve read your files and everything’s a plan.”

Na na na na na Batmen!

Hell, the Joker seems to confess that he’s not as much of a complete nutjob as one might expect. “You were right about me, Baby Boy Wonder,” he mocks a subdued Damian. “I’m not mad. Not even a teeny bit.” Damian points out that, were the Joker’s belief that everything is a joke actually true, then even the character’s skill and intelligence are just a punchline to be mocked. There’s very clearly method to the madness of the “differently sane” psychopathic monster clown.

Pitted against the joint forces of Batman and the Joker is Morrison’s own Doctor Hurt, the “hole in things”. Part demonic and immortal Wayne family relative, part time-travelling Darkseid-released weapon of mass destruction, he makes for an interesting foil. Primarily because he represents an attack on the core myth of Batman, the one that everybody knows, regardless of whether they’ve seen a comic book, a television show, a movie or anything – he represents a corruption and challenge to the death of the Waynes, posing as Bruce’s long-lost father, a possibility that isn’t outside the realms of comic book logic (and makes far more sense than his actual backstory, to be fair).

Bringing the Hurt…

Although he doesn’t turn out to be that Thomas Wayne, he does afford an opportunity to examine what Thomas left his son with. In a way, the deaths of Thomas and Martha damned their son. Posing as Bruce’s dad, Hurt proclaims, “I built this endless puzzle for you, my poor, insane son! A hole you’ll never fill, a case you can never close, a curse that will never end.” There’s something incredibly tragic about a skilled and loving doctor leaving his son with a big gaping hole that can never be filled. Thomas Wayne was a decent man, but his death warped Bruce and turned him into a monster. It’s interesting to think about, how Bruce’s central motivational strength and his greatest personal weakness all flow from the same moment in time.

I also quite like, on a much smaller note, the way that Hurt effectively adopts the voice of the continuity announcer at the cliffhangers of Adam West’s Batman! in order to taunt Bruce in the Batcave. I know he has been doing this since The Black Glove, but it really struck me here, with the cartoony art. “The faithful retainer in the grip of the black glove. Can Batman reach him in time? Place your bets.” He might as well have added, “Tune in next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel.” Strange how you can channel Batman throught the ages.

Is Robin in grave danger?

Indeed, probably a facet of Morrison run which is probably most relevant to The Return of Bruce Wayne, but it is dealt with here too, I love the way that Morrison makes Batman timeless. Most of the DC pantheon are effectively immortal – nobody knows how long Superman can live, nor Wonder Woman, and the Green lantern legacy could endure until the end of time, but Batman is just a man. His life is finite, unless he can become – as Ra’s Al Ghul suggested in Batman Begins, “an idea”. One of the most fascinating ideas that Morrison suggested in his fantastic Arkham Asylum was that the insanity which created and fueled both Batman and the Joker echoes through eternity.

In Morrison’s Arkham Asylum, Amadeus Arkham was haunted by dreams of a flapping bat, and the image of the swimming clown fish – long before Batman and the Joker ever existed. Here, Morrison ties into the idea of a “Bat Demon” haunting Gotham, drawing on a concept created by writer Peter Milligan for his story Dark Knight, Dark City which gets a long overdue reference here. “Bats would appear to haunt this particular region,” Alfred observes at one point.

A wing and a prayer…

As Dick discovers the sculpture of the Bat from Bruce’s arrival in the Stone Age in a secret catacomb – and possibly wrestles with a Bat Demon captured and imprisoned underneath Wayne Manor – it becomes clear that the bat flying through the window (as so wonderfully evoked by Frank Miller) wasn’t the root of the idea of Batman, but rather an expression of it. That iconic moment was toyed with during Morrison’s last issues on Batman, both as an excuse to parody the highly improbable size of the creature in Miller’s reimagining (it swells in size from panel-to-panel) and mocking the absurdity that Bruce should adopt the name of the first thing through his window. The scene also gets replayed in the introduction to The Return, seemingly included in the final collection solely to increase the page count (it works better as the start of Batman Inc. than the end of Batman & Robin).

Indeed, Morrison seems to spend quite some time on his run rebuking Frank Miller’s version of the character. Aside from a blunt criticism of “darker and edgier” heroes in the Revenge of the Red Hood arc, the deranged Batman clone from Blackest Knight recalls Miller’s rather thuggish iteration of the character. The reliance on the imagery of Martha Wayne’s pearls (“hur pearls spill down broadway n the rain,” the creature observes, and earlier talks about the other defective clones “clawing pearls from their eyes”) – especially given how Morrison has traditionally focused on the relationship between Thomas Wayne and his son (which made it nice that Neil Gaiman used Martha in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?) – reflects Miller’s revision of the origin, and his contribution of the iconic imagery.

Has Bruce finally gone Bats?

There’s also the fact that boasts like “I no every vulnerable bone”, as well as “every pressure point” and “every tendr nerv” recall the rather aggressive nature of Batman as portrayed in The Dark Knight Returns (“I can teech you maximum pane,” the clone warns Damien at one point in a quote that almost could have been directly lifted). It might seem like a bit of an unfair attack on one of the most influential comic books every written, but Morrison’s entire run is premised on the assumption that the revisionism to the character that followed was not necessarily a good thing. To be honest, that is probably correct – the comics so consciously pushed the image of Batman as “a psychotic loner”, to quote one nineties cartoon featuring the character, that they risked severely reducing the character down to a one-note anti-hero.

Perhaps the proof of this is the fact that Dick Grayson feels more at home in these stories than Bruce Wayne ever could have – it’s hard to imagine Bruce starring in this title, with all the surreal neon wackiness that it contains. Morrison is definitely channelling the Silver Age for his work here, much as he did during his run on Batman. However, her is referencing themes and ideas much more than specific issues or events, which help render the series more accessible and enjoyable. The references to given issues written over forty years ago aren’t so overt as to be intrusive, and the concepts are easy enough to jump on board with.

He must be joking…

And the concepts are certainly wacky, but in a fun and engaging sort of way. “Superdickery” is an internet term which has popped up to describe a marketing gimmick that comic books used in the fifties and sixties – basically the cover would so the character (usually Superman, hence the title) doing something incredibly out of character (or dickish, hence the title), and then the issue would go to great lengths to put this crazy high-concept in context. For example, one issue when Superman adopted his “pal” Jimmy Olsen, the cover showed Superman burning a coat he got for Father’s Day uttering the line “this gift you got me for Father’s Day makes me sorry I ever adopted you as my son”. Or that time he forced Jimmy to marry a gorilla. Or that time he refused to save Lois from a forced marriage (“serves you right for choosing him over me”). Or so on.

In the special features at the end of the first volume, Morrison discusses his attempts to move back to more retro styles of covers (“the idea,” he explains, “was to intensify the trashy, pulpy energy of the book”), but there’s a rather consciously Silver Age (almost “Superdickery”-esque) aspect to the covers of Morrison’s run. We are treated to the image of Batman and Batwoman about to beat the snot out a resurrected Bruce Wayne (context: he’s a psychotic clone), Batman about to throw Robin off a skyscraper (context: it’s the aforementioned psychotic clone), Robin about to behead Batman with a sword (context: Robin’s under mind control) and Batman and Robin about to kill each other (context: Robin is still under mind control).

It’s a bit of a theme over the course of the book…

And yet you can spot many of Morrison’s favourite high concepts. The notion of a viral idea has echoes of quite a few of Morrison’s earlier works (“the new model of crime is grass roots, viral,” one criminal boasts, as Pyg develops an identity-destroying viral narcotic). Indeed, the final idea articulated by the returned Bruce – that Batman is going global – reflects the way that Morrison had Professor Xavier treat the “X” brand during his New X-Men run. In fairness, Morrison has shed quite a lot of the mysticism which he used in the earlier chapters of the run, and rephrased them in a manner that (in my opinion) suits the Bat mythos better – the idea of “Batman: the idea” being impossible to defeat, and spreading and multiplying, is a great one, and classic Morrison. If crime goes viral, why can’t Batman?

What’s also interesting in these issues – perhaps as distinct to the rest of the run – is Morrison’s Anglo-fixation. Of course, Morrison is a Scot himself, but his audience is American. And yet, here he fixates on Britishness. Far from the “Batmen of All Nations”, we get a guest appearance from the Knight and the Squire with a selection of British supervillains. The first new bad guy featured on the first page is modelled on Mr. Toad from the British classic The Wind in the Willows (okay, it was written by another Scot), and I think you’ll find his “European circus slang” is mostly British. Professor Pyg is, of course, named for the myth of Pygmalion which – although made famous in a play written by an Irish man – was a popular topic for Victorian-era English writers. Damien wears a hood as part of his Robin outfit, alluding to Robin Hood, the English folk legend. The Joker’s secret identity is a fake Briton.

Is Batman playing a Private Dick?

Perhaps it represents Morrison’s attempts to closely associate Batman more to the British literary tradition than an American one – Batman is certainly a very gothic creation for American literature (although I would have thought the works of Poe, with his fascination for ominous imagery and detective fiction might be considered something of a literary ancestor of Batman). The character probably more belongs with turn-of-the-century European authors – many of the icon gothic creations like Frankenstein’s monster or Dracula or Mister Hyde, possibly all precursors to Batman – originated on the Eastern side of the Atlantic ocean.

I’m probably digging far too deeply into all this to be honest. All that matters is that it’s a fun and exciting look at the Caped Crusader, in a way that is genuinely thrilling and excited. It feels fresh – it’s ridiculously bright, but remains as dark as Batman should be. Morrison is very clearly doing a whole host of insanely smart things, but on a surface level it’s a smooth and charming set of adventures. Hell, this run of sixteen issues might make the whole effort of killing and resurrecting Bruce Wayne worthwhile – and that’s saying quite a lot.

Batman & Robin. Together again for the first time.

Now, let’s hope the third (and potentially final) stage of Morrison’s Batman saga, Batman Incorporated, can be just as exciting at this set of issues.

You might enjoy our other reviews and explorations of Grant Morrison’s Batman-related works:

You might be interested in our reviews of other writers’ work on the first volume of Batman & Robin:

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2 Responses

  1. It’s funny, I never made the connection between the Flamingo and Prince…seems rather obvious now. Needless to say, this demands an epic re-read, I’ll take any excuse, haha. Once you get a chance to read the Batman, Inc. hardcover, I’ll think you’ll love it. It takes the best parts of the Batman and the Black Glove storyline with the silver age wackiness of Batman and Robin and mixes in a nice dash of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon.

    Since 2004, I feel like we’ve seen a golden age of Batman/Gotham City writing, the likes that I can’t really remember at any other point in my comic reading. There’s been this incredible level of elevating the material in terms of sophistication and expanding its mythology and frankly, its artistry. Starting back with Gotham Central, then moving into the Batman/Batwoman parts of 52, then Morrison’s entire run/Rucka’s Batwoman centered work on Detective/Snyder’s unbelievably good Dick Grayson story in Detective, and now the relaunched Batman title written by Snyder, Batman by JH Williams, Morrison’s Batman: Leviathan coming next year, and Kyle Higgins’ surprisingly very exciting Nightwing. Not to mention the fact that the Batman tie-in to Flashpoint was the 100% best part of that entire storyline in my eyes. It’s a really impressive run of quality!

    What is it about Gotham’s core cast that inspires such great storytelling? How does Batman succeed so well, where in many cases Superman and Wonder Woman fall short? (though to be fair both books are seeing an impressive revival, particularly Wonder Woman right now under Azzarello’s pen.)

    People can say whatever they want about how DC handles their properties, but I have to applaud just how well they’ve caretaken for Batman and Company, or rather, Incorporated.

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