Part 3 of "Blackest Knight" guest-starring Batwoman, Knight and Squire! Only months into his new role as Batman, Dick Grayson faces perhaps the biggest threat of his life. In hopes of attaining his heart's desire, has Dick instead unleashed a terror the likes of which the world has never seen? Meanwhile, back in Gotham City, Alfred and a recuperating Robin are at the mercy of someone both fearsome and familiar....
Jett had weather issues and family obligations this week, so I, John Bierly, will do my best to unravel this month's macabre, madcap chapter of BATMAN & ROBIN. Issue #9 is available at your local comic shop right now, and it's entirely typical of everything this title is.
Here's my thing about all this “Batman Reborn” stuff, by way of a hypothetical. Let's say that the finest writers and the finest artists who ever lived were called into a room and assigned to create a huge storyline where Batman's soul is magically transferred into the body of a 12-year-old ballerina. The story could be masterfully written and drawn for what it was, and it could be the ultimate presentation of what would happen if Batman had to live for a while as a 12-year-old ballerina, but that doesn't mean it would be a story I'd have any interest in reading.
And as I've argued many times before (to the point that you're all bound to be pretty sick of it, but I can't help how I've felt and still feel), I would LOVE Grant Morrison's insane storytelling if it were occurring in its own little pocket continuity. If this were Morrison's ALL STAR BATMAN, I'd think it was one of the weirdest, wildest, most fascinating Batman tales ever told. But drop it into the regular books, however, and make it the regular continuity, and I start to get really uncomfortable. I don't want Batman to have a son. I certainly don't want that son to be a petulant little punk like Damian.
But it's just so hard to read an issue like #9 and not be entirely charmed by all of the fun and craziness and action, despite a few misgivings.
Dick Grayson's Batman is deep in the bowels of jolly old England, where Batwoman is now dead with only the hope of a buried Lazarus Pit to save her. With some help from British counterparts Knight and Squire, Dick gives her an un-deadening dip while Alfred and Damian -- who's not yet fresh after a GENETIC SPINAL TRANSPLANT OPERATION -- try to deal with the pit's previous patient -- an Apokolip-tic copy of Bruce Wayne that was already crazy and is now even nuttier than ever.
Didn't Dick scold Tim Drake about mixing Lazarus Pits and lost love ones back during all of that RESURRECTION OF RA'S AL GHUL nonsense? Yes. Alfred even brings it up at one point, but it's quickly dismissed with an excuse. And I feel like that's something Morrison does do far too often -- he puts his big ideas and crazy concepts before the storytelling. And sometimes he doesn't do homework for his own stories. Remember when he changed the origin of Damian's conception from two engaged people having sex to a depraved eugenics experiment because he literally (but at least truthfully) didn't bother to read Mike W. Barr's SON OF THE DEMON, even though DC made us all buy a $7 reprint of it before his BATMAN AND SON sequel began in the monthly title? He kind of changed some things from FINAL CRISIS to make this story make sense, and as Jett pointed out about last issue, if you didn't read FINAL CRISIS, this really won't make as much sense as it could or should. His whims and instincts trump continuity sometimes. Even lots of times.
What works here? The action, as always, is big and imaginative, and artist Cameron Stewart really makes these pages lively. (His depiction of the crazy zombie Bruce clone's mish-mash remembrance of recent Bat-events is beautifully drawn with tons of brilliant little Easter eggs.) And there's plenty of Morrison's trademark charm and fun on every page, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous the events depicted become. (Also, those of you who aren't reading DETECTIVE might think there's an inconsistency with Batwoman's hair throughout the issue, when it fact it's anything but. Check her out in DETECTIVE to see what I mean.)
I did think Morrison's depiction of Batwoman made her feel more like a Batgirl than a Batwoman, but then again, I should factor in her post-Lazarus euphoria. (I do have to admit, it's nice to see her getting to have a bit of big superhero fun.) And when a member of her own book's supporting cast showed up, I couldn't help but grin. The conversation Dick has with Kate at the end of the book is a conversation I've had with girls myself, so that really made me smile. It's nice to see Dick in character in this book, rather than what we're seeing in some of the recent issues of the other monthly titles.
And who knew Pennyworth could be so wicket with a cricket paddle? As if there'd be any doubt.
I still hate Damian. Nothing redeeming about him to me at all. I hope Morrison reveals that he's not Bruce's son at all but something else entirely, and that he disappears forever. I will never, ever, ever be at peace with this character.
If you hate Grant Morrison's Batman run, you'll hate this issue. If you love it, you'll find everything that makes it what it is, and then some. Lots of fun and charm, but also lots of absolute preposterousness.
The ending certainly points us toward what most of us have been waiting for since all this “Batman Reborn” business began in the first place…and I'll leave it at that. - John Bierly