This book continues to be a big, crazy cartoon, and as much as I like to grumble about how much I wish I could just pick up my monthly comics and read about Bruce Wayne being Batman, there's no denying the charm of BATMAN AND ROBIN
Writer Grant Morrison gets lots of things right in the first three pages, as our generally happy new Batman shows he's no stranger to supreme bad-assery when the moment calls for it. And as little fondness as I have for the giant tires on the new Bat-vehicle from which Dick Grayson is dragging Doctor Phosphorus across the ground (which literally lights his head and face in one of the books many visual gifts to its audience), I love the fact that Dick immediately goes full-on Batman to get the answers he needs.
And in a character moment that rivals the brilliant conversation Dick had with Alfred last issue, Morrison shows Jim Gordon that Bruce Wayne wasn't the only Batman who'll keep him on his toes. Jim knows it's a new man under the cowl, and for my money I bet he even knows who it is. And you get the sense that maybe Jim was expecting the new Batman to play by some new rules, thus his asking of the question, "Who the hell are you?"
Dick: "I'M BATMAN."
And he is. Maybe not the MAN, but most DEFINITELY the ROLE, as Alfred suggested last week. It's nice to see that character line carried over into this issue and implemented in such a forceful way. I love this book's efficiency.
We go from there into more of the sick circus playing inside Ringmaster Morrison's brain, as Professor Pyg talks his own version of dirty to the kidnapped Robin, Damian Wayne. (In yet another brilliant visual bit, the pig has a pink iPod.)
The book loses some of its charm points for me in the way Pyg speaks to Damian; I usually enjoy the larger-than-life dialogue, but the words here are almost too bizarre and senseless. And as much as I dislike Damian, I do have to give Morrison credit for keeping the little bastard consistent with the first question he asks upon regaining consciousness.
The rest of the issue explodes into a diabolical explosion of grisly violence and terrifying imagery that artist Frank Quitely renders with the usual appeal. He and Morrison were made for each other, and I fear this book will lose something vital upon Quitely's departure. We'll have to wait and see what happens.
More violence. Some pieces of the puzzle revealed. I found some of the dialogue in Batman's final chat with Gordon to be a little flat and procedural, just as a felt the Professor Pyg stuff to be a little too obtuse, almost as if it were weird for weird's sake. Again, those are minor quibbles, but it's something that stood out to me. I think I forgave it all when I read Dick's parting words to Gordon.
Damian also asks Dick a question that put a smile on my face.
Morrison and Quitely conclude this initial three-issue arc with two big moments. First, we come full circle to the beginning of Morrison's mad jaunt through the Batman universe, and then we see an offer being made to one of the run's victims by a new incarnation of a familiar face from Batman's past. So…
Who do YOU think is the Red Hood?
Jason Todd? Too obvious.
I think it's The Joker.
If Batman's new, then The Joker probably thinks he should be new, too. But that's just a guess. I can't wait to find out.
If you're loving this title, you'll love this issue. But the next six issues, to be drawn in chunks of three by two artists who aren't Frank Quitely, will really put Morrison's storytelling to the test. - John Bierly