Friday, June 05, 2009

Batman and Robin #1

Morrison and Quitely’s Batman and Robin isn’t anywhere near as profound or majestic a work as their recent collaboration, but it is a really fun comic, that sets out an interesting new status quo for the characters, a shift in approach for the next chapter in Morrison’s great Batman novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed the issue, I think there’s a lot of great stuff in there, but I’ll admit that it didn’t move like the over the top insanity of Batman RIP. What the issue does best is set up a really strong world and a new outré threat for the characters. A lot of that change in feel is due to Quitely’s art, which feels so much cooler and futuristic than the Tony Daniel art on RIP. It’s a new pop world, which needs a different Batman and Robin.

Morrison’s economic characterization is a large part of what makes him so great as a writer in comics specifically. He tells everything we need to know about the Dick Grayson/Damien dynamic from their brief interactions with each other. Damien sees himself as the real heir to the Batman identity, and is supremely self confident, while Dick expresses uncertainty about taking on the identity of his legendary mentor. But, it’s not done in a really emo way because they’ve both got a job to do, and that takes priority.

I admire the artistry of the opening action sequence, or the cool cut away view of their Gotham apartment building, but it wasn’t until the ending that the issue really took off for me. The introduction of The Pyg is really creepy, bringing a horror movie vibe to this otherwise rollicking adventure. Morrison described the series as David Lynch directs the 60s Batman TV show, and that’s the sequence where I really felt that coming to life. This is the same doofy theme villain with a gang of identical henchmen you’d see in the series, but with a creepy twist to it that makes it really disturbing.

The first part of Morrison’s Batman was largely about confronting the horrors within. Everything that Doctor Hurt did to Bruce was designed to send him down a self created spiral of insanity, to destroy Batman’s ability to be Batman. In the series, every criminal that Batman fights is really a prismatic reflection of his own confrontation with death, his own thogal. Hurt is designed to be a deliberately ambiguous worst nightmare ultimate enemy for Bruce. So, he may be Thomas Wayne pretending to be the Devil, he may be the Devil posing as Thomas Wayne, either way, he’s the worst threat that Bruce could imagine.

Morrison played with the idea that Bruce was really the one behind the Black Glove, creating an enemy so strong he could never defeat it as a way of preserving his own purpose. The whole thing was that kind of bizarre psychological journey, and I loved it, but I still respect the change in approach he’s going for here. It’s almost like the change in the identity of Batman necessitates a kind of back to basics fighting crime approach. I’m sure things will become more twisted and psychological as it goes on, but for now, I enjoyed this issue as a fun romp.

Though, I’ll admit the most joy I got from the whole thing was seeing Doctor Hurt holding the keys to Wayne Manor on the teaser page. For whatever reason, that character totally resonated with me. I love his outfit, I love his over the top lust for destruction, and I’m eager to see him come in contact with this new Batman and Robin.

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