7/01/2009

Batman & Robin Round-Up

Following their collaboration on All Star Superman, the dynamic duo of comics creators have finally decided to take on the... dynamic duo. Their take on Superman paid heavy homage to Superman's Silver-Age years, but was really all about distilling all the time Superman has been embedded in our culture into something modern and new. Batman and Robin, so far, takes a similar focus but with a different approach. You can tell that both Morrison and Quitely are concerned with keeping things modern and fresh, but Batman and Robin, even more than All Star Superman, nods to an earlier day in comics. Of course, you see it in Morrison's choice of oddball villains, but also through in Quitely's kinetic pencils and especially in Alex Sinclair's pop-art coloring.

The style and themes Morrison and Quietly create fly in the face of what was going on with Batman just a year ago with the release of The Dark Knight. The movie that poorly re-hashed the themes comics creators were working with ever since Batman: The Dark Knight Returns had people debating whether the character of Robin, a sprightly sidekick was irrelevant. While too late to directly respond to the movie, Morrison/Quietly are at least combating the idea of The Dark Knight, and more recently "the Goddamn Batman", simply by having an exciting plot and three dimensional characters.

What's interesting about Dick Grayson as Batman is that he's just as brooding as earlier, more explicitly dark incarnations of the characters. It's just not obnoxious when he does it. Grayson has a similar origin story to Bruce Wayne but his origin isn't his motivation. The way Bruce Wayne is usually portrayed is as someone who uses hard work and anger to escape sadness. Dick Grayson is able to actually deal with his sadness already making him a really interesting Batman. Although Morrison has chosen to make his plot rather simple, he still injects shades of gray into the characterizations.

Morrison, for good or for bad, always tries to make his stories different. When he succeeds he's easily one of the best writers in comics and when he fails, well you have some kind of begrudging respect for his attempt. Quitely seems to have a similar mindset by always trying new techniques in his art. Batman & Robin has energy, momentum, and it's exciting. Something that can't be said for most everything Batman as of late. Here are some of the highlights of the though young, already fascinating series:

ISSUE #1 "Domino Effect"
Summary: "Batman and Robin together again for the first time." Basically the tagline for this issue and a runner up to to best quote. Again harps on the modern versus legendary history of the characters. We're introduced to everything in this issue: The super weird circus villain plot, the tension between hero and sidekick, Alfred's guiding hand, and the general fun that is felt on every page.
Best Panel: The opening panel. This panel starts the issue and the series off perfectly. It's spotlight shape introduces an interesting theme that is developed in issue #2 about how the story is similar to a dramatic archetypal play.
Best Quote: "Crime is Doomed" -Batman
Quitely's Best Embedded Onomatopoeia: See above panel. Here the words are the actual explosion. I really like this technique. It helps provide the series with its pulp feel but at the same time, makes each panel look more like a work of cohesive art without too many action-words cluttering it up.

ISSUE #2 "Circus of the Strange"
Summary: A bit of a change in tone here. We're introduced to the new relationship between Gordon/The Police and the crimefighters. It's told in a flashback as if the reader were Alfred. Grayson is unsure of his role as Batman but Alfred coaches him to make it his own. A great feeling of acomplishment as Batman overcomes his doubts and goes to rescue Robin in a plot device straight out of the animated TV show.
Best Panel: Alfred's poor Yorick. Something about the cowl here is really amazing. It conveys Batman's death and Alfred's kind of weird reaction to it so far. It also continues the theme of Grayson, and everyone else for that matter, as actors portraying archetypal roles.
Best Quote: "Everyone's waiting for the hero to take the stage" -Alfred
Quitely's Best Embedded Onomatopoeia: Robin's SMASH into the wall. This is the only one in the issue but it works really well. The Smash is seamlessly woven in and glossed over unless you're paying particularly good attention.

8 comments:

Premitive1 said...

What about that maniacal look on Dick's face on the third to last page?

I love that last panel, and the conversation leading up to it.

brandon said...

Premitive-
That's a great one because it's sort of an odd choice and maybe hints at something darker going on that we don't yet know about.

I like the Fat Circus Lady's lumpy hand.

BTW-
Anyone find this issue mostly terrible? Save for that discussion with Alfred, it's basically a mess.

samuel rules said...

Brandon-
I was actually into it in a weird way? I think it's another case of great idea, terrible execution. It has some GHASTLY panels and the flow is fucking terrible at times, there are these sorta Seth Fishery Batman poses but like...this Batman is a professional, he shouldn't look so unorganized when fighting.

Jesse Reese said...

The maniacal Grayson panel is real good. Quitely seems to do that sometimes where he'll give someone these creepy looks that doesn't exactly match the dialogue but somehow it ends up being great.

I liked the issue obviously. I think it may be another case of having read this uncompleted work and focusing so much on what is essentially this transition act in a three part intro to whatever Morrison has planned for the whole run.

I liked the fighting too. I think the awkwardness is partially this Seth Fisher thing but also Dick's mental and physical unease as Batman.

brandon said...

Jesse-
Sammy sorta nailed it, no flow, some weak panels. Also the dialogue is really awkward.

I'm confused why the second issue of a series is a flashback to stuff that happened between issue 1 and 2.

samuel rules said...

Jesse-
From a nerd's point of view, he should be fine as Batman as someone who was trained as Robin, and was Nightwing for a super long time before he was Batman. He knows how to fight, he needs to not awkwardly punch and kick.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

You didn't see the "SSS PF" embedded sound effect on page 6, first panel?