It seems like it’s one hefty week after another at the comics shop these days. This was largely a meat-and-potatoes haul, with one big series premiere, and a new Avengers collection, albeit of some fairly undistinguished stories:
- Batman and Robin #1, by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (DC)
- Astro City: The Dark Age Book 3 #2, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross (DC/Wildstorm)
- Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers HC vol 117, collecting The Avengers #80-88 and The Incredible Hulk #140, by Roy Thomas, Harlan Ellison, John Buscema, Herb Trimpe & Tom Palmer (Marvel)
- War of Kings #4 of 6, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
- Irredeemable #3, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
- The Boys #31, by Garth Ennis & Carlos Ezquerra (Dynamite)
- Star Trek: Crew #4 of 5, by John Byrne (IDW)
- Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time #2 of 5, by Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener (Red 5)
Recently, the twists and turns of the DC Universe have resulted in Batman being killed off. Well, not really, but you know how it goes. In any event, as far as the world is concerned, Bruce Wayne is dead, and as long as that’s the status quo it’s a good time to launch Batman and Robin, a new series by Grant Morrison (the writer who handled the dispatching of Bruce) and Frank Quitely, in which Dick Grayson – formerly Robin and then Nightwing – puts on the cowl, and Bruce’s son Damian (whose background I can barely understand) is Robin.
Although the blog Second Printing says “it feels so brand new, like discovering Batman and Robin for the first time”, it didn’t feel that way to me. Indeed, it took only a few pages for it to feel an awful lot like John Byrne’s Generations series, in which in the 1960s Dick Grayson becomes Batman and Bruce’s son BJ becomes Robin, which itself is an homage to an “imaginary story” published back in the 1950s. Presumably Morrison’s paying homage to the same story, having realized that the characters available in the current milieu happen to make such a scenario possible.
Comic history aside, the set-up only really feels “new” in some incidental ways, mainly by contrast with the traditional Batman: Dick is more of a teacher to Damian, with more empathy for others than Bruce has displayed in recent decades, while Damian – the grandson of the head of the League of Assassins – is apparently brilliant but callous, and only barely regards Dick as a mentor. But in the large the premise is the same as Batman’s been going back to the 40s. I wonder whether someone who’s not familiar with Batman lore would really find it all that different, either.
I’ve given Morrison’s writing a lot of flak recently – largely because Final Crisis was such a disaster at the writing end – but I continue to buy (most of) his work because he’s always been a solid ideas man, even though his characterizations and execution can be lacking. The story here is rather the reverse of what Morrison usually delivers: A little more characterization (as noted above), but the ideas content is pretty thin: Outre-looking villains, not much plot. But then, it’s only the first issue, and the story has a very “uncompressed” pace.
All-in-all, it’s an okay first issue. Quitely’s art seems a little more nuanced than usual, which is welcome since I find his art can get repetitive (and his women always look creepy and a little ghoulish). But the gosh-wow factor is low, and as I said, it feels like we’ve seen this before. Plus, Byrne did it better.