Friday, 17 August 2012

Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn

V. Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn
Quite frankly Grant Morrison's Batman run has been a mess, with issues all over the place, but from here on it gets a lot more obvious where to go next. Batman is gone and Dick Grayson, after initially resisting in Battle for the Cowl, has finally taken up the mantel of Batman, with Damian as Robin at his side. Grant Morrison wrote the first sixteen issues of Batman and Robin and these are split into three trades, the first of which is Batman Reborn. Dick and Damian have a great dynamic, they have to save Gotham but they barely have time to work out where they are as a team. Batman Reborn is exactly that, the beginning of a new chapter of Batman, this time, for the first time, without Bruce Wayne. This trade is split into two arcs, made up of three issues each.

The first three issues introduce Professor Pyg as a villain and paves the way for the rest of the series ahead. Professor Pyg was a throwaway villain shown briefly in Batman and Son as an enemy of a future Batman, Damian, and is fleshed out into a full blown psycho here. It is amazing how well Morrison manages to incorporate throwaway characters later into his stories, there are a whole bunch in this trade, and shows how well he think's out even the most minor characters. Pyg's plan is to ransom Gotham for the antidote to an addictive drug that can be caught like the flu, Pyg also uses mind control to create a group of hideously disfigured people called Dollotrons to do his bidding. Pyg is certainly a creepy villain, but I think he is scariest when sane and still doing all this terrible stuff; rather than when he on drugs and talking meaningless gibberish, which he is most of the time. Whilst Pyg's plans aren't fully realised here, this arc lays the groundwork for much of what occur in the later issues.  
Batman and Robin has a much lighter art style than anything we have seen so far, but still contains quite dark content.
The second arc features the return of Red Hood with a new sidekick, Scarlet, who was introduced in the first three issues as someone who Pyg failed to completely turn into a Dollotron and who Damian failed to save. Red Hood wants tries to usurp Dick once more with a harder line on crime; his motto is let the punishment fit the crime, and he isn't afraid to murder and intimidate to do so. This harder take on crime fighting backfires as the Russian Cartel unleash their assassin, Flamingo, on Gotham city, to go after Red Hood and Scarlet. Morrison sure knows how to create creepy villains. By the time Flamingo, who is based on the artist currently know as Prince, has landed in Gotham he has already skinned and eaten the faces of four girls, and this is just his introduction. At the end of arc issue Red Hood asks a very important question of Dick that he has no answer to; I won't ruin it here, but it is very formative on the events of the next arc in Batman vs. Robin.

A great addition to all the trades of Batman and Robin is a section at the end called Batman Redrawn where Grant Morrison and the artists, this time Frank Quietly and Philip Tan, give a guided tour through the creation  of the issues. Grant Morrison talks extensively here about the issues, covers and characters and the influences behind each; it's a fascinating insight into his mind and show just how invested into this series he is and how diverse his inspirations are, from 1960s Batman to Prince album covers. Batman Reborn is a great start to a series that only gets better, if you have not read these before you are in for a treat.

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