The State of the Batmen (and Women) – Winter 2010/2011

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This article has been planned since shortly after MLD ran the State of the X-Men piece back in November. The delay in the post has been directly tied to the delay in DC Comics publishing their second new high profile Batman title, David Finch’s Batman: The Dark Knight, which was originally due to ship November 24. Well Batman: The Dark Knight #1 is supposedly shipping this week (though I’ll believe it when I see it), so this seems like as good a time as any to assess the state of the Batmen Family.

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REVIEW: Batman and Robin #1

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After a controversial run on Batman that ended with Bruce Wayne sort of but not really dying in another title, Grant Morrison launched the new Batman and Robin title from DC this week with frequent collaborator Frank Quitely. Spoilers ahead…

So there’s a new Batman and Robin showing up in Gotham for the first time in this story. The original Robin who has been running around the DC Universe for the last 25 years as Nightwing, Dick Grayson, has taken over as Batman and is joined by Bruce Wayne’s evil brat son, Damian, as Robin. In contrast to the classic team, the new Batman has a sense of humor and the new Robin is a violent, psychotic, ten-year old, trained by Ninja Assasins who thinks he should be Batman. The Batmobile flies. The villain is called Mr. Toad and looks exactly like you’d expect.

It sounds stupid. Well, it is stupid. But in the capable hands of Morrison and Quitely, it works. And by the way, Morrison’s last run on Batman works better than you think it did too. Go back and read it one sitting. Seriously. Try it. It’s not nearly as incoherent as it seemed while reading it on a monthly basis.

Anyway, where was I?

Quitely’s art is a style all his own. Undeniably ugly… And yet I can’t get enough of it. His characters ooze personality.

Morrison in one issue has written the most interesting Dick Grayson we’ve seen in years. And while he’s treading on dangerous territory by making Robin such a brat… (Fans voted for the last brat Robin to be beaten with a crowbar and blown up…) I believe he has a plan for Damian. Whether that plan will be satisfying for readers or not, I guess we’ll see.

The master villain we’re introduced to at the end of the issue looks to me like someone from a horror movie and his actions seem to confirm we’re about to see the equivalent of Batman vs. Leatherface or the villain from some torture porn flick or something. The scene was sufficently creepy and sold on the strength of Quitely’s characterization.

In conclusion, it’s interesting that Dick Grayson is running around as Batman now (for the second time… See Batman: Prodigal), when just a few years ago we saw his death scene in Infinite Crisis. A scene that DC thankfully wimped out on following through with, as we saw Dick alive a few pages later. But make no mistake, Dan Didio intended to kill Dick Grayson off once, this story could just as easily be his swan song.