Batman & Robin, Vol.2-3: “Batman vs. Robin” & “Batman and Robin Must Die!” (DC)


I’m still catching up with a huge backlog of comics/graphic novel reviews, but I decided to collect these two books together. Partly because they’re obviously connected, but also because I wanted to get the reviews out of the way. After liking the first volume in Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin run far more than I anticipated (I’ve written plenty of times how I think he’s highly over-rated), I dove in to the second and third volume pretty soon afterwards. (Told you I was being slow with reviewing…) Sadly, my pleasant surprise at the quality of volume one evaporated with these two books. These are, frankly, not so good.

Volume 2: “Batman vs. Robin”

Batman&Robin-Vol.2Writer: Grant Morrison | Artist: Cameron Stewart (#7-9), Andy Clarke (#10-12) | Colors: Alex Sinclair (#7,10-12), Tony Avina (#8-9,11) | Inks: Scott Hanna (#10-12)

The new Batman and Robin uncover clues involving the mysterious death of Bruce Wayne before facing off against each other in a heated battle instigated by Robin’s mother that both heroes will regret – if they live through it! Featuring a 3-issues storyline that ties into the best-selling BLACKEST NIGHT event titled “Blackest Knight,” this new collection is a must-have for both new readers and longtime fans of Grant Morrison’s Batman epic as the superstar writer unveils more of his genre-defying masterplan!

Collects: Batman & Robin #7-12 (pre-52)

We start in London. And this is the Grant Morrison I know. The story contains some thinly-veiled (to a Brit, at least) social and political commentary. Nothing wrong with this per se, but it wasn’t particularly well-done. Also, #7 (the first chapter in this book) was a bit muddled, to be honest. Suddenly, Batwoman’s there (why?), and also the Knight & Squire. Frankly, this was not good, following the previous issues.

Newcastle vs. London? Really? Writing a Geordie accent is never a good idea. Just sayin’.

The Batwoman story and presence was dealt with in two pages. There was some linkage to Morrison’s Event that killed Batman. It was not great, and rather rushed. Oh, and then Damian takes over as chairman of the board for Wayne Enterprises! At age 10! Of course! That isn’t moronic at all!

This book starts the return of Bruce Wayne. The story has moments which are quite fun, but the dialogue can sometimes be awful… (“It’s like the whole house is coming to life.” – #10, p.11) The story jumps forward, after getting us some way through the ‘treasure hunt’, only to not bother with the end of it. This just reinforces my belief that Morrison is a lazy writer. The story was half-assed. Really disappointing. At the same time, I didn’t see the end coming. So there’s that, I suppose.


Volume 3: “Batman and Robin Must Die!”

BMROBBMD_DLX_DJ.qxdWriter: Grant Morrison | Artist: Frazer Irving (#13-16), Cameron Stewart (#16) | Colors: ?

On the eve of Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham City, the new Batman and Robin team that battled crime during his absence must deal with the return of The Joker.Then, Grant Morrison connects the BATMAN & ROBIN story with the bestselling THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE in the climactic showdown between Batman and The Black Glove.

And in a story illustrated by acclaimed artist David Finch, learn what happens to Dick Grayson after the “real” Batman returns.

Collects: Batman & Robin #13-16 (pre-52)

So, so sloppy.

That is basically how I feel about this book. It feels like Morrison is in a hurry to get things over with. The book ends with Batman Incorporated established – an event that spawned one of the worst books I’ve read. It is a dismal finish. Bruce Wayne just appears back in action at the end. There’s no real development of why or how (I assume one had to read The Return of Bruce Wayne and who knows how many other books/issues to get the full story).

So much has happened to the Bat-franchise during Morrison’s tenure at the helm, and I’m not at all convinced it’s all (or even mostly) good… This was, in many ways, complete gibberish. Maybe, as I’m sure die-hard Morrison fans will argue/wail, I just don’t “get” it, that he’s writing on a level that is above my comprehension. Ultimately, though, I just think he’s a bad writer.

I think I’ll probably just borrow the New 52 Batman Incorporated from my local library (it gets an excellent selection of New 52 books in), as once again he’s been handed the reins for another game-changing event. (Seriously, how can anyone think he’s the best choice, when compared to everyone else currently writing for a Bat-title?!)

I much prefer Peter Tomasi’s take on Damian Wayne, in the New 52 Batman & Robin. Tomasi’s writing overall is also superior in pretty much every way. Actually, everyone else working on Batman-related titles is doing a better job by far. I think I’m done attempting to find the supposed genius and/or magic in Morrison’s work. It just isn’t there, and I’m disappointed every time. Well, always except for one instance: Action Comics #0 wasn’t bad.


A closing comment for both of the books: the art is good. The one benefit of Morrison’s reputation, is that DC has allowed him to work with some exceptionally talented artists. For that, at least, we can be very grateful. The artists who worked on both of these books do a great job throughout.


One final comment: At least the Pink Flamingo wasn’t present in these books. He was an utterly ridiculous character.

Ok. I’m done, now.

Batman & Robin, Vol.1 – “Batman Reborn” (DC, pre-New 52)

Batman&Robin-Vol.1Writer: Grant Morrison | Artist: Frank Quitely (#1-3), Philip Tan (#4-6) | Inks: Jonathan Glapion (#4-6) | Colors: Alex Sinclair (#1-3,5-6), Pantazis (#4)

The new Dynamic Duo hit the streets with a bang in their new flying Batmobile as they face off against an assemblage of villains called the Circus of Strange. They also tackle their first mission investigating a child who’s been abducted by the mysterious Domino Killer. But will everything go smoothly? And who exactly are the new Batman and Robin? The newest era of The Dark Knight begins here!

Collects: Batman & Robin #1-6

Grant Morrison has the tendency to be awarded the privilege of writing momentous moments in the ongoing DC chronology. Sadly, I have yet to read any that have lived up to expectations. With the recent publication of the New 52 Batman Incorporated #8, I decided to catch up on some more of Damian Wayne’s tenure as Robin, and chose this as a starting point. It’s not terrible, but nor is it as strong as I would have liked. In other words, it’s exactly what I should have expected from a Morrison-penned comic…

Bruce Wayne is dead. After his death at the hands of Apocalypse in Final Crisis, Dick Grayson (former Robin and Nightwing) has assumed the Bat-mantle. As this series begins, it’s his first week on the job, and he’s nervous as hell. Damian isn’t helping matters, as he doesn’t respect Dick too much, or at least, he does only grudgingly. Damian goes off-mission frequently, and reacts badly when Grayson cautions him (“Look at you! The pathetic impersonation of my father makes a mockery of his memory! Keep your clues and your ‘detective skills’ and your limits.”).


At the start, our caped heroes are chasing after Toad, some kind of a mutant criminal. He’s working for Professor Pyg, the leader of an extreme circus troupe, “Cirque d’Etrange”. The first three issues/chapters of the book deal with this first mission for the new Batman and Robin. It’s ultimately drug-related, but I never felt it was as well-developed as it could be. It felt quickly over, and we’re just expected to accept what we’re told. I think there could have been a lot more meat to the story.


The second story, “Revenge of the Red Hood”… Well, this left me a little confused – is this the old Red Hood (last seen in flashbacks in the superb The Killing Joke), or the new Jason Todd Red Hood? Batman clears things up at the end of #4 and Robin also clarifies (“He looked different the last time we slapped him around.”). The Red Hood has adopted the last surviving victim of Professor Pyg, and given her a new mission and a new name: Scarlet. Together, they are taking a very hard line on Gotham crime, tear a bloody swathe through the underground elements of a city teaming with criminals and a society with a vast sea of dregs. It builds in a strange way, and I think the introduction of the Flamingo was the first sign of things reverting to the… less-good Morrison norm.

I did really like the way Morrison writes Grayson’s angst and anxiety over assuming the Batman role, especially towards the beginning, and also Alfred’s support is well-written and heartwarming. As always, the personal relationships are far more interesting (not to mention better-written) than anything else Morrison deals with in his stories. Jason Todd was rather cartoony. A pity, as he’s one of my favourite characters in the Bat-family.


Professor Pyg and his evil henchmen, not to mention Toad as well, are just… Well, silly. This is, as usual, the problem with Morrison’s comics. He has some great bits that are ruined by distracting silliness and poor execution. I still contend that Morrison has a streak of authorial laziness in him – for example, an aerosolized pathogen, at the evil genius’s lair, and Batman finds a test tube marked “antidote” right beside it – this can sometimes be funny, but it seemed to me that Morrison was just not interested in devising a more interesting, original solution to his story. He too often goes for the easy fix (although, at least he wasn’t responsible for the truly awful Letter Finale to Superman: Red Son). It’s also as if Morrison feels he needs to exaggerate certain things, when he’s obviously capable of nuance, in order to… Actually, I don’t know how to put this without demeaning the medium, but in order to ‘make it a comic’, and differentiate it from prose. Or something. It’s maddening. Thankfully, there was some good, gentle humour as well sprinkled throughout this book, which helped diminish the impact of some of the more annoying things contained within.


Batman & Robin Volume 1 is some of the better Morrison stuff I’ve read. I’ve picked up the next two volumes (they were on sale a while back on ComiXology), and will review them together.

If you love everything Morrison writes, I have no doubt you’ll like this. If you do not, then I can’t guarantee you’ll like this, either. But, it is among his better-quality work.

Batman: Dark Knight – “Golden Dawn” (DC)

DarkKnight-GoldenDawnWriter: David Finch | Artist: David Finch (#1-4), Jason Fabock (#4-5) | Inks: Scott Williams (#1-3), Richard Friend (#3), Ryan Winn (#4), Batt (#4-5), Sal Regla (#5), Jaime Mendoza (#5), Ray McCarthy (#5), Greg Adams (#5) | Colors: Alex Sinclair (#1-3), Peter Steigerwald (#4-5), Tony Aviña (#5)

Delving into the more supernatural and esoteric areas of Gotham City, the five-part storyline explores the horrific murder of one of Bruce Wayne’s childhood friends… and the terrible ramifications the brutal crime has on Batman’s life.

Collects: Batman: Dark Knight – Golden Dawn #1-5

Just a very quick review. I’d been going back and forth about reading this book for a while, but I eventually bit the bullet and dove in. It was pretty good, but not without its flaws. Overall, if you’re a fan of the darker, weirder and more-supernatural elements of the DCU, then this should suit your tastes.

The synopsis isn’t quite as accurate as it could have been. Batman is on the trail of a missing society girl, Dawn Golden, who he knew as a child. Naturally, Batman gets close to crossing the line (he does a real number on the Penguin). Judging by the first couple of issues/chapters of this mini-series, I can certainly see why DC offered Finch his own Bat-title for the New 52.


At the same time, it has all of the same hallmarks, and some of same weaknesses – for example, the story’s pretty short, and as a result doesn’t delve too deeply into the events, and certainly doesn’t spend much time with set up. It felt a little like an early Darkness story, actually, weird as that may sound (a series published by Image/Top Cow). For example, it was odd to see the demon Etrigan involved. And some other, more demonic characters.


I think I would recommend this if you like your Batman stories a little more supernaturally-flavoured (which I usually do not). I think this could and should have been longer. There’s just not enough character development, and Etrigan’s involvement doesn’t feel particularly well incorporated. The relationship between Bruce and Dawn could have been expanded a great deal, I think, and would have allowed for more of a psychological, backward-looking story.

Sadly, this felt a little thin in the end. That being said, the visuals are excellent. Sadly, that aforementioned lack of build up also robs the ends of its tragic impact (it’s sad, sure, but I think we were meant to find it more affecting).


Green Lantern, Vol.1 – “No Fear” (DC)

GreenLantern-Vol.1-NoFearWriter: Geoff Johns | Artist: Carlos Pacheco (#1-3), Ethan van Sciver (#4-5), Simone Bianchi (#6) | Inks: Jesus Merino (#1-3), Prentis Rollins (#5) | Colors: Moose Baumann (#1-5), Nathan Eyring (#6)

Hal Jordan is back from the dead – now watch as he re-establishes his life as a pilot. Standing in his way, though, is one of the deadly Manhunter androids followed by the Shark.

Collects: Green Lantern #1-6

After reading Blackest Night, its prequel Agent Orange, and Green Lantern: Rebirth, I’ve finally got around to reading the first collection of Geoff Johns’s pre-New 52 run on Green Lantern proper. And I was… well, not exactly bowled over, but nor was I exactly disappointed. It’s a fun book, and I’m sure it would be a good buy if you’re a fan of the character, but haven’t managed to read that much of his back-story or pre-New 52 adventures.

The first four pages of the book are a blitz-through of the story of how Abin Sur selected of Hal Jordan to be his successor. There’s a mention of the yellow impurity, which was properly explained in Green Lantern: Rebirth. The main story begins, as Jordan is trying to get a new job, back in the US Air Force. He’s struggling a bit, given that the guy he clocked to get his initial discharge is now heading up the program and division he would have to join to get re-upped. Awkward, for sure…


The next two chapters focus on a rogue “Manhunter 2.0” and Hal’s attempt to put it down. As it turns out, Manhunters are not so keen on humans…


The book is a little uneven beyond this, as we’re informed that an entire, new Green Lantern Corps is being called up, after the ravages of Parallax, which at least means they don’t know what Jordan became and what he did when he was possessed. Very strangely, at the start of one chapter (#4), what appears to be an alien, a gray, stepped out for a cigarette and is hit by a military jeep…


There’s a lot of cryptic information and nuggets throughout this book, but it didn’t really feel like it was going anywhere. Jordan goes to see Hector Hammond. Who has a huge head… I wasn’t entirely familiar with the character, but he features in the rest of the book.

In Chapter 5, we get… SHARKS!! Big, f**k-off evil ones. In another example of characters evolving “millions of years” in one go by an apparent freak accident… It gets to the point when it feels a bit like a narrative crutch. Thankfully, we do get an explanation for all this rampant evolution. And also a huge fight against a shark-beast that Jordan apparently has clashed with in the past.

Also, while reading this book, I was initially very confused about the creepy little German-speaking gremlins that kept cropping up at seemingly random moments…


In the final chapter, everything is finally tied up, and the German-speaking gremlins are explained. This was really weird. Quirky, not necessarily in a bad way, though. They appear to be experiment-obsessed aliens who like to dick around with others species’ genetics, technology, and evolutionary stage.


The artwork throughout is strong, as you can see from the samples included here. It’s not particularly stand-out, but it serves its purpose well – Johns’s story is well-realised. It was not, however, anything I felt particularly strongly about.

“No Fear” is not a bad book, overall, nor is it a bad start to a newly re-booted series. It’s a little bit unfocused, but at the same time it is starting to show signs of the quality I’ve seen in later books and the New 52 Green Lantern (which is the reason I decided to pick this up in the first place). At this point, pre-New 52 Green Lantern isn’t nearly as strong as the first two volumes of the New 52 re-boot. I’m not sure it’s as good for new readers, either. That’s a lot of dissembling after I said it was a good book… But, in view of the series at large, “No Fear” just isn’t as strong as other collected editions or story-arcs. It’s rather quirky, though.

Will I read volume two and beyond? Absolutely. I’m just not in as much of a rush to do so as I was after reading Blackest Night and the New 52 Green Lantern.


“Green Lantern: Rebirth” (DC)

GreenLantern-Rebirth-TPBGeoff Johns re-boots the Green Lantern series

Writer: Geoff Johns | Artist: Ethan van Sciver | Colors: Moose Baumann | Inks: Prentis Rollins (#2-6) & Mick Gray (#5-6), Marlo Alquiza (#6)

Hal Jordan was considered the greatest Green Lantern of them all. But Jordan lost control, allowed himself to be corrupted and transformed into the villainous Parallax. Later, Jordan reappeared and made the ultimate sacrifice – a sacrifice that allowed him to become the Spectre, the Wrath of God. After several years of activity on Earth, The Spectre became restless and sought a way to prove himself worthy of that noble reputation. See how a man born without fear and seeking to rebuild his life, puts cosmic forces into motion that will have repercussions not only on Earth but across the universe.

Green Lantern: Rebirth is the book that re-booted the franchise and character pre-New 52. Penned by Geoff Johns (who is fast becoming one of my favourite comic authors), it explains how Hal Jordan, who killed himself while possessed by the malevolent entity Parallax, comes back to life. As super-heroes are so very wont to do. It’s not a bad place to start, but this could be because I’ve read other Green Lantern books and series, not to mention later chapters in Johns’s run (don’t ask why, but I’m reading it entirely out of order).

So, as this book begins, there’s a lot of new and weird shit going on. First off, Hal Jordan is no longer the being Parallax. Instead, he appears to have become the Spectre, an incredibly powerful being created (maybe by a god) to go around the DC Universe meting out justice. Secondly, one of Earth’s other Lanterns (there are four), Guy Gardner is some kind of alien-shape-changer-hybrid, and no longer in the Green Lantern Corps. He is still on good terms with another Earth Lantern, John Stewart. Kyle Rayner, the fourth, final, and youngest human Lantern, who we meet in the first pages as he crash-lands back on on Earth, is oddly absent for a lot of this book.


The first chapter is very focused on scene setting, for which I was grateful. The Justice League make an appearance, as they try to figure out what’s going on: Gardner appears to have gone biologically nova – he unwittingly unleashed a massive power blast that destroys a Green Lantern-themed bar (a bit tacky, but there we go), and seems to have lost control of his shape-changing abilities. It’s a big mess. There are signs of Jordan returning, and not in a good way, as many of his former colleagues in the Lantern Corps and also the Justice League only see him now as the Spectre. Batman, on the other hand, is highly suspicious. As he is wont to be.


We learn more of Hal’s powers as the Spectre, when the Justice League confront him after he fixes the old, dilapidated airfield where he learned to fly, where his dad died, and where he met Carol. But then the other Lanterns start going nuts – Stewart attacks the Justice League members, and then Guy Gardner gets his ring back and then he, too, goes mental and starts attacking everybody.

The third chapter finally gives me the catch-up I’d been waiting for; as we get a very good history of Parallax, the Guardians’ battle with him (it?), and also the nature and cause of the “yellow impurity” that has a strange, detrimental impact on the Corps: they have a weakness against the color yellow… (This made me snort. I think it’s daft, and I can’t see how they managed to get this past the editors way back when. At least now, though, they have a decent explanation…)


Then, of course, everything come to a gigantic battle-crazy climax, as revelations are had and surprises dealt out. Sinestro enters the mix, and things get even crazier and more brutal. I think I preferred the second half of this book, but I do see why Johns took the approach he did. I have a feeling that, had I read this issue-by-issue as released, rather than in one go, I may not have continued with it all the way. So yes, the final half of Green Lantern: Rebirth saves the book from leaving me completely lost and disappointed. It was still more all-star than I would like (why does the Justice League have to appear all the damned time?). I enjoyed the portrayal of Batman, as a suspicious… well, dickhead. And the pathetic fallacy of having him portrayed as always deep in-shadow was nicely done.

If you want to delve back into the pre-New 52 relaunch, then this is a book that could help. But, at the same time, maybe starting with Volume 1, “No Fear”, would be enough?

(I have already read “No Fear”, and I can say that both would have worked as starting points for me – with, again, the caveat that I’m not entirely new to the setting and characters.)