Friday, 10 December 2010

Batman Vs. Robin hardcover review

Like him or hate him - few fans remain indifferent - you cannot deny that Grant Morrison is a bold voice in comics. Never content with the mere title of comic book writer, Morrison has claimed himself to be everything from the industry's first rock star, to a shamanic god-like figure. But none of the eccentric Scotsman's drug stories or Buddhist anecdotes will be remembered in the final analysis. That responsibility will fall on his work and his work alone.

At his worst Morrison is self-indulgent, surrealist without a sense of purpose, forsaking a clear sense of structure and direction for the sake of poetry (a mistake Alan Moore rarely makes, despite the art of his language). At his best Morrison is without peer; the king of the mind-bending high-concept, a natural at shifting expectation, and a rare innovator of the form. I believe Grant Morrison only becomes one of the very best when he twins his flights of fancy with emotion, and story. All-Star Superman and JLA: Earth Two spring to mind.

So we come to the latest collection in the Batman and Robin series. With a roster of artists Cameron Stewart and Andy Clarke, Morrison follows strands of story and characters created for his 'Black Glove' run on Batman, namely Knight and Squire. The mysterious figure of Oberon Sexton is developed further and fractures in the relationship between the new Batman and Robin team begin to emerge, all set against the backdrop of a crime caper set primarily in England and Gotham. There are touches of genius (Talia Al Ghul giving a fresh spin on the controlling mother archetype, Damian Wayne taking on Wayne Enterprises, fascinating glimpses into the Wayne family history), but these are marred by a plot that warms up halfway through the graphic novel. Lazarus Pits are an intriguing proposition post-RIP, but Morrison used it to play a familiar and tired card.

The deluxe edition format looks and feels great. The extra's in the back of the book are a mixed bag (do we really need to see the different colors DC used for the logo?)but worth it to inspect Frank Quietly's always exemplary covers. The series has been struggling to maintain the standard he set since his departure.
I have no doubt that Batman and Robin will continue to be a pop-art kick in the middle of a comic market that takes itself far too seriously at times, but that original, breathless thrill ride that it was in the first few issues has been dimmed.

for fans of: Batman (duh)

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