Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely reboot Batman & Robin to fantastic effect

Grant Morrison appears to have got DC Comics’ main characters completely nailed. In All Star Superman he gently twisted the Man of Steel into a believable alien god. And while we complained about the knowledge of DC Comics history required to read Batman R.I.P., this book is something of a fresh start.

In fact you still need a wedge of knowledge if you haven’t kept up with Batman R.I.P. and Battle for the Cowl but it’s fairly easily summed up. Bruce Wayne is gone and the mantle of Batman has been taken by original Robin and latterly Nightwing, Dick Grayson. The job of Robin has stayed in the family and gone to Bruce Wayne’s son Damien, a feisty young 10-year-old who has been raised by assassins.

With this latest incarnation of the dynamic duo, Morrison seems to introduce a harder edge. Clearly Grayson is no Bruce Wayne, and while trying to reign in his Robin to a certain extent, both seem to have a more gung-ho, feet-first attitude to their work.

There’s a bit of familiar ground trod in the book, as Jason Todd (the second Robin, famously murdered by the Joker and brought back to life as a raging nutter) reappears as Grayson’s arch enemy. Like the extreme Batman he tried to become in Battle for the Cowl, psychotic Todd is still attempting to clean Gotham’s streets by murdering rather than incarcerating villains.

Morrison weaves a good tale here though. He’s pitching Batman as an action comic, with plenty of crunching fight scenes, as Batman and company pitch themselves against gangsters and psychos. Super powers are completely absent – these may be men in suits, but they’re still men.

With regards to the art, Quitely’s is brilliant in the first three chapters. It’s a shame that he doesn’t have art duties throughout and Philip Tan has a tough act to follow. Few comic artists can rival Quitely, and Tan’s work, while still terrific in places, pales when lined up next to such illustrious competition. It leaves the second half of the book feeling like a bit of a disappointment after Quitely’s strong start.

It’s a compelling reboot of the Batman legend though, chucking out the old and pulling in the new. While Morrison continues to tip his hat to DC’s history, he doesn’t do it to the exclusion of newcomers, who could just about jump on here and see where Morrison decides to take it next. And on the basis of these first couple of stories, we can’t help but think it’s going to be worth the ride.

Read more Batman reviews:

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More books by Grant Morrison:

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