“This is it. Batman and Robin. Together again for the first time.” And what a beginning it is. The much anticipated “Batman and Robin” #1 has everything you’d expect and want with a new creative team, a new Batmobile, new villains, a new secret hideout, and, of course, a new dynamic duo protecting Gotham.
If you haven’t noticed, the word here is new. Not only that, but it’s also fun. When was the last time a Batman comic felt both new and fun? Yes, Bruce Wayne recently died and that is addressed here, but “Battle for the Cowl” was the mourning period, and “Batman and Robin” is everyone moving on with their lives. And what better way than capturing a new bad guy, the Toad, in a brand new Batmobile that hovers?
The new dynamic duo is certainly different from what fans would expect with Dick Grayson as a Batman trying his best to have fun in a role he always knew he’d have to fill, but hoped against. While his disposition has always been lighter than Bruce’s, the quiet moments with Alfred in the new Batcave show that the happy-go-lucky front he puts on is just that -- partly for himself and partly for Damian, Bruce’s son with Talia al Ghul and new Robin.
From his first appearance shortly after Grant Morrison began writing “Batman,” Damian has been impudent, rebellious, and rude —- and he’s changed little here. The only noticeable difference is that he’s dedicated himself to taking after his father and is willing to tolerate Dick and Alfred (who he addresses as ‘Pennyworth’). He has the skills to do this job and, worse, he knows it -- and can’t help bringing it up at any chance he’s given.
The interplay between the two is unusual and not at all what’s expected of Batman and Robin, and it works very well. Dick and Damian have had little on-panel interaction up until this point, so their relationship is very fresh, with neither comfortable with the other yet. Damian acts like he’s the one in charge and Dick does his best to shrug it off, knowing that a well-timed remark is all it takes to bring him back down to Earth.
Nothing seems more fitting for this first issue than for Frank Quitely to join his longtime collaborator Grant Morrison on art. While Morrison is no stranger to Batman, Quitely has only drawn the character a few times in the past, mostly on covers, and he brings a fresh energy to the book. Morrison's work on the Batbooks to this point has been plagued by less-than-stellar art, so seeing him get a chance to work not just with one of the top artists in the industry, but an artist who so completely understands Morrison’s writing is a joy.
As with most projects, Quitely has added a new trick or two to his art. The most noticeable is the integration of sound effects into the art, which adds to that feeling of fun I mentioned. Since this issue is fast-moving, he opts for large panels and drawings that could easily become iconic stalwarts. The new Batmobile showing off its capabilities, Batman and Robin taking out the Toad, the two testing out their new paracapes... you can’t turn a page without stopping to admire the art.
With expectations high, “Batman and Robin” #1 could have easily disappointed, but it not only meets those expectations, it exceeds them. No one could have asked for a better introduction to the new Batman and Robin.