"Everything's connected and it's all coming to a head."
Dick Grayson is talking this issue about one specific storyline when he says that, but really it's a piece of dialogue that could just as easily reply to all of Grant Morrison's "Batman" and now "Batman and Robin" issues to date. With "Batman and Robin" #12, it's hard to not get the feeling that Morrison has finished dropping all of his pieces into position, and a whole lot of craziness is now breaking loose.
There's a lot of story packed into this issue, so much that I actually stopped and flipped back to the cover to see if I'd missed it being double-sized. (Nope.) There's not only the previous issue's cliffhanger of Deathstroke using Robin to attack Batman, we've still got Talia al Ghul, the mysterious Mr. Sexton, the secret passages below Wayne Manor, the rise of Penitente... oh, and an unmasking of a character who's been missing in action for a while. "Batman and Robin" #12 never feels rushed, though; Morrison hits each plot point and you can almost hear him checking them off with glee as he does so.
What impressed me about the (several!) big reveals in this issue, though, is that Morrison doesn't let you stop for more than a couple of seconds before he hits the ground running again. I think that's what helps this issue feel so momentous, because by the end of the issue the reader's head should be slightly spinning from all of the surprises. That's the way a climax of this nature should arrive; building up in power and then exploding in such a way that it's going to take several issues to mop everything up. And with "The Return of Bruce Wayne" kicking off next week, plus Morrison stepping in to write a few issues of "Batman" starting next month, well, it's a perfect storm of Bat-craziness.
Andy Clarke finishes up his run slightly early this month, with Dustin Nguyen stepping in for a handful of pages to provide breakdowns that Scott Hanna finishes. With Hanna being Clarke's regular inker, though, it's a surprisingly seamless transition; Hanna keeps the overall look a near-perfect match, and that look is sharp. I love the texture that Clarke and Hanna have when they collaborate, from a tangled mat of grass, to all the little scales on Deathstroke's armor as he thrashes through the air. Clarke has a good sense of action and motion; when Robin leaps through the air to attack Batman, it doesn't come across posed or stiff, but instead like you're actually catching a glimpse of a fight in progress. Turning the page to see Batman's kick into Robin's chest, it's as if you have a flip-book animation unfolding, the transition from one image to the next is so strong. Nguyen and Hanna's collaborations continue that forward; his two-page spread of the elevated train snaking through Gotham is fantastic, showing the scope of the city above while the crime unfolds below.
With "Batman and Robin" #12, I suspect a lot of this book's audience is going to drag out their Morrison Bat-book runs to date and re-read them to see just how many of these moments were telegraphed over the last several years. I actually feel bad for anyone who's only reading "Batman and Robin" in a collected format; they're going to have to wait at least six months after getting to this cliffhanger to see what happens next. The rest of us? It looks like we're in for the ride of our lives. "Batman and Robin" is a perfect example of how to make reading a monthly comic an absolutely necessary event.