I feel bad for anyone coming onto “Batman and Robin” with this issue. With “Batman and Robin Must Die!” Grant Morrison (with the able help of Frazer Irving) is bringing several years of “Batman” and “Batman and Robin” stories to a huge climax. So while I won’t go so far as to say that a new reader might find it too impenetrable, not knowing who characters like Pyg or the Black Glove are will definitely mean that this story isn’t going to have the same impact.
For those who have been reading Morrison’s Bat-stories (even if it’s just “Batman and Robin” over the past year), though, it pays off in a spectacular fashion. All the various characters, subplots, and ideas that Morrison’s played with are coming together nicely. I never thought I’d be excited to Pyg or Dr. Hurt back, for pete’s sake. Morrison gives them all something to do, though, and it feels like they’re serving a greater purpose now.
The marquee villain of the story, though, is the Joker, and now that he’s back it’s becoming more clear why it was necessary to have him off of the board for a year. The break has done him well, letting him feel that much creepier and dangerous than before. It’s definitely one of the more menacing interpretations of the character we’ve seen over the years, and his confrontation with Damian is slightly unnerving in places. It helps that Irving’s art brings a grim, nasty overall look to the scene; Irving uses dull, muted colors to almost deaden the art. This isn’t a cute or fun looking series of pages; it’s dark and powerful.
Then again, in general, this is some of the best art I’ve seen from Frazer Irving. From the rain pouring down on Jim Gordon as he tries to wake Batman, to the eerie magenta hue that saturates the mob advancing on them both, Irving manages to make any and every scene feel tense and out of control. Even something as simple as Dr. Hurt shooting a pumpkin looks creepy, here.
The best thing about “Batman and Robin” #14? It feels like anything can happen. Sure, we all know that Dick and Damian will live to fight another day, but in the back of your head Morrison manages to plant a seed of doubt that this has gotten too out of control for even our heroes. That’s the kind of storytelling I like. I’m sad that Morrison only has two more issues of “Batman and Robin” left, but he’s knocking this last big story out of the park.