It was the second time through “Batman and Robin” #2 that it suddenly hit me — this book got its title for a very specific reason. It’s not merely just to split it off from the regular “Batman” title, but because this is a book that’s actually about Batman and Robin; both them as individuals, as well as the idea of them working together as a cohesive unit. And with Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as the new Batman and Robin, it’s the latter that is proving to be the central conflict of the issue.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of other things going on in “Batman and Robin” #2 as well. Le Cirque D’Etrange’s assault on the Gotham Police station runs through the majority of the issue, and it almost goes without saying that a circus attack under Morrison’s watch is much more than a Ringling Brothers show. Morrison and Frank Quitely are good with the action sequences, but there’s more to this comic than just that. “Being Batman and Robin isn’t about working alone and thinking with your fists,” Dick says after the dust finally settles, and it’s true. I was a little surprised at first to have some of the Gotham City Police Force members twigging that something was wrong with the normal appearance of Batman and Robin, but it makes sense the more you get into the story. After all, this new Batman and Robin are learning not only how to fit into their roles, but how to work together as a single unit. Damian Wayne’s nastiness here is definitely part of the journey that the two of them have to take (both together and individually), and nothing feels even remotely gratuitous.
The art, unsurprisingly, is gorgeous. From the first page with Alfred coming across the depressed Dick on the stairs, there isn’t a line out of place here in these perfectly composed drawings. I love Dick’s slumped shoulders underneath his outfit, or the way that Alfred hesitantly approaches him. Likewise, the tight focus on Gordon’s face with the light shining off of his glasses is beautifully composed, even as the reflection closes off Gordon as a person from this new Batman and Robin, a visual representation of the distance that now exists between them as Gordon tries to figure out who replaced his old friend.
And as for the action shots, well, they’re fantastic. There’s such a strong level of energy here, characters virtually leaping across the page in a beautiful fashion. Even the little touches like how Robin’s grappling hook line uncurls jump out at the reader. I love how Quitely’s page layouts are complex but never gratuitously odd; they follow the action of the characters themselves, with the panels almost jumping into place and forming themselves around the characters inside their boundaries. Looking at the double-page spread of Batman fighting the circus performers, every oddly-angled panel fits perfect; both as an individual drawing as well as with connection to all the others around it.
It’s great to see Morrison and Quitely working together in such fine form; their 12-issue “All-Star Superman” was a comic for the ages, but I think everyone’s going to talk about their “Batman and Robin” with some reverent words as well. This is, in a nutshell, how all superhero books should get approached by their creative teams. Great work all around.