One of the things I liked about the November 2010 revamp of the Batman family of titles was that each comic seemed to stake out its own particular territory and idea; “Detective Comics” in a dark and realistic take on the character, “Batman” with the more fantastical elements, and so on. With a last-minute fill-in on “Batman and Robin” until February 2011, though, we’d yet to see what Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason were planning for “Batman and Robin.” And now that the first storyline is over? I’m not sure how this title stands out from the rest of the line any more.
It went without saying that whomever took the title over after Grant Morrison’s final issue was going to be at a slight disadvantage; it’s a fool’s errand to try and match Morrison’s take on the title, so it would mean staking out a new direction and letting that build with time. But after three issues, “Batman and Robin” looks to be taking the same general superhero tactic that “Batman” is already more than capably handling.
Tomasi’s story started out with a nice take on “Batman and Robin” perhaps becoming, literally, the new “Batman Family” title that brings in all the different Bat-characters, but since then it’s settled into a familiar track of a new villain vowing revenge. The White Knight isn’t a particularly distinctive new creation, and it’s hard to keep from feeling like we’ve somehow read this story before. It’s a safe story, not making any mistakes but not blazing into something out of the ordinary or even above average levels of excitement. There are a couple good bits of dialogue, and a moment or two that will evoke a chuckle. But it’s hard to believe this is the same creative team that made “Green Lantern Corps” a must-read every month.
Gleason’s pencils are the stronger attraction in this issue; there’s something about the glowing-white Arkham Asylum, or the White Knight trying to drown the villains in their cells that looks eye-catching. In particular, the brief confrontation between White Knight and Dr. Phosphorus (thanks in part to colorist Alex Sinclair) looks great, a battle of the glowing characters. I like Pearson’s slightly stretchy, cartoony characters here, and his work at least appears to try and set the title apart from the others.
So what’s next? Hopefully with time Tomasi and Gleason will grow into the title. Of course, it’s only an assumption at this point that Tomasi and Gleason are still scheduled to be the regular creative team, as originally announced. “Batman and Robin” #23-25 is running a story by Judd Winick, Guillem March, and Greg Tocchini, so it’s anyone’s guess at this point what lies ahead for “Batman and Robin.” Maybe they’ll be back, maybe “Batman and Robin” is the new “Batman Confidential” (which of course was the new “Legends of the Dark Knight”). For now, based strictly on their “Green Lantern Corps” work, I’m hoping Tomasi and Gleason will return with a more distinctive take on the title. For now, though, this is a comic that is perfectly fine, but still in danger of getting lost in the shuffle.