When Grant Morrison killed Batman, after putting him through almost literal hell, I don’t think anyone expected the book that would rise from those ashes would have turned out anything like this one. It’s not really accurate to say that this book is light where Morrison’s old Batman was dark, because let’s not forget that the opening storyline featured a guy who seared masks onto peoples’ faces. I don’t think even the Joker did anything that grotesquely messed up.
But it’s hard to deny that there’s a little more Pop in Morrison’s “Batman & Robin” then we found in the pages of his run on “Batman.” Frank Quitely certainly helped this sense in the opening issues, and while Philip Tan took the book in a muddier direction, Cameron Stewart makes the book a turbo-pop experience once again. I’ll be honest, I have no idea if Morrison made up The Knight and The Squire during his run on JLA, but they’ve always been a lovely creation. A Very British Batman and Robin, they add a light and charming touch to even the darkest stories. This issue is no exception, as it opens with Dick Grayson’s Batman leaping through London in a Paul Greengrass chase to defuse several explosives throughout the city, and climaxing in an incredible Harrod’s-To-Motorcycle finish.
It’s a thrilling opening, which transitions to the introduction of some typically Morrisonian (read: pretty damn great) characters and concepts, culminating in the discovery of a long-lost Lazarus Pit (which explains the Mummified Batman on the cover pretty well). Also, Batwoman shows up. It’s a little hard to figure out exactly what she’s doing there, mainly because of probably the most ill timed dialogue/lettering glitch since Samara’s Loyalty Quest in “Mass Effect 2.” Post-production mishaps aside, the first chapter of “Blackest Knight” is still a great story, very reminiscent of Stewart’s work with Morrison on “The Manhattan Guardian” (it even has a subway!).
Stewart is still one of the most versatile artists in the medium, and with each new project, he’s able to strengthen another aspect of his work. While not as loose and cartoony as his work on “Seaguy 2,” his art here is still overflowing with energy without sparing any significant detail or distracting from his canny storytelling sensibilities. He’s also a perfect fit for Morrison’s tone here in this storyline. There’s a bit of a dark edge to the story, what with Batman’s corpse getting through around, but there’s also bright orange ghosts of miners getting slugged. Stewart’s art casts the perfect balance.
Morrison has created an interesting structure in “Batman and Robin:” Cleanly segmented storylines of three issues each, yet each one joined together by an overarching plot. It’s hard to imagine that Bruce Wayne really will be crawling out of that Lazarus Pit considering DC has already solicited the mini-series in which he makes his actual return, but this is still a great story to watch unfold.