The idea behind “Batman and Robin” #9 is a solid one; Peter J. Tomasi lets Robin take control of the title during the “Night of the Owls” event, with Damian Wayne having to save the leader of Gotham City’s National Guard. But somewhere along the way, “Batman and Robin” #9 turns a bit silly. The problem is, I don’t think it was supposed to be.
“Batman and Robin” #9 starts out well enough. Tomasi generally speaking handles Robin’s voice with just the right tone of righteousness with a touch of snotty, and his instant arguing with Alfred over saving Major General Burrows instead of helping Batman works. But as soon as Robin gets to the Gotham Barrens, it starts sliding downhill. Robin ordering the military around should be great but ends up feeling ridiculous. The character becomes shrill, and in some ways almost a parody of the Damian Wayne we’ve been reading about the last couple of years. The character’s always had an attitude, but this is a bit much.
The art follows a similar trend under guest penciler Lee Garbett. Early pages made me initially think that it was regular penciler Patrick Gleason, with open and clean figures and a nice rounded line. It devolves a bit, though; Burrows looming over Robin looks more like Mr. Hyde from Marvel Comics than a regular person and the decapitated couple in the moods just looks ludicrous. There are also some structural problems; for example when the Talon leaps through the air to grab Robin and Burrows, he apparently jumps fast enough to actually get in front of the rocket-powered duo, rather than having grabbed from behind. A lot of panels also are either without a background at all, or have one through the work of colorist John Kalisz using a pattern of colors to denote foliage.
There is, however, a great two-page spread by Andy Clarke whose work I’ve missed a great deal as of late. Clarke uses his incredibly detailed style to give a beautiful flashback to the time of the Revolutionary War; between the intricate lines and the sepia colors from Kalisz, it reminds the reader of wood cuts. It’s a great way to deliver this sequence, and it’s the high point of the comic by far.
“Batman and Robin” #9 is a comic that starts off good, but it’s just unable to maintain that early mood through either the script or the art. Ultimately it feels like it’s just missing the mark a bit; not bad, but should have been a whole lot better than the final product. Still, for that two-page spread from Tomasi and Clarke alone, I thank them. More like that, please.