I'll be the first to admit, when Grant Morrison started writing Batman comics, they never really grabbed me the way the rest of his work did. The Batman "universe" just didn't seem as capable of wonder and imaginative flights as his other work. Dude was just a human detective figuring stuff out and punching people. Where could the subtle metaphors about evolution and human communication come from?
Yeah, it turns out I didn't have much to worry about.
For a few years now, Morrison has been creating a Batman, a Gotham City, and a mythology that is just as complex and resonant as any of his best previous work. In this issue, the concurrent threads of "Batman & Robin" and "The Return of Bruce Wayne" come to a head together. It's hard to gauge exactly how they will all tie together since it appears that this issue takes place after "The Return Of Bruce Wayne" but, like most of Morrison's comics, everything will hang together a bit better when read in one big stack on a rainy autumn afternoon.
As with his best work, Morrison shines brightest when working on smaller character moments. The first quarter of the book is devoted to a fantastic exchange between The Joker and Damien's Robin. The Joker obviously has a lot of history with the Robin mantle and Damien is pretty much the most complicated kid to take the role. Their back and forth is a delight to read.
Artist Frazer Irving does some incredible and versatile work in this issue. Along with his typical moody and painterly work, there is one expertly rendered fight sequence between Robin and about ten dozen thugs that has the layout of a Quitely "We3" page and the rugged line energy of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns."
A special note should be made about Frazer Irving's alternate cover. A piece of art would have to be pretty fantastic for me to want to pick up one cover instead of another that happened to be drawn by Frank Quitely, but Irving's variant cover was just that good. Probably the creepiest cover to grace a comic since Alan Davis' chillfest for "Excalibur"'s first Inferno issue, it holds the prized honor of being the first "rare" variant I've ever bought.
Morrison has done a fantastic job building a completely unique world for Batman, and in this issue he seems to be tying together years of disparate threads in preparation for Bruce Wayne's return and the revitalization of the Batman line. As someone in a Batman costume says at the close of the issue (it's kind of unclear precisely who) "It's all over." It's certainly going out with its finest foot forward.