As "Batman & Robin" hits the halfway of its biweekly third storyarc, Dick Grayson, the Knight, the Squire, and Batwoman have all converged on a Lazarus Pit in England and are, apparently, going to resurrect Bruce Wayne using the corpse Superman found after his death in "Final Crisis." In a twisted recall to "Final Crisis," Grant Morrison reveals that the corpse in their possession isn't Bruce Wayne's, but one of the clones that were meant to be an army in service of Darkseid. It's a clever twist that spurs on the second part of "Blackest Knight," "Batman versus Batman."
After the previous arc where Grayson fought against a fellow former Robin, his next challenge as the new Batman being to fight against a version of Bruce Wayne makes a lot of sense. Adding that the clones of Wayne were endowed with superhuman strength make the four-on-one fight less than fair. However, for a few moments, Grayson more than holds his own in a fantastic single page of the two Batmen fighting against one another that Cameron Stewart draws perfectly, giving us the furious chaos of the two trying to take the other down, but doing so in a clear, easy to read manner. He nails the sheer coolness factor of two Batmen trying to beat the holy hell out of one another, choreographing their moves well to show how evenly matched they are until Grayson can get the upper hand.
The pacing of this issue is quick as there's little time to stop and catch one's breath. Piled on top of the evil Batman's violent attack are British villains associated with the Religion of Crime. The issue begins with a funny joke by Morrison playing off the Alice villain that Batwoman fought in "Detective Comics," and continuing on the children's stories (and Disney films) theme. Morrison writes Batwoman very well in this issue, building on the foundations of her previous appearances and possibly changing the character in a very big and lasting way. However, it's the speedy pace and that feeling of an organized effort to eliminate the heroes that carries the issue forward, especially as the second half speeds towards a messy conclusion.
Stewart's collaborations with Morrison continue to become more and more refined and seamless, this issue adding Tony AviÃ±a on colors to the mix. He uses the same color palette as previous colorist Alex Sinclair, but adds more depth and doesn't have quite as many pixilated background effects. Stewart uses a simple, bold style with strong lines, often very rounded, particularly in faces. He's very effective at making sure every character has distinct body shapes and faces, making the similarity between the two Batmen a little jarring. One element that did stand out, though, is the temporary absence of the electric 'brass' knuckles that Dick wears, but their absence makes the fight between the two more visually appealing.
A fun, action-oriented issue that propels the reader forward throughout, "Batman and Robin" #8 plays off the ground work set by Morrison in previous stories effectively and ends with some plot threads hanging for the conclusion of the story, which, thankfully, will be released in only two weeks. I, for one, cannot wait.