In Batman and Robin, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely–the team responsible for Flex Mentallo, New X-Men, We3, and All Star Superman–reunite for the next chapter in the Batman saga.
Bruce Wayne is believed to be dead. After Gotham City falls into chaos without the presence of the Dark Knight, Dick Grayson, the original Robin who later became Nightwing, assumes the role of his former mentor and becomes the new Batman, while Damian, the ten-year-old presumed son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, becomes the new Robin. This time, Batman is the more light-hearted character while Robin is the dark, driven one.
The first two issues set up the premise of this new series while introducing a villain called Professor Pyg that could only have been created by Morrison. When Pyg joins forces with the Circus of the Strange, Morrison is back on the road in his familiar territory of weird. I like it. Gotham City has always been a beacon to villainous grotesques. Morrison is best suited to exploring that part of the Batman mythos.
Morrison fans should enjoy this more than mainstream fans of Batman, although to me it feels like Morrison’s 21st century take on the 1950s Batman, much as All Star Superman felt like an ode to the Man of Steel of that era. Once again, Quitely’s art nicely complement’s Morrison’s writing. The two share a creative synergy that works very well.
Meanwhile, writer Judd Winick takes the reins in Batman #687, which also follows the adventures of the new Batman and Robin, albeit from a more mainstream perspective than the one provided by Morrison and Quitely. This issue is very much character driven, delving into Dick Grayson’s decision to become Batman, and features some poignant scenes of Dick and Alfred dealing with the loss of Bruce Wayne. Different perspective, but just as good as Batman and Robin. If Morrison isn’t your cup of tea, this might suit you better.
Keeping things in Gotham City, Batwoman takes over a starring role in Detective Comics #854. The character made news when she debuted three years ago in 52 #7 and was revealed to be a lesbian. While one might imagine that editors at DC Comics ordered her creation as a token of diversity, in the hands of writer Greg Rucka she’s a full-blooded character who’s truthfully more compelling than the new Batman and Robin.
I do like the new Batman and Robin, but Batwoman is a fresh character. I’ve been a fan since her first appearance (I always fall for the redheads) and I’ve been awaiting the day when she had a regular book to appear in. I couldn’t be happier by how good this first issue with her as the lead is.
Rucka’s hard-boiled writing is as evocative as I’ve come to expect from him. Batwoman is a tough fighter who can be dangerously vampish when it comes to interrogating criminals, while her socialite alter ego Kate Kane struggles with complications in her love life caused by her nighttime activities as a vigilante. We meet her cast of supporting characters, including her retired military officer father who aids her career as a crimefighter and her attorney girlfriend Anna, and the new Batman also puts in a cameo appearance. The new villain introduced here is someone I’d expect from Grant Morrison or Warren Ellis, but suits the mood of the story nicely. The dialog and storytelling are razor sharp.
As good as the writing is, the art of J.H. Williams III, who previously collaborated with Alan Moore on Promethea and Warren Ellis on Desolation Jones, is breathtaking. Williams is a master of layouts and technique, and displays a visual poetry that is perfectly suited to the material. His collaboration with colorist Dave Stewart is key, with the color scheme fading almost to a monochrome at times, allowing the red of Batwoman’s hair, lips, and costume to stand out vividly. I like the look Williams gives Kate in her civilian life, which I would describe as having an upscale Goth influence, which suits her character much better than the generic socialite look of her earliest appearances.
The new ongoing backup story in Detective Comics features the second incarnation of the Question, former Gotham City P.D. Detective Renee Montoya, also a lesbian and Kate Kane’s former lover. Rucka also writes this B-feature, with art provided by Cully Hamner. With the same writer doing both stories, it’s nice to have two good artists with very different styles to provide a contrast. I’m also a Montoya fan, so I’m happy to see her adventures continue here.