Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest: Batman and Robin #1

Posted: Sunday, June 7, 2009
By: Thom Young

Grant Morrison
Frank Quitely (with Alex Sinclair, colors)
DC Comics
The new Batman and Robin hit the streets in their new flying Batmobile and we begin to meet a few of the new villains that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are introducing into the Batman mythos.

Dave Wallace:
Charles Webb:
Karyn Pinter:
Paul Brian McCoy:
Thom Young:

Dave Wallace:

Batman and Robin #1 sees Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely pick up the post-Battle for the Cowl status quo and run with it, wasting no time in getting stuck into a fun action-adventure that introduces the new dynamic duo at the same time that Morrison kicks off a brand new supervillain plot.

In many ways, this debut issue is a far more straightforward and traditional superhero comic than Morrison's previous complex and layered work on the Batman title. The writer has mentioned in interviews about his desire to recapture the energy and verve of the 1960s Batman TV show with this book--and, with the help of Quitely, he achieves his goal admirably.

Not only does the book benefit from a fast-paced plot with plenty of action, but there's a sense of humour here that is often lacking in DC's Batbooks. Whether it's the larger-than-life sound effects that are seamlessly incorporated into Quitely's linework, the whimsical inclusion of a low-level villain who appears to be based on Mr. Toad from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, or the sense of comic timing that's apparent in moments like the one in which Dick and Damian punch Toad off his feet simultaneously, there's a real sense of fun to the book.

In addition to all of the former, this first issue is very accessible--especially considering that it's essentially a continuation of Morrison's existing body of work on the Batman title. The story feels relatively self-contained as it explains everything for any new readers who might not be up to speed with the new status quo of the Batman universe, yet it never seems as though readers are being spoon fed large chunks of exposition. Instead, all the relevant and important details are scattered throughout the issue--dropped into dialogue at natural moments rather than being forced into the book in a heavy-handed manner.

For longtime readers of Morrison's Batman run, there are also quite a few subtle references back to previous stories--such as the similarity between the design of the new Batmobile and Bruce's unfinished prototype that was unveiled by Damian way back in Batman #657, or the introduction into present-day continuity of the Dollotrons and Professor Pyg, who featured in the future-set Batman #666.

Not only does Morrison refer back to his previous Batman stories, but the issue inevitably evokes past collaborations with Quitely, too. More than once, I was reminded of their run on New X-Men, with the identical Dollotrons bearing a resemblance to Emma Frost's Stepford Cuckoos, and the opening shots of Batman and Robin in this issue looking very similar to some of the earliest shots of the mutant team in the first issue of Morrison and Quitely's New X-Men. The resemblance is uncanny in places--all the way down to the new design of the superheroes' sleek black aircraft (with the characters' logo in red as a windshield) and the in-cockpit view of the book's heroes drenched in red light.

Perhaps these similarities are intentional--signifying that Morrison wants to put his own personal stamp on Batman and Robin in the same way that he did the X-Men--or perhaps it's just a natural result of the collaborators repeating a couple of past ideas after having worked together on so many projects.

If Morrison is consciously trying to put his own stamp on these characters, he's doing a good job so far. I like the way that the writer treats Dick and Daiman as embodying different aspects of Bruce's personality: Dick has all of Bruce's discipline and restraint, but tempered by a certain lightness and humanity; Daiman, on the other hand, is a more formal and serious superhero--a terse and tight character who treats crime-fighting as a job rather than a hobby.

Morrison effectively establishes the difference between the old Batman and this new version in a couple of scenes that demonstrate Dick's differing approach to crime-fighting--most memorably tormenting Toad by making him believe that he's in mortal danger when in actual fact he doesn't intend to harm him at all. It's quite far removed from the dark, uncompromising techniques that we often associate with Batman, and promises that Dick will take quite a different approach to Bruce in dealing with his enemies.

Frank Quitely's illustrations work in perfect tandem with Morrison's script to tell the story. His excellent new designs for the book include a new flying Batmobile and slightly modified costumes for Batman and Robin. The storytelling is clear and smooth throughout, with a couple of standout moments. I love the pin-up style splash page in which the heroes try out their new paracapes, and the disturbing closing sequence strikes a perfectly bizarre and horrific tone for Morrison's new villain, Mr. Pyg.

There are also one or two smaller visual touches that help to connect the book to the history of the Batman mythos--such as the old-school cutaway page that show the contents of Batman's old Wayne Foundation Tower headquarters from years ago, or the fact that the Dollotrons are hiding out in the Ghost Train from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's Killing Joke. All of these touches help to reinforce the idea that this book may deal with new characters in the roles of Batman and Robin but it's very much a continuation of the same Batbooks that we've been reading for years.

Finally, I can't help but mention the clever wordplay of the issue's title, "Domino Effect." It seems to refer not only to the idea of a catalysing sequence of events--and to actual dominoes themselves, which are a significant plot point--but also to the "domino" mask previously sported by Dick Grayson and now adopted by Damian, the transfer of which has had a noticeable effect on the personalities of both characters as they grow into their new roles.

With Batman and Robin #1, Morrison and Quitely aren't reinventing the wheel of superhero comics. However, it doesn't seem as though that was ever the intention. Instead, they're taking the new Batman and Robin and setting out to have as much fun with them as possible--whilst also imbuing their world with a sense of freshness and novelty. It's a testament to this fresh feeling that Morrison even manages to pull off the old "together again for the first time" cliché without it feeling self-satisfied or self-aggrandising. This issue feels like a genuinely new take on these old established heroes, and I can't wait to see where Morrison and Quitely take them next.

Charles Webb:

Comments: After months of middling stories and false starts, fans of the Bat-family finally get back to solid footing with the return of Grant Morrison. Better still, he returns with frequent collaborator Frank Quietly--reuniting the team that ushered in radical reinventions/reinterpretations of comic mainstays the X-men and Superman.

The last few months have dealt with the supposed death of Batman and its repercussions on Gotham. This scenario has elicited introspection about the nature of a hero's death (thanks to Neil Gaiman) and nearly histrionic insistence that a Gotham without Batman is a city in flames (thanks to Tony Daniel). Neither approach had any particular resonance for me.

The former was a flat-footed and on-the-nose analysis of the titular character with trite commentary on the nature of the Dark Knight that did disservice to both the "death" of Batman and Neil Gaiman's otherwise stellar legacy of innovative storytelling.

The latter represented one of my great pet peeves in modern comics writing: Editorially mandated running around by the principal cast until the "real story" took effect. I'm sure everyone involved in the construction of Battle for the Cowl* and its miscellaneous tie-ins felt they had something to say about Batman, his city, his friends, and his foes. Ultimately, however, it ended up feeling scattershot, lacking unity, and (worse yet) any feeling of suspense.

The pro forma question of who would wear the pointy ears and voluminous cape of Batman was there, but frustratingly not there. It had less to do with the stories that were being told since these weren't the "real" writers who would ultimately get to dictate this course of events.

With that recent history firmly dealt with, let's look at the present: Morrison and Quietly have (as expected) generated a brightly-colored pop candy confection that doesn't nourish but nonetheless satisfies.

I have alternately loved and admired Morrison's work on Batman since he took the reigns of the book back in 2005. I must clarify this admiration is because I didn't necessarily think some of the choices he made worked--primarily in Batman: R.I.P.--but because the giddy influx of ideas made me excited for what would come next.

Giddiness. That's what this opening issue of Batman and Robin has in abundance. It appropriately feels like Batman as seen through young eyes--for all that entails. In times past, Robin was the character the reader was asked to identify with. However, Morrison asks us here to step into the shoes of protégé-turned-mentor Dick Grayson as he guides Damian Wayne in his role as the new Robin.

Tellingly, the Robin/Nightwing-turned Batman is airborne and aloft both physically and in terms of story. Quietly has reinterpreted Batman and Robin visually as Morrison has shifted the characters behind the masks. Together the creators have made the dynamic duo agile and extremely kinetic. Gone is the grimness of the character but not the essential danger. The genius detective has a greater part of daredevil added to the mix alongside his vicious little deadly-ninja sidekick.

About Damian: I've noted that we now identify with Batman instead of Robin, and I think this is in part because the role of Robin is now in flux with the son of the Batman wearing the modified costume. Indeed, Damian as a character is in flux, still haughty but lacking much of the bratty excesses of his early appearances. It peeks in around the edges, but he seems humbled by his new role as a protector against the threats that face Gotham.

Not content to reinvent Gotham's heroes, Morrison and Quietly reassess the bizarre costumed evil that infects the city. We see hints of it with Mr. Toad and a suitably unsettling appearance at the end of the issue by new heavy Mr. Pyg. What differentiates Morrison from other writers is his enthusiasm for creating new villains instead of relying on the constant tweaking of old ones.

The issue is a perfect first issue--both as an introduction to new readers as well as for longtime readers eager to see the new direction of the series. If I haven't evangelized enough in the last 700 or so words, let me state plainly that I can't wait to see what Morrison has in store for his readers over the next year.

*And what was Battle for the Cowl if not something relentlessly and ploddingly built instead of told?

If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the author's work at Monster In Your Veins

Karyn Pinter:

If you've been living under a rock and have no clue what's happening in the world of Batman right now, I will give fair warning of spoilers.

I guess we'll all have to suck it up and face the fact that Bruce Wayne isn't coming back--at least for a little while--and someone else is going to have to fill his Bat-shoes. Of course, the one filling them is the one we all knew would--and the only one that could. I can't understand why DC kept beating around the bush for so long. Wasn't it obvious? Like father, like orphaned circus performer taken under wing.

And what about Tim? He's just out and Damian is in? That was the biggest con for me. I liked Tim as Robin. So what, he got stabbed by Jason Todd. Boo-hoo. He's the Boy Wonder, and the Boy Wonder doesn't just leave because he got stabbed by a crazy ex-Boy Wonder.

Things are falling into the right places: Dick is now Batman, and Bruce's son, Damian, is Robin. But Damian is a little shit, and I never liked the kid. His only real contribution so far is to make the Batmobile fly, which now makes it the Mary Sue of all heroic vehicles.

As for the story itself, it's not bad, but there certainly have been better.

As we all know, Grant Morrison is very capable of pulling off a Batman story--but I was expecting a little more from the man who offed Bruce Wayne. The issue seemed a little mild.

It's a first issue, but it's not a first issue; some more action would have been nice. Hopefully there will be less flying around in the Batmobile in subsequent issues in favor of some real dynamic duo fighting.

I did like this new villain, Mr. Pyg, and his creepy dolls. That's the Grant Morrison I know, not afraid to take risks by making a villain wear a pig mask and a bow tie. Goofy, yes, but freakish and terrifying overall.

I do have one concern: I hope Morrison writes Dick Grayson as Dick Grayson being Batman, and not Dick Grayson trying to be Bruce being Batman. Dick has always been the one to inherit the mantle of The Bat, but he should retain some of his Robin/Nightwing identity and not just become a carbon copy of Bruce's Batman.

You can see this "carbon copy" character in the way he is drawn in this issue. In the Batman suit, Dick looks like Batman--the way Batman has always looked. Out of the costume however, Dick looks like Dick Grayson-young, a little plucky, but never a Batman. There's a definite facial change in and out of the costume.

This is like the New Coke scenario--brought to us by the makers of the original but with a new recipe. How long will it last and was it really necessary? DC replacing their original characters has had a poor track record. The original is always better and eventually comes back. Batman and Robincertainly is a must read, good or bad. This is a new dawn for Batman. The change has come, but we can all secretly hope it changes back.

Paul Brian McCoy:

Finally! A Batman story for me.

I am not a fan of Bruce Wayne. I think the character is absurdly sophomoric in both his motivations and his methodology, and any notion that reader identification with the character because he has no powers and therefore could be an ideal that we all could achieve with the proper training and education is just absurd.

Bruce Wayne epitomizes the adolescent power fantasy that prompts enraptured gushing by the worst of stereotypical fanboys. Calling him the "World's Greatest Detective" (when clearly he's only ever as good a detective as his writers are at constructing mysteries) is the equivalent of walking around flexing your fists and saying "Snikt" whenever someone bugs you, or making humming noises and pretending to do light saber routines.

The idea that someone with the financial resources of Bruce Wayne, and who thinks that dressing up like a bat and going out to punch people in the face is how to stop crime is just silly. It always has been. The only rationalization for it is if the character is insane.

Really. Why fight poverty and hunger with your inherited millions when you can punch a "bad guy" and look all cool before going out with models and starlets, but not enjoying it?

Girls are icky, after all.

Bruce Wayne has always been a spoiled, emotionally-retarded, pseudo-psychopath and he always will be. I say "pseudo" there, because he's a gutless marketing tool that DC won't even allow the moral complexity of Wolverine (what there is of it). The mere fact that he's let the Joker live all these years puts the blood of every one of the "Clown Prince of Crime's" murder victims' on his hands. Simple as that. And don't quote me moralistic crap about "lowering" oneself to the level of the enemy. Save it for the cartoons.

The only times I've enjoyed stories about Bruce Wayne are when he's clearly bugshit crazy and/or wracked with guilt for not doing enough.

I wish he was actually dead and wasn't coming back.

So why the perfect score for this Batman comic?

I love the idea of Dick Grayson assuming the mantle of Batman. He's a character that is much more relatable and worthy of admiration. Don't forget, he also saw his parents murdered in front of his eyes, but . . . look at that . . . he didn't go insane or turn into an asshole!

Dick Grayson has become a leader in the community without intimidation tactics. He actually has friends, romantic relationships, and a social life that isn't part of his "cover." When Dick makes a moral argument not to kill, there's actually some integrity involved rather than just corporate appeals to adolescent moral constructs.

Dick Grayson is the kind of character who deserves the adoration of fans.

Pairing him up with Damian as Robin is a stroke of genius. In one fell swoop, Morrison has created a dynamic between the duo that couldn't be found with any other pairing. The idea that Batman is the nice guy without personality problems and Robin is borderline psychotic takes the traditional motif of the sidekick being introduced to help mellow out and humanize the protagonist and then immediately subverts it--making it fresh and interesting. This is a Robin who won't hesitate to kill if he thinks its necessary, and that fact creates complexity. It creates interest.

I've never really wanted to read about the Batman and Robin team. Instead, I just followed Morrison and Quitely (creators whose work I have liked) over to this title when they took it on. Now I want to read about these characters.

Morrison captures both distinct personalities effortlessly and he has created in this first issue a work that doesn't require any outside reading to enjoy. Even if you didn't know that Bruce Wayne was "dead," Morrison works all the exposition and introductions that a reader needs right into the dialogue in a way that is extremely natural and organic.

When it comes to Batman's Rogues Gallery, I've never been much of a Joker fan either. Oh, I love the idea of the Joker, but he's never been a serious threat, and when he is written as a truly dangerous character, there's never any serious resolution. He's as much an industry as the Bat is, really.

I enjoyed what Morrison tried to do with him during his run on Batman. Yet, just as with Bruce Wayne, there's really just nothing interesting that can be done with the Joke within DC's main continuity.

However, Morrison's new villain for this piece, Pyg, is what the Joker should be: Genuinely disturbing and chillingly insane.

Pyg is particularly unnerving thanks to his gelded group of "henchmen." Burning blank-expressioned masks onto men's faces and then using medical tools to remove their genitals before dressing them like little girls and making them your brainwashed/damaged slaves is an area that I dare the Joker to step into.

Odds are, even the Joker would be creeped out by Pyg.

So we've got a brilliant passing of the torch from walking fanboy cliche Bruce Wayne to complex and mature Dick Grayson, a Robin who deliciously declares that "Crime is doomed," and a mysterious threat in the form of a nightmarish villain who literally makes my sphincter tighten just thinking about him. If it were illustrated with crayons and stick people, I'd probably still give it at least four bullets. Luckily, Frank Quitely is back in town, and quite frankly his work is perfection.

The rougher textures of his inking establish a distinct change in tone from his recent work on All-Star Superman--though his layouts and orchestration of action from panel to panel maintain that former level of quality. Working the sound effects into the art organically is a great touch, which, as has been said in other places around the Web, emphasizes the singular strengths of comics as a medium. Quitely's work can't be lifted for storyboards without losing the energy and innovation at its heart.

The level of detail in every panel is just breathtaking--whether it's the engine visible through the grill of Mr. Toad's car, the textured soles and laces of Robin's boots, the way Batman's costume actually looks like cloth as he dives from the hovering Batmobile, or the horrifyingly fleshy emptiness of the masks of Pyg's henchmen. Every page of this book is as good as it can be. I have absolutely no complaints.

Together, Morrison and Quitely have done what I thought was impossible. They've created a Batman comic for me, the guy who hates Batman comics. Batman and Robin #1 gets my highest recommendation.

Thom Young:

First of all, for all of those readers who seem to believe that Dick Grayson is "permanently" taking over the role of Batman--in the same way that Wally West "permanently" took over as The Flash, Kyle Rayner "permanently" took over as Green Lantern, and Connor Hawke "permanently" took over as Green Arrow--let me assure you that you haven't been paying attention.

Bruce Wayne isn't "dead" in the way that Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen were dead. It was revealed at the end of Final Crisis that Darkseid's Omega Beams must have transported Bruce Wayne back in time to Europe's Upper Paleolithic period. After all, Darkseid's Omega Beams have had that effect on people before--such as The Forever People and Sonny Sumo.

Additionally, DC and Morrison have acknowledged that Bruce Wayne will be returning as Batman in about a year or so. It will undoubtedly be one of the "summer events" for DC in 2010. In the meantime, we are being given The All-New Batman and The All-New Robin, the Boy Wonder--and it's a great team filled with interesting possibilities.

As everyone knows by now (because you've at least read the reviews above mine), The All-New Batman is none other than Dick Grayson, the original Robin. I didn't bother to read Battle for the Cowl, but I knew that Grayson had to be the one to emerge as the new Batman.

When I was a kid, I recall reading reprints of stories that were collectively known as "Alfred's Tales of the Future"--originally published in Batman #131, 135, 145, 154, 159, and 163 (DC should collect these in a trade paperback edition). While those stories were Alfred's "imaginary tales" in which he envisioned Dick Grayson as Batman II and "Bruce Wayne, Jr." as Robin II, they cemented in my young mind the idea that Dick Grayson would one day become Batman when Bruce either retired or died.

Any other character becoming the second Batman (if only for a year) would not be tolerable (I didn't bother to read Batman comics in the 1990s when Bane broke Bruce Wayne's back and Azrael briefly became the new Batman, and I've never had any desire to seek out those issues since then).

Anyway, Grant Morrison is giving us a sort of throwback to "Alfred's Tales of the Future"--but with Damian al Ghul (supposedly sired by Bruce Wayne) filling in as Bruce Wayne, Jr. and Talia al Ghul thus filling in as Kathy "Batwoman" Kane. After all, we have an All-New Kathy "Batwoman" Kane in the DC Universe (or "Kate 'Batwoman' Kane," as they now seem to be calling the new version), and it doesn't seem likely that the new Batwoman and Bruce will be making babies together at any time in the future.

As Paul mentioned in his review, the new Dynamic Duo of Dick Grayson and Damian is an interesting twist on the traditional view of Batman and Robin--with a lighter, devil-may-care Batman and a darker, grim-and-determined Robin. Of course, this dynamic has been touched upon before in a few "imaginary stories" in DC's past, but I believe this is the first time we've seen it in "regular continuity." I'm interested to see how Morrison plays it out--and what changes will be made in Damian's character in the next year as a result of Dick Grayson being the mentor whom Damian doesn't want.

I also want to address a point that Karyn made in her review--not only is Dick Grayson clearly not just going to be playing the part of Bruce-as-Batman, he also looks nothing like the traditional depiction of Bruce as Batman. Dick Grayson's Batman is leaner than Bruce's. He has the body of a circus trapeze artist or gymnast rather than that of a weightlifter or bodybuilder--though Bruce Wayne should never actually look as muscle-bound as so many artists have made him over the years.

I recall Marshall Rogers once commenting in an interview in the 1970s that he drew Batman as having a gymnast's body because a character who swings on Bat-ropes, runs around on rooftops, and performs all sorts of acrobatic stunts would not have the bulky muscles that many artists have given Bruce Wayne over the years--and Marshall Rogers was right!

However, Frank Quitely seems particularly aware of making certain that Dick Grayson doesn't look like Bruce Wayne when he's in the Batman costume--and it will be interesting about a year from now if Quitely is around for the arc in which Bruce Wayne returns and there should happen to be a panel in which the two Batmen are standing side-by-side so that we can see how their physical appearance is contrasted.

Anyway, in roughly chronological order, here are the things I really enjoyed about this issue (in addition to Morrison's writing and Quitely's illustrations, of course):
  • Batman learns all he needs to know from Mr. Toad even though the villain doesn't answer his questions--because Mr. Toad used words that former circus performer Dick Grayson instantly recognized as European circus slang.

    For the record, Toad used the words mingers, jossers, nanti, and dinari in this issue (the last two while being questioned by Batman). In order, those words are:

    1. A British slang term for ugly people (though I don't know why Toad is calling the Gotham City cops ugly);
    2. A British slang term for foolish people, or a British circus slang term for anyone who is not in the circus;
    3. An old slang term in the British gay community for nothing; and
    4. A European circus slang term for money--undoubtedly derived from denarii (with an "e" and double "ii" at the end), which are Roman silver coins that were widespread in Europe after 211 BCE).

    It's kind of odd that Mr. Toad would use the British gay slang word for nothing (nanti) but not use the British gay slang term for money (hambag). Perhaps European circus slang picked up the one word from British gay slang but not the other.

    In any event, I enjoyed seeing Dick Grayson learn all he needed to know about Toad after hearing his slang--proving that Dick Grayson has indeed learned from "the World's Greatest Detective" (sorry, Paul, but I have always liked that notion--being the Batman fanboy that I was and still am to some extent).

  • The All-New Batmobile--well, I sort of like it anyway.

    Back in Morrison's first issue of Batman (#655), Bruce Wayne was designing a new Batmobile that he wouldn't let Tim Drake see. Andy Kubert was the illustrator teamed with Morrison at the time, and I was looking forward to seeing Kubert's design for a new Batmobile. Then Kubert suddenly left the series (for a reason that I don't believe was ever revealed) and it was eventually left to Tony Daniel to design the new Batmobile--which was unveiled two years later (in Batman #676) to be nothing more than either an Acura or a Bugatti concept car that Bruce Wayne modified into a Batmobile. It was hardly something that Bruce had to build himself from the chasis up.

    Of course, the Batmobile has often been modeled after a futuritistic-looking concept car designed by an actual automobile company (the 1960s TV series Batmobile is a Lincoln Futura), but I was disappointed in Daniel's use of rather ordinary-looking "concept cars" even if they are designs from Acura and Bugatti.

    However, Quitely gives us a radically different Batmobile--one that hovers (apparently the hover jets are located in the four "arms" that can extend outward from the car's body), but which otherwise looks sort of like a really large AMC Pacer on a dune buggy chasis.

    As Dave pointed out in his review, this new Batmobile may actually be a reference back to the one that Andy Kubert was designing and that was partially revealed in Batman #657--which makes Tony Daniel's depiction of the Acura-Bugatti Batmobile all the more perplexing.

    However, Mr. Toad actually has the cooler-looking car--an apparent variation on the 1938 Phantom Corsair concept car that was referred to as "the flying wombat."

  • Quitely's integration of sound effects into the design of his illustrations in a way that reminds me of what Walt Simonson did in the 1974/1974 Manhunter series that he did with Archie Goodwin and that Marshall Rogers did in his 1977/1978 Batman work with Steve Englehart--but Quitely's is even more "organic" in the way the sound effects are integrated into the design.

  • The return of the Wayne Foundation Tower that has a palatial penthouse home on its roof and a secondary Batcave beneath its basement levels (though not accurately drawn in Quitely's cut-away illustration in this issue, which shows that the Batcave is the building's basement).

    In 1969, Dick Grayson left Wayne Manor for Hudson University, so Bruce and Alfred put the mansion and the Batcave under wraps and moved their base of operations to the Wayne Foundation building. In this latest issue, Dick and Alfred do the same thing--place the mansion and cave under wraps and move downtown to the Wayne Foundation penthouse and secondary cave. The building has been renovated since Neal Adams and Irv Novick first drew it 40 years ago, but seeing it come back into use is a nice touch.

  • Damian's dialog is something that Morrison is paying close attention to. I've often commented that Morrison has a better ear for dialog than do most writers working on DC's mainstream superhero titles, and he proves it again here.

    When Alfred descends from the penthouse with a "light supper" of sandwiches for Dick and Damian who are working in the Batcave, Damian first instructs the butler to "leave it down by my toolkit, Pennyworth." However, a second word balloon then has Damian add "Thank you."

    The "thank you" was an afterthought as Damian is still getting used to having to be polite to "the servant"--indicating with that one panel and two-word-balloon sequence that Damian is a child who feels a sense of entitlement but who is trying to remember to think of "the little people" whom he otherwise believes are beneath him.

    Then, in the next panel (on the next page), Alfred shows an interest in what Damian is working on (the gyroscopic array of the new Batmobile), and Damian responds by stating that he promised he'd finish what Bruce Wayne had started working on. However, he then catches himself responding almost familiarly to "the servant" (symbolized by a word balloon containing just an ellipsis) and so he quickly adds, "That will be all, Pennyworth."

    Notice Damian's use of the surname when addressing Alfred; it indicates that unlike Bruce, Dick, and Tim Drake before him, Damian does not view Alfred as "part of the family," and he wants to be certain that the butler knows his place. It's a somewhat subtle thing that most superhero comic book writers don't consider--though a handful do, and Morrison is one of those few (and probably the only one currently being employed by DC).

  • Not counting Commissioner Gordon or the SWAT team on the roof who take Mr. Toad into custody after he's dropped off by Batman, all of the Gotham City police officers shown in this issue (all four of them) are overweight. In fact, the SWAT team officers might also be fat, but their clothes and our viewing angle of them makes it difficult to tell for certain.

    Even though it may not be realistic, I like this idea of Gotham having a lot of fat cops who have grown flabby as they've relied on Batman and his Family to do their jobs. Of course, there really are overweight police officers in cities and towns throughout the United States, but it just seemed that Quitely (and Morrison?) was making a point to show a disproportionate number of Gotham's Finest are carrying around several extra pounds.

  • Family portraits as a motif in this issue. When Dick and Alfred are putting the mansion under wraps, Dick looks at a framed photograph of himself, Bruce, Alfred, and Ace (the Bat-Hound) in happier times when Dick was Damian's age. Later, in the apartment of the Toad's henchman, Niko, Mr. Pyg shows the man the framed photograph of his own family--Niko, Niko's wife (apparently), and their daughter (Sasha).

    It's sublte touches like this motif that I really appreciate, and it actually ties into the motif that has been running through Morrison's run on Batman--going back the first arc, "Batman and Son" in issues #655-58.
Anyway, those are a few of the bits that made me appreciate this issue a great deal. The only reason I'm not giving it a full five-bullet rating is that I didn't see any connotative meanings to these bits, but I trust added dimensions and nuances will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, this first issue is nothing less than an extremely well-written and well-illustrated Batman story that is a lot of fun to breeze through.

Before ending this review I want to add that I'd be surprised if the Knight and Squire hadn't heard of Mr. Toad (even though he wasn't in the International Club of Heroes' database). After all, Mr. Toad's slang was almost all British.

Finally, I'm probably wrong, but I thought a clue to Mr. Pyg's identity might be the fact that we don't see Niko's brother, Lev (Toad's other henchman), in the final scene once Niko regains consciousness. Mr. Pyg is wearing a shirt that looks identical to the one that Lev was wearing when the Dollotrons brought him to Niko's door (though it's just a typical white button-down shirt).

Obviously, Pyg has a full head of hair while Lev is a balding male who shaves what little hair he has on his head (based on the hair stubble that is depicted). However, Pyg could easily put on a toupee when he puts on his pig mask.

I'm probably wrong, though--as I so often was in trying to figure out things in Morrison's run on Batman, which still doesn't hold together for me--but I think it would be an interesting twist to have a Batman villain who disguises himself as one of his own followers and learns what his henchmen think of him (sort of like what Shakepeare had the King do in Act IV, scene i of The Life of King Henry the Fifth--but, of course, with Pyg not being as magnanimous as Henry V.

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