Growing Pains

Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn, written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Frank Quitely, Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion (2009): Having Bruce Wayne out of the picture for two years turned out to be a godsend, primarily in the form of the Batman and Robin title. First-Robin Dick Grayson (aka Nightwing) reluctantly gives up his own superhero identity (Nightwing, natch) to give Gotham City its hero back, with the genetically modified, League-of-Assassins-trained, 10-year-old Damian as the new Robin.

Both experience job-related growing pains both existential (Dick doubts himself; Damian is a spoiled, potentially homicidal brat) and mundane (people keep noticing that the new Batman, who’s supposed to be the old Batman after a temporary layoff, is a good six inches shorter now). Much zippy, occasionally macabre fun is had by all: the Batman R.I.P. storyline has left a number of new villains roaming the streets of Gotham, including Le Bossu and Professor Pyg, and Batman and Robin have to hit the ground running in order to deal with them. Luckily, Damian has got the new flying Batmobile working.

A confrontation with cuckoo-banana second-Robin Jason Todd, now the Red Hood, also looms. Todd wants to replace the new Batman with himself, a Batman-surrogate who kills. Ultimately, this doesn’t sit well with anybody, least of all Gotham’s mob leaders, who up their violence levels to respond to this new crime-fighting threat. And they call in super-assassin The Flamingo. Seriously. He wears a lot of pink and he likes to eat people’s faces, or watch them eat their own faces. He’s ten tons of fun, in other words.

Frank Quitely’a art on the covers and the initial three issues is splendid as always, and Philip Tan is no slouch either — though the book purposefully ran a relay-race of artist-exchanges every three issues, the result was pretty much always good. Highly recommended.

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