Batman and Robin: Batman vs. Robin, written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Cameron Stewart, Andy Clarke and Scott Hanna (2010): Morrison keeps tying together plot threads while managing entertaining mini-arcs within the overall ‘Return of Bruce Wayne’ storyline. We also get more of England’s Batman and Robin, the Knight and the Squire, along with the relatively new Batwoman, British crimefighter The Gravedigger, more shenanigans from Batman baby-mama Talia Al Ghul, and the evolving relationship between Batman’s son Damian Al Ghul (the new Robin) and Dick Grayson (the new Batman).
Grayson’s insecurity about taking over as Batman leads him to attempt to revive what everyone believes to be Batman’s beat-up corpse, recovered and identified by Superman towards the end of the events of Final Crisis. Luckily (or unluckily) there’s an undestroyed Lazarus Pit in the coal country of England. As a Lazarus Pit can bring just about anything back to life, off the new Batman goes.
And once that adventure’s over, it’s time to descend into the weird labyrinth that is stately Wayne Manor in order to finally figure out why it seems like someone’s been sending message from various points in the past, hidden in various places throughout and beneath the ancestral Wayne family home.
Meanwhile, Mexico-based super-crime-boss El Penitente is on his way to take over Gotham City’s crime; a mysterious man claiming to be Bruce Wayne’s not-really-dead father Thomas arrives in Gotham; rumours swirl that Wayne’s father was a Satanist and his mother a drug addict; and Damian has to fight off a hostile takeover of his own body. Whee! And what the hell is in that mysterious wooden box from the secret rooms of Wayne Manor? Wouldn’t you like to know. But not yet. Cameron Stewart’s art is excellent, hyper-real in the Neal Adams mould with just enough drollness to make everything fun among the weirdness. Highly recommended.
Batman and Robin: The Return of Batman, written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Frazer Irving, Cameron Stewart, Chris Burnham, Alex Sinclair and David Finch (2010): And…he’s back. Or is he? Yes he is. Or is he? As El Penitente’s evil masterplan plunges all of Gotham City into chaos, even Batman and Robin may fail to pull out the win at the last second. But who’s that riding to the rescue? Oops, it’s one of Batman’s greatest villains, so pissed off by the absence of the ‘real’ Batman and the spotlight-stealing perversities of El Penitente and crime super-group The Black Glove that he (or she) has temporarily switched sides.
And when it’s all over, Bruce Wayne will reveal a shocking secret to the whole world.
Yes, he’s Iron Man!
Wait, no he isn’t.
Pretty much everything left unanswered in The Return of Bruce Wayne gets answered here, including the identity of El Penitente, the importance of Damian Al Ghul’s ability to read a ledger, what’s in the ‘ancestor box’ and why, and the final mystery of the life story of that bat that flew threw the window of Bruce Wayne’s living-room all those years ago to give him a good idea for a crime-fighting costume when he was a “hero without a totem.” The various Bat-artists do fine work here as well. Highly recommended.