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Sunday Slugfest: Batman and Robin #2

Posted: Sunday, July 5, 2009
By: Thom Young

Grant Morrison
Frank Quitely (with Alex Sinclair, colors)
DC Comics
"Batman Reborn Part Two: The Circus of the Strange"

Le Cirque D'Etrange attacks Gotham City police headquarters in an effort to free The Toad from his holding cell (or is it to kill him?). However, the All-New Batman and Robin defend the fort against the bizarre, circus villains.

In the process, they discover they don't make as good a team as the All-New Batman had hoped!

Chris Murman:
Paul Brian McCoy:
Dave Wallace:
Charles Webb:
Thom Young:




Chris Murman:

Dick's not ready.

Granted, is anyone really ever ready to get the call-up from sidekick to Bruce's replacement? Many would say "no"--which is why you have to be your own Batman, and Grayson's learning that slowly but surely. Most likely, he'll figure it out just as Bruce is getting back from whenever he is.

Regardless, you sit there telling yourself with every page turn, "This just feels weird and wrong. This can't really be what's happening in the DCU. Dick's not doing it right. He's making all the wrong decisions."

Maybe that's why this shift in the Bat-verse will end up working out in the end: Because this is the first real status quo shift in quite some time. We're used to Bruce being there and making the right move and decisions. Something tells me this group of circus criminals would be something Bruce could fix in his spare time between dates with supermodels.

I say that because in the end, nothing is scarier than the moves the Joker has pulled over the years. Make Pyg as scary as you want, throwing dominos to his prey right before he offs them, but it's not the Joker. I get the sense that Bruce would get a certain level of mental stimulation from matching wits the mind of this Lecter-esque character.

Nevertheless, what this story lacks in interest from the villains is made up for in typical Grant Morrison fashion with the script. Very little time has elapsed from last month to this issue (most of this issue is a flashback, with only a few minutes passing in "the present"), yet the information and action abound. I appreciate how many of the panels carry with them the gravity of the moment the writer desires this series to have. It may not always succeed, but Morrison certainly gets his point across.

A lot of that "gravity of the moment" has to do with Frank Quitely's ability to get the most out of his friend's script. Smaller and more numerous panels during the action sequence communicate how more laborious this dynamic duo's fights are compared to their predecessors. Conversely, larger panels utilizing perfect angles show that we're not dealing with amateurs here.

Sure Quitely uses a lot of lines in his work, and sometimes it makes a character seem older than he's supposed to be, but it adds depth to his close-ups and splash pages. I don't quite understand the new four-wheeler Dick takes out at the end, but who knows what goes on in the mind of these two creators.

Even as I laud this team's ability to give nuance and texture to this creative property, I know the cliché is still coming at the end of this arc. This initial story is meant to set up the new status quo of Batman and his Robin. They are currently raw and unrefined, and they don't particularly like each other a whole lot right now. However, we all know in the end something will bring these two together, and Dick will finally get the "respect" Damian very clearly wants to give someone.

There's a huge hole that was left when Damian's "father" went away, and he's still a 10-year-old boy that didn't have a father growing up. Grayson will probably provide some of that in a way and they will get back to the sort of happy family that Batman and Robin were before--just with the masks being worn by different people. However, I'd be okay with Dick and Damian not getting along, forever if need be, because that's just how different they are as characters.

It'd be nice to hope for things to really be changed and shaken up around Gotham. I'd love to see Dick take his freewheeling attitude toward crime fighting and carry it over to the cape and cowl Bruce left for him. However, we know that's a bit too far outside of DC President Dan Didio's comfort zone, so Morrison will have to make this comic fall in line like the others.

A guy can hope though, right?




Paul Brian McCoy:

For some reason, I didn't enjoy Batman and Robin #2 as much as I did the first issue, which I thought was a damn-near perfect beginning. Let's see if we can figure out what's not working for me this time around.

Well, the first page is a beautiful, full-page shot of a dejected Dick Grayson sitting at the bottom of a set of stairs while Alfred approaches him cautiously, asking what's wrong. Robin's emblem/badge has been torn from the uniform and lays in the foreground.

Frank Quitely's use of body language in his depictions of Dick and Alfred is superb. Furthermore, by fading out the background details and making the two figures and the stairway so vividly focused, he creates a very effective sense of isolation for Dick and he places Alfred in a symbolically superior or, as the case turns out, more experienced position of wisdom. With just this page, we see that Alfred is the heart and soul of this new operation--providing a core around which the other characters are tethered.

The next page moves us back to the very next moment after the Dynamic Duo leapt from the Batmobile in response to the Bat Signal. The silent landing, followed by "You called Commissioner Gordon," is again, very effective at capturing the emotional core of the moment.

Batman has been gone for a while. People think he's dead. More importantly, the police think he's dead. Dick's matter-of-fact stepping into the historically established relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon is strangely disconcerting, and Gordon's brief pause before taking up his role says volumes.

These two pages do a very nice job of setting up the awkwardness of Dick and Damian stepping into their new characters, in a way that is overtly referenced later by Alfred, when he suggests Dick approach the role of Batman like an actor taking on the role of James Bond. Commissioner Gordon and the police are playing the audience, as these new actors re-launch the franchise.

The idea of a new actor taking on the role of James Bond is an appropriate and insightful comparison--made all the more impressive in that is incorporated into the story itself. That's really what this first story is about, when you think about it. It's about that legacy and how the passing of the torch alters and changes the ongoing narrative. Like the readers, Gordon isn't sure what to make of this new Batman and Robin just yet. However, like a good reader, and a good detective, he's going to allow it to play out for a while and see where it takes us.

All in all, a fantastic opening three pages.

It's the next sequence where I begin to lose interest for some reason. Oddly enough, this is an extended action sequence where Batman and Robin take on the Circus of the Strange as they attempt to break Mr. Toad out of jail--or that seems to be their goal anyway.

I'm put off of the action right from the start as we get another full-page splash, this time of our heroes diving down the center of a spiraling stairwell. It should be a dynamic, breath-taking shot, but it's hard to tell just what's happening in this scene. Oh, I know, they're clearly diving down, using Bat Cables (or whatever you want to call them), but the angle of the shot keeps us from getting a good look at Batman--though Robin is clearly visible. I can understand the physics of his movement, but Batman is swathed in shadows, blocked by Robin, and isn't clearly drawn at all.

I assume that Quitely intends for Batman's right leg to be drawn up to him during the dive, but Robin is blocking the view, so all we see is his extended left leg. This combined with all the shadows, makes the scene far less effective than it could be.


That full-page dive down the stairwell is immediately followed by Rex, the flaming man of the Circus of the Strange, repeating exactly what we saw him do last issue: Pretending to be in pain and burning, then using the hesitation of the police to jump on them, burning them to death. It's a horrifying moment, but one we had already seen done to other police officers at the end of the previous issue.

I understand that this is going to be Rex's modus operandi, but the repetition seems stale; the shock value already used up. The introduction of the next two members of the team is muted for me, as well. Big Top is a morbidly obese bearded "lady" who is referred to as a "he" in the rest of the book.

Apparently, Big Top is really just a fat guy in a tutu--which isn't really strange so much as silly. I'm not impressed.

We also meet Siam, a group of conjoined triplet kung-fu warriors--which sounds a lot better than it actually works on the page.

There's a nice pause in the action as Batman and Robin enter the room to confront the Circus of the Strange, and then we're into the action sequence proper. We get three full pages of first Robin, for one page, and then Batman, for the next two, fighting Siam.

I found the fight difficult to follow and I wasn't able to tell just what was happening on more than one occasion. On the plus side, Quitely takes this opportunity to play with the page layouts. I hadn't even noticed before this that every panel was either a full-page splash or stretched across the full width of the page, creating a wide-screen effect. When the fight starts, the panels fragment and seem to be tumbling in upon each other.

I don't think it's really a domino effect, but it does echo the notion of dominoes, which are somehow connected to the Circus of the Strange's criminal plot. Quitely's tumbling panel fragments also serve to break up the action--allowing for a more densely choreographed fight and a speeding up of time. The rapid cuts simulate the speed of the punches and kicks being thrown.

Unfortunately, without actually seeing the movement and relying, instead, on the frozen panels of the comic page, it loses some of the fluidity that a live-action sequence could get away with. There is also a bit of background action that isn't clear, as Robin disarms a hallucinating police officer. If you blink, you'll miss it completely.

So . . . interesting ideas thus far, but not very clearly executed, which pulls me out of the sequence. Next we shift to Robin taking on Big Top, but the transition isn't defined, and Robin just appears ahead of him from out of nowhere. I suppose we can attribute this to his ninja skills, but I needed more information to make it more than just a cliché that sidesteps a staging problem with the writing.

By the end of it, we've been in an eight-page fight scene, and there are a couple of moments that really shine--for instance, when Batman is calling for Robin while taking on Rex and Siam. Batman's "Everyone's a critic!" line is funny, and the action is well paced. Again, though, it suffers from the still shots being unable to really capture the movement.

What I mean is, when Batman swings a fire extinguisher around to clobber Siam, the only indication of movement is the arcing of smoke around them and the shifting of Batman's position from one panel to the next. Because Quitely isn't utilizing action lines or impact lines, as in traditional comic art, the effect is frozen rather than active. It's a stylistic approach that can work most of the time, yet sometimes it can fall flat. Here, it fell flat--though it's not a horrible moment.

As the fight scene ends, the panels return to the wide-screen format and remain that way for the remainder of the issue. The rest of the book also gets us back to the character-work that I think is the strongest part of the story. We see Dick agonizing over the fact that four cops were killed, and six more were seriously wounded. We see Damian go all Jack Bauer on Big Top, leaving the gigantic transvestite with a concussion and unable to give them any information.

And, while nobody was looking, Mr. Toad was murdered in his cell.

It really is a disastrous second time out for the new Batman and Robin--and Damian's lack of respect for Dick (and for anyone else, really) erupts into an argument that forces Dick to assume the role of father figure when he really isn't expecting to have to, and isn't ready to do so.

So Robin leaves, and Alfred gives the wonderful pep talk that I mentioned at the beginning of this review. He suggests Dick treat his taking on the mantle of Batman, not as a memorial, but as a performance. Really, the dialogue between Dick and Alfred over these pages is perfect and worth the price of the book.

This idea of Dick figuring out how to become Batman, and Damian growing into the role of Robin, is what Morrison's story is about.

The book ends with a return to the condemned amusement park that is Professor Pyg's hideout, where Robin arrives and is swarmed by Pyg's doll-like henchmen. It's very quick, taking less than two pages for the entire scene, but then something strange happens.

I can only assume that the final panel on the page takes place elsewhere. It appears to be a suicide bombing by more of the Dolls, but there's no other signaling of the scene shift except for the fact that a previously unseen couple appear to be dying in the explosion. Professor Pyg's narration is also ballooned as voice-overs in that last panel--rather than being connected to anyone in-panel.

It's not clear, but I think that's what's going on the issue's final panel.

It would have been nice to have at least another panel or two to establish the scene change, or to at least make clear just what's going on in that panel. I kind of feel like Quitely ran out of pages and we'll have to wait until the next issue to really see what just happened.

I'm not sure how Robin knew where to go, either. I suppose Big Top might have given up that much during his beating, but it would be nice to have a clear indication of it somehow. Maybe next time?

The last scene of the book is Dick riding on a ridiculous, gigantic balloon-wheeled contraption, provided by Mr. Fox's R&D Division. I wasn't aware that Morgan Freeman's character from the two recent Batman films was a part of the comic world. That was a bit jarring, but I guess that ties into Morrison's intent to bring all of Batman's history together into one multi-layered and multi-faceted narrative. But then, I'm not a Batman fan, so maybe he's been around all along.

So it looks like my problems are fairly minor, and probably wouldn't even be considered problems by many readers:
  • I found the fight sequence confusingly choreographed, but effectively laid out on the page.
  • I thought the fight went on too long, with at least one page's worth of repetitive elements that weren't needed.

  • The conclusion of the issue seems rushed.

  • I don't care for Robin's ability to pop up from out of nowhere, and I also don't know how he found the amusement park.
There's also not enough Professor Pyg this issue, but I'm sure that will be rectified next time out.

On the plus side, we get a lot of very good characterization--particularly between Dick and Alfred, and most of Frank Quitely's art is a wonder to behold. Other than the moments in the fight scene that confused me--forcing me out of the story in order to go back over panels to figure out what was happening--the rest of the art is expressive in its staging and in the detailed body and facial work. The wide-screen format is a nice way of moving us smoothly and efficiently through the story.

Okay. Objectively there are a few problems, but just as objectively, there are quite a few strengths. Since the problems are momentary and technical, rather than central to the plotting and characterization of the narrative, I'll cut it some slack.

For the middle chapter of a three-part story, it does a good job of moving us from Point A to Point B in the development of Dick and Damian as Batman and Robin. Even though it's mostly a fight scene, this issue lacks some of the creative energy of the first issue, but we'll see how Morrison and Quitely bring it home in issue three.




Dave Wallace:

For the second issue in a row, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely use the new Batman and Robin title to provide a Batman comic that's more unashamedly entertaining than the character has been in years. There's a real sense that Morrison is cutting loose and having fun here--whether it's the wide variety of freakish circus villains that Batman and Robin have to contend with, the awful (yet admittedly funny) pun on the death of the Toad, or the ridiculous oversized quad-bike that Dick Grayson takes out on the road at the end of the issue.

A fair amount of wit is also channeled into the artwork. Again, there's a flawlessly-integrated sound effect with the cracks in a wall spelling out "smash" as Robin is hurled into it. There are some very well-choreographed fight sequences, as Batman and Robin take on some circus freaks in a Gotham city police station- including one fantastically-conceived villain who takes the form of a trio of ninjas (I can't work out whether they're conjoined triplets, or simply three men strapped together in order to be able to fight in three directions at once without leaving their back unguarded).

I'm still not completely sure that the clean, precise work is best suited to the character of Batman (who often works best with darker, moodier visuals), but Quitely is still turning in some excellent work here. It also seems that this lightness of tone is completely intentional on the part of both writer and artist, with no doubt that Quitely is bringing Morrison's story to life in the way that the writer conceived it. Also, in fairness to the artist, there seems to be a marked intention to modify the style of his work slightly to suit this book--particularly when it comes to the inking, which occasionally seems a little looser and sketchier than it has in previous projects.

Towards the end of the issue, Morrison begins to really get his teeth into the character of Dick Grayson, having the character voice his concerns and self-doubt about taking on the role of Batman, and showing the mutual antagonism of his relationship with Damian (which recalls the Bruce Wayne/Jason Todd dynamic). There's also a pleasing exchange with Alfred, who manages to bring Dick round by suggesting that he treat Batman as a theatrical performance--which is a fitting way for both characters to approach the matter, given Dick's circus roots and Alfred's past theatrical endeavours.

Finally, the issue ends on a disturbing note, setting up a cliffhanger with Robin and Professor Pyg that I'll be keen to see resolved in the next chapter.

This is another solid issue of Batman and Robin that advances the plot strands that were begun in issue #1 whilst also providing a substantial amount of action and some insightful characterisation of the leads.

On a first read, I found myself worrying that the book might be skewing a little too strongly towards cartoonish superheroics for my tastes. However, the more I read it, the more I began to appreciate the idea that Morrison and Quitely are experimenting with a new style of Batman story that's quite different to the dark, moody, grim'n'gritty adventures that we've grown used to over the last couple of decades. I look forward to seeing more of it.




Charles Webb:

So who here is dreading the day that Grant Morrison inevitably kills Dick Grayson? Hands up?

It's my fear that at the end of this run, Morrison will have made something out of Damian Wayne--but it will come at the cost of his teacher, the new Batman. Keep in mind, Batman #666 from Halloween a couple of years ago presented a future where Damian was the lone defender of Gotham in the absence and death of the previous Batman. Morrison has stated that this issue is canon in his Batman continuity. Ergo, I believe that after everything is said and done, Dick is death-bound before Morrison leaves his writing duties on the Bat-books.

What does my belief in the eventual death of Dick Grayson have to do with this current issue, which sees Bats and Damian tussling with the outré members of Le Cirque D'Etrange? Why do I believe that in underlining the tension between Bat protégés new and old Morrison is laying the groundwork for tragedy?

It's certainly nothing specific, I assure you (Morrison hasn't telegraphed anything so blatantly), but it feels like something is in the wind given how this arc and Morrison's run as a whole has been about telling the reader who or what Batman is exactly.

My theory (and please feel free to tell me I'm full of it in the forum comments) is that Morrison is not only educating the reader but also Damian as to the "True Meaning of The Batman." New to the role himself, Dick must come to grips with being an iconic figure for the city of Gotham while also acting as an instructive example to a youth who is on the precipice of becoming a villain.

Here, the former Nightwing admits that his frustration with his sidekick is due to the youth's posturing and haughtiness. Damian has killed before, but swore to Bruce to not kill again. However, Damian is not averse to torture--but is pulled back by Dick who tells him that they may intimidate criminals but they don't torture (clever--Morrison inserts the ticking clock torture scenario and comes down squarely on the side of not using torture to avert a hypothetical threat).

The content is instructive; even if it may feel rudimentary, it's all part of the process of Building a Better Batmobile (as Morrison's first arc on Batman was titled). It's about laying down the groundwork for the future by creating new conflicts for Batman and Robin (I'm excited to see Mr. Pyg fully enter the scene), and about defining the Dick and Damian team in terms of their roles as Gotham's protectors.

This story is about the new Dynamic Duo growing into their role (there's a nice little moment where Commissioner Gordon meets them and knows something is obviously off) and about shaping that role to fit themselves. When Dick complains about his discomfort with the Bat-cape, it had me looking forward to a Frank Quietly-redesigned costume.

Oh, how was the issue?

,It was very good, I think. Like most works by Morrison it moved briskly and made me eager for more when it was finished. Most importantly, it provoked some thought as to what the book means for itself, for the character, and for the franchise--but not in a particularly overt way.

As for Dick Grayson--I'll enjoy him while we have him, but won't be shocked if we lose him in the next couple of years.

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




Thom Young:

Like my colleague Paul McCoy, I liked this issue--but just not as much as I did the first issue (and for mostly the same reasons that Paul listed in his review). I agree with Paul that the action scene at Gotham City Police Headquarters went on a bit too long and wasn't executed as well as it could have been visually. However, Frank Quitely not executing a sequence as effectively as I'd like is better than 90% of comic book illustrators doing the best work they're capable of producing.

In addition to what Paul listed in his review, I didn't care for the idea of Dick Grayson sitting around in the Batcave beneath the Wayne Foundation building feeling depressed because (according to Dick Grayson) four cops were killed and six others were injured at police headquarters, and because he thought he should have handled his confrontation with Damian better.

Unlike Chris Murman wrote in his review, I don't see that Dick Grayson made any wrong decisions in the way he handled the attack on police headquarters. Between this issue and the first, I only counted three dead and six injured cops--and the bodies of all the dead and injured officers from the first issue can be seen on pages five and six of this issue (on the street just outside of police headquarters). I don't know where the other dead cop is that Dick Grayson tallied; perhaps he was killed off panel.

Of the nine that I counted, all three of the dead and five of the injured met their fate before Batman and Robin went into action--leaving only the officer that Big Top dragged down the stairs by his scalp as one that Batman and Robin might have been able to save. Thus, I don't think that Dick Grayson needs to feel like he "failed" to perform well as Batman (though there is that fourth dead cop that I can't account for). Yes, Grayson can regret that some officers were killed and injured in the line of duty, but it's hardly his fault--and it's no reason for him to look like he needs to take a gram of soma.

I have even more difficulty in believing his state of depression is the result of his failure to communicate with Damian. I have similar difficulty in believing that he couldn't have prevented Damian from riding off on the Robin cycle. Surely all Bat vehicles are fitted with a remote-control switch that would allow Dick Grayson to turn off the bike before Damian could clear the cave's exit. Such technology is available on commercial automobiles now, so the Bat-vehicles should certainly have an even more sophisticated form of the technology installed on them.

Yes, Damian might have been able to disable the cut-off switch on the motorcycle, but not before Dick Grayson could have tackled him. In fact, that might have been a better scene that could have led to Dick feeling depressed--a hand-to-hand battle with Damian that resulted in both being injured and Damian confined to his room in the penthouse.

However, given my four-bullet rating for this issue, the action scene at police headquarters and Dick Grayson's subsequent depression didn't sour me too much. It's just that I didn't find the state of depression believable--though it's reason for being in Morrison's story of Grayson growing into his role as the All-New Batman is obvious (perhaps too obvious).

One thing I did like was the way Quitely depicted Batman and Robin landing on the roof of police headquarters in the second panel on page two. As their legs absorb the shock of their landing (after gliding down on their para-sail capes), they appear to be curtsying to Commissioner Gordon. Well, Damian's position is that of a curtsy; Dick's might be more of a regular bow (his cape obscures our view of the position of his legs).

Given his elitist and condescending attitude towards others, the image of Damian curtsying to the police commissioner brought a smile of amusement to my face. It caused me to wonder whether Morrison requested the image in his directions or Quitely made the decision himself to have the landing look like an inadvertent curtsy.

One aspect of the story that I didn't like during my first reading of the issue (but which I grew more comfortable with by my fourth, and last, reading) was the almost Dadaist dialog that Morrison scripted. Of course, Morrison didn't make the dialog overtly Dadaist the way he did 20 years ago in the issues of The Doom Patrol in which the Brotherhood of Dada appeared. Nevertheless, there was a sense of Dadaism in the dialog due to the liberal use of fragmented speech and circus slang.

Not counting Alfred's first-page sentence fragment of "Master Richard." The fragmented dialog really starts on page three with Commissioner Gordon's sentence fragments: "A whole lot of rumors" and "Follow." Of course, people often do speak in fragments, so that didn't bother me during my first reading. What seemed more Dadaistic to me was when Le Cirque D'Etrange showed up on pages five and six.

After Rex storms into the building by pretending he's been set aflame (killing three cops and injuring two others in the process), Siam and Big Top enter the fray--and it's here where I thought the dialog was on the Dadaist side:
Siam: Big Top! Ready? Rex is in!

Big Top: Oummf kushti.

--------------------------------------------------------

Big Top: . . . and now. Keys, Police! To the cells.

Siam: Eh? Heh.


And then later on pages nine and ten:
Siam: Flick-flackin' freak!

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Big Top: Don't come no closer, Raklo.


Eventually, Batman himself gets in on the Dadaist dialog on page 13:
Batman: I rokker the jib, Toby. Who's your gaffer?

Siam: You'll see. While you're all roped up with me . . . Tober Omi's on the loose!


Then, not to be outdone, Robin starts speaking that way, too, on page 14:
Robin: Wooden gallopers where? Explain!


Indeed. Explain. Wooden gallopers where?

Paul's right. Big Top don't tell Raklo wooden gallopers where. So how?

(Damian doesn't actually get Big Top to tell him that the Circus of the Strange is using the Joker's old dilapidated carnival from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's The Killing Joke. Perhaps Damian used his detective skills (which Dick Grayson had told him to use) to discover that the Joker's old carnival is the only place in the area that has wooden carousel horses.

Interestingly, on page six of
The Killing Joke, The Joker walks past a poster for the old carnival's Fat Lady. Could it be Big Top at an earlier time in his life? Could Big Top have led Mr. Pyg to the carnival he used to work at--the same carnival that The Joker took ownership of in The Killing Joke?)

Anyway, I'm all for Dadaism. The Brotherhood of Dada arc in Morrison's Doom Patrol is one of my favorite stories. Yet, the fragmented speech and heavy use of circus slang in this issue seemed unnecessarily Dadaistic. However, I then went through a Web site devoted to "British/Euro Circus/Fairground Slang" (probably the same one that Morrison consults when scripting the dialog), and I translated the slang into standard English.

Initially, I thought that Morrison was overdoing it on the circus slang--that he was loading too much of it into his script and was losing a sense of verisimilitude. After all, everyone uses slang at times, but most of us don't load our conversations with it to such a degree that we can't make ourselves understood without a translation dictionary when speaking to outsiders.

However, I then translated all of the circus slang into 1950s Beat Generation slang to see how the characters would sound if they were Maynard G. Krebs wannabes. Here's what I came up with:
Siam: Big Top! Ready? Rex is in!

Big Top: Oummf cool.

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Siam: Back-flippin' freak!

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Big Top: Don't come no closer, Kit-Cat.

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Batman: I grok the lingo, Clyde. Who's your bossman?

Siam: You'll see. While you're all roped up with me . . . The Man's on the loose!

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Robin: Wooden Merry-Go-Round horses where? Explain!


Oddly, I didn't get nearly as much of a Dadaist vibe when I switched hep-cat slang for circus slang. Do you dig or are you like a real L-7, Daddy-o?

Yes, it's still over the top to load so much slang into the dialog of a story.

Despite how it's often satirized, the highest examples of Beat literature (the works of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Holmes) were not filled with page after page of hep lingo. Still, I eventually became more forgiving (by my third reading) of Morrison's decision to use a lot of fragments and slang--especially once I thought of the etymology of the word dada. It's French for "hobbyhorse"--as in a type of "wooden galloper." Hmmmm.

Perhaps Morrison is keenly aware of what he's doing with the dialog in this issue, and why he's doing it. Anyway, moving on.

Like Charles in his review, I was also drawn to Dick Grayson's complaints about the cape of the Batman costume (though Quitely has already given us a slight re-design of the costume for Dick Grayson). However, I thought it was a bit ironic that Grayson complained about the cape after he seemed to use it so effectively on pages 2 and 8-9.

Furthermore, it didn't seem to be a hindrance in any of the other pages. It made me question whether Quitely was supposed to make the cape so . . . kushti . . . on pages 2 and 8-9.

Perhaps the point is that even though Grayson can work the cape as well as Bruce (after all he wore a cape as Robin from 1940 to 1985), he still would prefer not to have it.

Along that same line (of there being a point to the way that Quitely depicted something in contrast to how I would think it should be), I thought it was odd that Damian (whom we discover is only ten years old) is shown in at least two panels (possibly three) to have a head that is too big in proportion to the rest of his body. Of course, children do have heads that are slightly out of proportion to the rest of their respective bodies, but Damian's head seems too exaggerated in those few panels.

At first I thought that Quitely had simply made the mistake that a lot of comic book illustrators make when drawing children--such as John Byrne's drawings of Franklin Richards in Fantastic Four 25 years ago. However, I then began to suspect that Damian's oversized head was a visual cue for those scenes in which Damian is feeling too smug and arrogant (as in he's feeling bigheaded).

Additionally, I was glad to see the return of Lucius Fox to the comic book mythos. The character was created by Len Wein 30 years ago back in Batman #307, and he was a regular member of Batman's supporting cast for seven years. However, I believe his last appearance in the comics was in 1986--which was right around the time that the decision was made to essentially remove Bruce Wayne's life from the stories and simply have him be Batman all the time.

That was also around the time that I stopped reading the regular Batman titles for nearly 20 years (starting up again when Morrison started on the character three years ago), so perhaps Lucius Fox has appeared in a Batman story at some point since 1986--though this is the first time I've seen the character in the last 23 years.

Well . . . except Lucius Fox doesn't actually appear in this issue; he's merely mentioned by Alfred. Still, I'm glad to see that Morrison brought him back to the comics--even if only by name so far.

When Morrison started writing Batman three years ago, I was hoping we would see more of Bruce Wayne's life as well as more of the supporting characters from Wayne Enterprises--and even a "civilian" romance for Bruce. My favorite Batman stories from the 1970s (by Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers) tended to balance Batman and Bruce Wayne rather than giving us all Batman all the time. Thus, I'm still hoping Morrison eventually gets around to revealing the civilian side of the Batman Family's identities--such as Dick Grayson meeting with Lucius Fox to discuss the operation of Wayne Enterprises now that Bruce is presumed dead (surely Dick and Tim inherited the company with Dick becoming the operating owner).

I'd also like to see Dick get a civilian love interest. I haven't kept up with the character's romantic involvements over the years--not since he was engaged to Princess Koriand'r--but I know he was involved with Barbara Gordon a few years ago. I'd like to see him have a civilian girlfriend, though.

I think he had a girlfriend back in the early 1970s when Mike Friedrich was writing the Robin back-up stories that ran in Batman. If so, then perhaps Morrison can bring that old girlfriend back into Dick Grayson's life. If not, then perhaps he could create a new girlfriend for him--one who won't turn out to be a villainess the way Jezebel Jet turned out to be for Bruce Wayne.

Finally, I also liked Alfred's advice to Dick that Dave and Charles mentioned in their reviews. However, I was wondering about the first two roles that Alfred mentioned when he told Dick that he should think of being Batman as "a great role, like a Hamlet, or Willie Loman. . . ."

Uhm, Hamlet or Willie Loman? The characters have nothing in common aside from both dying at the end of their respective plays.

At that point I had the same idea that Charles had: That Dick Grayson's story is going to follow the arc of a dramatic tragedy and end with his death. However, I really doubt that the Death of Dick Grayson is on Morrison's agenda.

Still, I wonder about Alfred's choices of Hamlet and Willie Loman. I can understand the choice of James Bond, but Willie Loman seems particularly incongruous to the concept of Batman. Of course, Hamlet and Willie Loman are great characters who can make stars of the actors chosen to portray them, but they're not really characters in the Batman mold (well, Hamlet may be in the Bruce Wayne mold, but not the All-New Batman mold).

Perhaps Alfred should have suggested D'Artagnan and Don Diego Vega as more appropriate roles for Dick to consider. They would have been more in keeping with the James Bond notion.



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