Quickie number

When I heard Andy Kubert was taking on the art chores for Morrison’s Batman book I was, initially, pretty scathing. For some reason, probably because of the guy’s fast and loose style and his ability to hit deadlines, I’d decided he was a hack (yes, my judgements can be that easily formed and baseless), but now Quitely’s taken the helm and Kubert’s sharing cover duties, I’m reminded of just how much I enjoyed his run and how fed up I was when Tony Daniel replaced him. Shit, I was even a little miffed when JHW3 took over for the Club of Heroes arc (tho’ not that much) – that’s how much I’d grown to like the guy’s stuff.

It only took the first issue of Mr. Kubert’s run to turn my hastily cobbled together, flimsy excuse for an opinion on its head. Right away the aforementioned looseness and the, dare I say it, jobbing quality of the art transformed themselves into fast paced, kinetic, pulpy goodness, and, although I have no idea if Grant was involved in the selection process, I realised that Kubert was perfectly suited to the book, because, back then, what was Grant trying to achieve? I don’t have any quotes, but if memory serves, and if the tone of the first story arc is an effective barometer, I think I’m right in saying Morrison wanted to see Bats dragged out of the gutter and back to superherodom quick sharp – a return to the ‘hairy chested’ bat-spy of legend. We were building a better batmobile, and trips to exotic foreign locations, glamorous, lethal love interests and gaudy SFX were definitely back on the menu. When Grant first started out on the book, Batman felt as light and weightless as that sequence where he’s engaging about a million ninja manbats in aerial combat above a pop art godzilla, unencumbered by decades of hardboiled bollocks. There was the feeling that anything could happen, that Batman was about to get fun again. No wonder Morrison’s original conception for RIP had Bruce snogging Jezebel in the sunlight as its starting point.

Yes indeed. Batman digs this day.

So what went wrong?

Well, I’m sure Grant would argue that the character himself had something to say on the matter, and that once he began to really assert himself, the writing had to concede to a broader bat-reality. Just as the X-Men insisted on soap-operatics, so did Batman force Morrison down a twistier, more grimy path. We still got the desert islands full of death traps and the revival of kookier, forgotten 60s and 70s bat-elements just as we were promised, but they were tempered with a heavy dose of blood, psychological damage and plenty of monologuing. Which, in the end, as anyone who’s read this blog will know, I thought was no bad thing – in fact the tonal juggling act was one of the big draws of the book – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss all that dayglo promise of the first few issues. I was always wondering when the new Batmobile might show up. I really hoped it hadn’t been forgotten.

I needn’t've worried.

It’s taken three years and the death of the principle character in order to arrive here at the thing’s unveiling. Sure, the gyroscopic array isn’t working properly yet, but Grant’s finally worked out how all the pieces fit together and we’re looking at the fully formed and functioning finished product. A new way of traversing Gotham. A new view. It’s as weightless as before, but 100% more certain.

Whereas in Batman and Son Grant had to contrive a fight scene in an art gallery to fill the panels with SPAX!s and WACKAM!s, here the comic book universe has ingested the SFX into the plaster and the smoke clouds. This is a world at ease with itself, its solutions to prexisting bat-problems elegant, inventive and fluid. It’s no surprise that here, for the time being at least, the roles are reversed, with Robin in the cowl and Batman as his kid sidekick. After all the horror of RIP and Bruce’s recent Dark Knight of the soul, it would seem the only solution is to revive the Gotham-as themepark aesthetic neglected for so long now. Suddenly the city has energy, charged up with neon, and Batman and Robin are sparking with the same electricity. And not just narratively, but physically. Quitely’s Robin zips like a glob of hyperactive green and red mercury through the space, an unstoppable barrage of kicks and kicks and fists and fists, bouncing off the wall here, slicing an arc through the air there, in a display worthy of Harley Quinn, everywhere at once. It’s just so….exciting and boundless, isn’t it?

With the emphases on velocity, the dodgeming from exciting situation to exciting situation, the new vehicles, paracapes and colourful baddies, the whole thing feels like a fairground ride, momentarily derailed by the exploding dollatrons at the end of #2, but we’ll be back on track next month….and the month after that, and the month after that…. Unlike Grant’s first go round, I expect nothing less than super-carnivalesque  for the next 13 issues. The batbooks feel fit and robust again, just like the new dynamic duo, with the stress on the dynamic part of the equation, both in terms of narrative and the way they glide, pounce and leap around the page. The point is BRUCE WAYNE IS [NOT] THE REAL BATMAN, the text itself is, and presently that text is looking remarkably sprightly and is learning some new and, importantly, fun things about itself. Bruce, when he emerges from the lazarus pit, will be feeding off that energy too. Batman’s picked up a new lease of life while he’s been dead. Quitely and Grant have made everything more flexible, acrobatic and light – there’s potential again. It’s been a long, hard road but we got there in the end.

25 Responses to “Batrob #2: the new dynamic (duo)”

  1. Papers Says:

    Number Two really clicked along, didn’t it? Dick’s Batman has one-liners (“Everybody’s a critic!” Because every second of this has to reference the bigger theme of Batman as Performance) and slim, sexy acrobatics that seem so bright compared to Bruce’s heavier muscles. What Damian fails to grasp is that he’s being taught how to be Robin *from* Robin, and Damian fails to get the bright squire aspect of the Robin-hood.

    Love the sound effects! Love the neon! I’m hoping Quitely will go against the Sprang Act and give us some big props at some point in this debacle. Because this Gotham City is all glorious showbiz set design!

    The performance stuff is really cycling around and around in my brain, and it feels like it justifies the Alfred-as-Joker bit from Gaiman’s little two-parter. Alfred the stage manager, keeping his actors moving and refusing to flail when the Robin understudy runs off in a huff. Gordon the confused audience member who’s seen this play before but is no longer sure of the cast.

  2. Smitty Says:

    “Robin. Step aside.”

  3. Justin Says:

    This is *exactly* the comic I imagined we’d get when Grant Morrison was announced as regular Batman writer lo those many years ago. Despite the fact that it features a Batman who isn’t Bruce Wayne and an entirely new type of Robin, I could hardly recognize this *more* as the type of Batman comic that got me excited as a kid if Bruce was in it with a yellow oval on his chest and John Costanza was hand-lettering the whole thing.

    The one thing that’s bugging me, and I thought someone round these parts might have at least a theory: What is up with the coloring? That kind of weird digital soap bubble effect on the skies and the walls like an old computer game? I don’t want to say it’s *bad* because I’ve never seen this in another comic Alex Sinclair has colored (and the colors on the figures themselves are very nice and bright). So it has to be a *choice*, right? But to what point and purpose?

  4. Cass Says:

    @Justin: I thought the coloring had something vaguely to do with Morrison’s intention for a more psychedelic, Adam Westy Batman. And be honest, when you see a purple-green-blue sky, does it not induce in you spasmodic fits of Batusi?

  5. Zom Says:

    Zactly.

    Justin, I plan on writing a post on the colouring. It’s fast becoming some of my favourite colouring EVAR, and it disappoints me that so many people aren’t trying to get their taste round it

  6. Kieron Gillen Says:

    While I didn’t find 1 particularly engaging, I loved 2.
    Theme-issues aside – and, as you describe, they’re my faves – it’s good to see Morrison/Quitely pick up the formalist combat stuff they were doing on WE3 and apply it for a totally different purpose.

    KG

  7. Zom Says:

    It’s great to see an actual well choreographed, beautifully executed fight sequence in a comic fullstop. It’s amazing how rare that kind of thing is.

  8. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Morrison understands that a good Batman comic simply must have fights. Good man.

    Colouring – well, I’ve got mixed feelings. Whether it’s the actual colouring or the digital reproduction of Quitely’s linework, there;s been a couple of panels of a slightly blurred quuality which have detracted from the overall effect.

    Pixelated skies – bring it on. Some of my favourite ever colouring is Lynne Varley’s much maligned work on DK2.

  9. Zom Says:

    TBMD, could you let me know which panels in particular have bothered you, just so that I can be sure to write something balanced

  10. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Don’t have the ish to hand, but there’s one panel where Bats is doing a kung fu kick on the siamese dude that is a little blurry. But look it’s really not that big a deal.Doesn’t mean I don’t heart this comic a great fucking deal.

  11. Zom Says:

    Oh, I get that, but if I’m going to write a post about the colouring I want to get my facts straight and not miss anything worth mentioning

  12. amypoodle Says:

    Yeah, Cass, the reason I didn’t bring up the colouring was largely to do with the fact that Zom has so much to say about it. We’ve discussed it at length.

  13. Justin Says:

    Ah, thanks! I’d thought the soap-bubble skies might be in service to the psychedelics, but I’ll admit I still can’t quite get my eyes around the hard pools of light on the walls and floors (the panel in #2 where Damian ditches the R and goes for his bike in particular). Brain’s been trained to read that as bad video quality or something. Looking forward to the coloring post.

  14. amypoodle Says:

    Well, Grant is talking about Lynch being an influence and Inland Empire was all about the grainyness… That film felt about as otherworldly as it gets. I think the problem isn’t in the blocky colouring so much as our expectations as to what it means.

  15. James Says:

    “This is *exactly* the comic I imagined we’d get when Grant Morrison was announced as regular Batman writer lo those many years ago.”

    Yeah, it’s funny, because at the time I was also eagerly anticipating a monthly JHW3-drawn Detective Comics, and now we get that too!

  16. amypoodle Says:

    so we can count you amongst the ‘it’s not langstrom. not man-bat. man-bats. ninja man-bats… alarming twist.’ fans, then, james?

  17. James Says:

    Love it. That really early panel of Bruce messing around with the cowl’s circuitry? I still think about that.

    I (foolishly) stopped buying it after Club of Heroes, so annoyed was I at Tony Daniel’s arrival. But I’m excited enough by Batman and Robin that I’ve got the RIP hardcover lined up on the shelf, and one last missing back issue to find – anyone have a #675 they want to sell me?

  18. Anonymous Says:

    not i. poor old tony daniel. gets a lot of flack. i actually really liked some of his stuff, even if the work was a little overwrought at times and slightly muddy to plough through.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    that was amy, btw.

  20. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Yeah he brought his A-game. Sadly that’s still a C-game to most but he tried. The feverish energy of the script carried it through though.

  21. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Yet more bloody thoughts about Batman and Robin #2 Says:

    [...] and consequently lends the book a lightness and unboundedness (made much of by Amy in his review) that is all too rare in A-list superhero books. Put simply: a lot more can happen because this [...]

  22. bobsy Says:

    Yeah I think he actually totally GOT the febrile energy for some of his episodes. The one with Bruce tied to the chair and being tortured by daemo-bat was wild, and the jumpy storytelling was handled really nicely.

  23. Smitty Says:

    To the fight scene crowd i was reminded somewhat of those slim horizontal panels Breyfogle used to utilize in ‘Tec. I’ve pulled some of those recently (the attempted bombing of parliament on Guy Fawkes day) was the DEFINITIVE Batman for me. He really gave you a sense of what Batman was doing – putting himself into position – flowing through guys like water. Really stunning to see Quitely flex these muscles again after the more elegant and “still” all star supes.

  24. amypoodle Says:

    breyfogle and grant’s run was MASSIVE for me.

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