Sunday, September 18, 2011

Batman and Robin #1 - A Review

I want to like this book. I really do. Peter Tomasi is one of DC Comics most underrated writers, having consistently matched Geoff Johns’ work on Green Lantern with Green Lantern Corps and frequently surpassing him. Patrick Gleason was his artistic partner on Green Lantern Corps and a damn fine artist he was too. So pairing them on another book was a no-brainer. This should be a great book and it is… to a point.

Where this book shines is ironically where its’ problems begin, in the quiet character-driven scenes that take up most of the first act. Batman (Bruce Wayne) takes his son Damien (the current Robin) to the place where his parents were murdered, noting this will be the last time he maintains this vigil having recently decided that he should celebrate his parent’s lives rather than mourning their deaths. Tomasi is an old-hand when it comes to drama like this and he sets up the characters of Bruce and Damien well.

The problem is that this scene, while well-written, is virtually inaccessible to new readers! We get no explanation as to just how Bruce Wayne has a ten-year-old son. This is particularly problematic if Bruce has only been Batman for six years now (if the timeline seen in the other books is accurate) but that’s a whole other issue. The point is that these opening scenes require the reader to be somewhat familiar with what’s been going on in Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin… which rather defeats the purpose of the New 52 line!

This is a gorgeous book though. Patrick Gleason proves equally capable of drawing the dark, gothic alleyways of Gotham as he was drawing the scum of the universe and complicated ring projections. The panel-to-panel flow gets a little odd at times, particularly during the sequence with the exploding swimming pool. Still, Gleason has a great grasp of expression and is able to infuse the book with an appropriately dark mood.

Can I recommend this book to new readers? Not in good conscience. People who have been reading Batman and Robin who have been worried about the new creative team can be assured they are in good hands. But there’s just too much going on here that isn’t explained for newbies to jump in easily, as amazing as the book is technically.

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