Comic Night: Batman & Robin #13

With compliments to the Movie Night pieces I put up here at weareSITCOM, these Comic Night articles will be reviews of the appropriate 4-color funny books. Unlike the movie reviews, and in honour of any readers I might garner for these, I’m going to try and contain my glee to shorter pieces*. I mean, who really reads comics these days anyway, am I right? Insert a suitably cool pose here, kids.

“Bruce Wayne failed to stop me, Mr. Grayson. You dare to imagine yourself superior to a Wayne?” – Thomas Wayne

For the uninitiated, Batman & Robin is, for your money, probably the best ongoing comic series that a complete newbie could be reading off the shelf every month. There are a number of reasons for this. For starters, everyone knows who the two main characters are (at least when they have their masks on). The stories are short and contained, but mostly very rewarding. The art teams have almost all been fantastic (I’m looking at you, Philip Tan), giving readers some pretty diverse, but always appropriate, styles to dig into. And hey, it’s been good. That’s always a winner. Plus: the stories have been contained to three chapters each, making each story very easy to follow from A to B.

That being said, this latest issue, which kicks off the beginning of the “Batman and Robin MUST DIE!” arc, feels a lot like a climactic end-of-season run on a very good TV show. The previous story arc had begun to drop hints and clues about the nature of the book which, while presented as a simple action-adventure title at first, was really revealed to be an epic mystery worthy of the World’s Greatest Detective. Ironically, the real Batman hasn’t made an appearance in the book since issue #1, leaving the case to his esteemed protege (the grown-up Robin), his son (the current Robin) and, though I doubt even he’d have expected it, The Joker. All three make good on the clue front in this extremely tight, layered story where the dark past of the Wayne family comes back to haunt them for an epic story involving murder, sex and devil worship.

The bad guy: somebody who may or may not be Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas Wayne.

Frazer Irving handles this story’s art chores, taking over from the astonishing Andy Clarke, and setting this latest arc’s tone perfectly. The story is dark and gothic, and Irving infuses it with a sense of genuine dread and terror. Everything looks like scary garish pop, and each individual panel is like some strange lucid dream of Gotham City at midnight. Considering part of this story is built around a total solar eclipse, it seems fittingly dark and ominous. Irving’s characters express and inhabit seemingly bland spaces beautifully. His Joker is somewhere perfect between a clown and a walking corpse. His Batman is young and distinctly not Bruce Wayne, straddling a line between gritty realism and comical allure. Looking at just this one issue, there’s no doubt in my mind why Frazer Irving was the man chosen to draw this story, and I can’t wait to see what he does with the surprise character and setup for next issue.

The bottom line on Batman & Robin is that I’ll probably always enjoy the book, month in and out, so long as Grant Morrison is writing it. He has that soothing effect on me, so whatever spell he’s cast is working. But above and beyond my subjectivity on that front, issue 13 of the series really does a fantastic job of upping the ante for regular readers, while still providing a pretty accessible adventure for anybody who hasn’t checked out the series so far. There are very few books that can so effectively and swiftly set a mood and still tell get the ball rolling on a new story. Batman & Robin, thankfully, is still one of them.

Click here for a 5-page preview of this issue at DC Comics’ official blog.

*Shorter. Right.

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Comments
3 Responses to “Comic Night: Batman & Robin #13”
  1. Waleed says:

    Hey man, really enjoying these blog entries, just finished reading the recommended All Star Supes, really cool. Any other recommendations?

  2. Ivan The Burninator says:

    Jeez, already at issue 13? I remember the day you got Issue 1 last year. We sat at News Cafe, Blackheath busy drinking coffee. I can;t believe that was so long ago!

  3. Nas says:

    Waleed: Go pick up a book called “Batman & Son”; when you’re done, I’ll point you on to the next one.

    Ivan: It has been ages. The book’s had delays and everything, so that’s quite epic. A year’s worth of solid comics, though.

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