Batman and Robin introduce a new Batman (who is the old Robin) and a new Robin (who is actually Batman’s son, but now is essentially the ward of Batman’s ward). It’s the second half of Grant Morrison’s epic.
Let’s dig in.
The opening pages of Batman and Robin let us know we’re in for a new kind of ride. And in issue #1 we meet two brand new villains, Toad and Pyg, both of whom combine the silly campy concepts of early Batman—which Morrison clearly loves to honor—and the kind of dark, macabre, chilling violence that Frank Miller used to revitalize Batman in his Dark Knight books. Reconciliation of the disparate, often conflicting, elements of Batman was a theme in the first half of Morrison’s story. In the second half, it’s the main idea.
Yes, it’s about identity again. Bruce Wayne has lost his, and he’s tumbling through time while the events of Batman and Robin play out. Dick Grayson has changed his, moving away from the solo persona (Nightwing) he adopted when he was breaking free from the sidekick role and into the role of his own “father,” i.e., the new Batman. Damian Wayne is finally the “official” Robin—though he still chomps at the bit to be Batman…
The opening sequence is a car chase, much like the one that introduced Batman RIP—in which Bruce Wayne Batman was trying out a new Batmobile and loving the thrill of the fight. But there’s clearly tension between this duo, which impedes their ability to revel in their new roles.
Yes, in a few short pages Grant Morrison has introduced a new theme—identity—new protagonists, and new enemies. We’re off to a rocking start.
As issue #2 starts, we see Commissioner Gordon and his team recognizing that these aren’t the same Batman and Robin—and therefore there is a level of suspicion here. And then we’re in the thick of it, with a fight between former circus performer Dick Grayson (as Batman) and the new villain group, Circus of the Strange. Four guys who look the same, a fat lady, doll people, and a guy with a burning head. Perfect.
A few interesting asides: There are several airborn toxins involved in this story arc, but unlike the Bruce Wayne Batman, Grayson wears a gas mask. He’s not exposed. He’s not hallucinating. He’s not crazy. Also, in these first few issues Dick Grayson is facing essentially his past: Evil circus performers. But unlike Batman, who basically broke while Dr. Hurt manipulated his past, Dick Grayson is able to rise and overcome. We’ve seen people take over the Batman role in the past (for example, after Bane broke Bruce Wayne’s back), but we’ve never seen someone wear the mantle this way: With consistent goals and methods, but without the same severity.