If the first three issues of Batman & Robin dealt with the new identities of Batman and Robin, then the next three are about the past intruding on those new identities. In the first arc, everything was new—all the way down to the villainous Pyg. The opening of the second arc introduces an even newer, darker version of the dynamic duo.
As if to prove to critics that he doesn’t always hide the ball, Morrison lets us know right away that The Red Hood is Jason Todd–back from the Lazarus Pit. Morrison also tells us that Batman made Todd dye his hair to look more like the first Robin. Interesting. More issues of masks and identity are layered in.
Of course, the biggest reinvention of the Batman and Robin run is Joker. Yeah, it’s a spoiler if you haven’t read it yet, but frankly most people knew as soon as they saw his lanky body that Oberon Sexton was really The Joker.
More on the masks theme: The evil version of Robin a girl who Damian Wayne promised to save from Pyg, but he failed, and a Dollytron face was fused on top of her own–making her crazy. Very similar to Joker’s origin, actually, and several other Bat-villains like Two Face and Penguin. Ugliness as a motive for crime is recurrent, and Morrison brings it together for us.
And if the faces/masks theme hasn’t completely hit you over the head yet, there’s the villain’s practice of eating faces…
This is probably the most gruesome Batman story every told.
The story itself, and the use of Jason Todd, is really designed to introduce the Lazarus Pit concept to Dick Grayson, and to show how he’s not as confident a Batman as Bruce was. Jason Todd baits him, telling him he failed Bruce by letting him die…
And so, in the end, we learn that Grayson saved Bruce’s body. Of course, if you read Final Crisis you know that’s impossible. Plus, while this is going on, “The Return of Bruce Wayne” is starting–so we know Bruce is skipping through time.
We know that’s not really Bruce Wayne’s body. But Dick doesn’t.