It’s week two of DC’s slow relaunch, and the latest New 52 titles are at your local comic store. One of the biggest titles this week is the new Batman and Robin, which continues the series launched by Grant Morrison. And I mean really continues the series - there is little evidence of any sort of reboot here, with the story being exactly the same and having Damien, Batman’s son, as the new Robin.
You may be confused by that if you haven’t been following the Batman saga for the last two years, and it’s too bad that the comic doesn’t take more opportunity to flesh out Damien’s backstory for new readers, but writer Peter Tomasi pretty much sums up who Damien is as a character through his actions and dialogue. Essentially he’s a total asshole who doesn’t listen to a thing Batman says.
This first issue opens with a huge statement of purpose (one that will last exactly as long as it takes for a new writer to come aboard): Crime Alley, where Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered, is being bulldozed for yuppie condos, and Batman has decided to stop mourning his dead folks. Instead he’ll begin celebrating their life, honoring their wedding day instead of their death day.
I love that! There’s nothing more tedious than Batman’s endless psychic pain over losing his parents. We get it already, guy. It’s a cheap, shitty crutch for writers who don’t have anything to say with the character, and as Tomasi’s run will focus on the family dynamics of Batman as dad and Robin as son it’s about time the Bat got over his own parental issues.
The issue also introduces a new villain, Nobody, who feels like he came from the Grant Morrison library (actually, maybe he did. I didn’t research Nobody’s origins). This villain has decided to hunt down the Batmen of the World (another pre-New 52 concept that is carried over and utterly unexplained. Again, the relaunch factor of this line is poor, and I can really imagine new readers being utterly baffled by the idea that Russia has its own Batman) and literally erase them from existence by throwing them in vats of acid. It’s super meta! Since Batman, Inc., the book about Batman running his international Batforce, is coming back I assume Nobody is NOT a retcon device intended to get rid of the Batmen of the World.
Besides the fact that Batman and Robin #1 just continues a two year old storyline without getting new readers up to speed, it’s a good issue. I like Tomasi’s take on the relationship of Bruce and Damien, and Paul Gleason’s art is wonderfully active and expressive. He straddles a perfect line between realism and cartoony. And for those concerned by rumors of a holographic Alfred after Detective Comics #1 last week, this issue establishes that Alfred is a living, breathing guy. Honestly, except for the costumes (and the antipathy of the police) it seems like nothing has changed in Batman’s world in the New 52.