I think it’s safe to say that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have knocked yet another one out of the proverbial ballpark. That’s not too surprising, since the pair have built up an amazing body of work together; All-Star Superman alone cemented their position as the best writer and artist team in the biz. Hell, if I were to make a list of the top 5 writer/artist duos of all time, Morrison and Quitely would rank somewhere behind Stan Lee/Jack Kirby and Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons.
Isn’t it mind-blowingly awesome when you read a comic book you had high expectations for, and not only does it meet your expectations, but it blows right past them like the Roadrunner tearing ass down the highway, leaving a cloud of dust in Wile E. Coyote’s face? In fact, isn’t that one of the reasons you love to read comic books? I don’t want to oversell the quality of Batman and Robin #1, because it’s not like it’s as important as Fantastic Four #1 or as good as Morrison and Quitely’s own New X-Men #1. But after the crashing disappointment of the awful, unnecessary Battle For the Cowl and the anti-climactic Batman R.I.P., aren’t you excited to get a new, nigh-perfect example of what a Batman comic should be?
Thus, I present to you the top 5 things I loved about Batman and Robin #1. If I thought hard enough about it, I could probably come up with several more, but I have to get ready for work soon and I’m simultaneously watching the Today Show/crushing on Anne Curry as I write this.
1. That knockout opening panel, with Toad and his gang blasting off in their car as they escape from an epic explosion behind them, is a perfect example of the novelty of comic books. Quitely deftly uses the “boomboom” sound effect to shape the explosion in a visual trick that would make Will Eisner jealous. A couple of pages later, he pulls off the same trick with a “splsh” of water as Batman uses his wicked, new, flying Batmobile to drop Toad’s getaway car into the Gotham River. It’s a perfect example of why the language of comic books is an entirely unique concept that can’t be translated into any other medium.
2. Right off the bat, Pyg and Toad are two of the coolest new additions to Batman’s rogues gallery since the Ventriloquist debuted in 1988. At the very least, they’re much better than Hush and Jason Todd. (Of course, Bob the Goon from Tim Burton’s Batman is better than Hush and Jason Todd, but I digress.) They fit in perfectly with other bizarre villains like the Scarecrow and Killer Croc. Hopefully, this won’t be a case where other writers ignore Pyg and Toad in the future because they think they’re Morrison’s property.
3. I was actually a little surprised at how accessible Batman and Robin was. Even if you had no idea what happened in the first part of Morrison’s Batman run or Battle For the Cowl, the uninitiated could easily jump right in and understand the new status quo for the Dynamic Duo. Even though it’s been a long road to get to this point, the story isn’t bogged down by DC’s labyrinthine continuity. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but let’s face it, it does sometimes seem as if Marvel and DC have given up on attracting new readers, doesn’t it?
4. The previews for upcoming storylines at the end of the book were a much-appreciated treat, and it’s something I wish would become a regular practice in the industry. In this case, it’s a damn smart move, because when you’re looking to pick up new readers, every little trick you can pull out to get them hooked on the series matters.
5. Is Alfred Pennyworth awesome or what? I would seriously buy an Alfred comic, and so would you. I loved the way Alfred just brushed off Damian’s condescending attitude during the scene in the new Bat-lair. He’s had to deal with Bruce’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, Dick’s crappy “Holy whatchamacallit, Batman!” jokes, Jason’s douchebaggery, and Tim’s lack of a personality. So no matter how much of a brat Damian is, Alfred will remain reliably unflappable. Dude cannot be flapped. That’s just how he rolls.