Review: Batman & Robin-Batman Reborn

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Batman is dead; sacrificed for the greater good trying to stop Darkseid in Final Crisis.  In the aftermath of his death, Gotham descends into a crime wave.  Once before, when Bane broke the Batman, Dick Grayson assumed the mantle of the Bat to bring order back to the city.  Times have changed and so has Dick, but the responsibility is the same: protect the city, continue the fight, become the Batman.

It’s a brutal new world out there, and Gotham’s guardian is gone.  Or is he?

A new team, with new tactics and new technology, has taken up the mantle of the Bat; Batman’s oldest ally Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne’s son Damian, who has turned from his evil upbringing, become Batman and Robin to clean up the streets and once again spread the Shadow of the Bat on the criminal underworld.

Thus begins Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn.

Batman Reborn is a trade paperback / graphic novel that brings together issues 1 – 6 of Batman and Robin originally published by DC Comics.

Hardcover: 168 pages
Publisher: DC Comics; Deluxe edition (April 13, 2010)

A lot has changed in Gotham since I last visited; Bruce Wayne is dead, he has a son now, Damian, the child of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul and thus the grandson of one of his most dangerous enemies, Ra’s al Ghul, who is determined to live up to his father’s legacy and not his grandfather’s.  Tim Drake has gone his own way and become the Red Robin, Dick Grayson has stepped aside as Nightwing and taken up the cape and cowl again to become Batman and, of all things, Jason Todd, the most hated Robin of all time, is back, resurrected thanks to Superboy messing with time and a dunk in the ol’ Lazarus Pit.

Like I said – a lot has changed.

I have always liked the character of Dick Grayson, but I do not envy him.  He has had a rough life, he has a tough gig and probably the worst boss in the history of all bosses ever.  I mean, Batman is such an asshole and he is never wrong.  You’re wrong.  And stupid.  And you should just do what he says without question and thank your lucky stars he’s bothering to put up with you.  Loser.

Now with Bruce/Batman gone, Dick has to do something he doesn’t really want to do; become The Batman.  Again.  It’s sort of like growing up in the family business only to break away and do your own thing, then, one day, you get the call that it’s all yours.  What do you do now?  You have your life, your job, your business – and now you have dad’s as well?

Like I said, I don’t envy him.

Dick is not Bruce and he never will be; he doesn’t have the same cold determination.  Dick is different, always has been.  I think his childhood, though tragic in the end, lasted long enough and gave him enough grounding that he really is more emotionally developed and secure.  He can joke, laugh, love.  Batman is always so… intense.  It makes it rougher than rough on Dick to fill that role.  You have two very different and yet similar men who do things their own way yet accomplish their goals.  As this book opens, Dick is struggling with that.  He’s trying to be Bruce as Batman, and it’s not working.

It doesn’t help that Damian Wayne, as Robin, is such a little shit.  You really want to have a K-Mart moment where you drag him out of the isle and start smacking his bottom.  Seriously.

Dick is trying to get a measure of teamwork out of Damian but Damian isn’t biting.  The lack of teamwork causes bad stuff to happen.  Gotham is being Gotham; lots of crime, lots of new and different weirdo’s running around causing trouble.  In the first few pages, Batman & Robin learn of a new threat to Gotham – an army known as The Circus of Strange, lead by someone calling themself ‘Professor Pyg’.

But on their first outing, Robin’s lack of teamwork causes all sorts of problems; four cops killed, six seriously injured.  And he doesn’t believe he’s done a thing wrong.  Honestly, he’s a loose canon and Batman is struggling to rein him in.  During the fight, Robin runs off leaving Batman fighting alone.  Robin chases after one suspect and uses excessive force to try and coerce information, leaving them in a heap with a concussion and who knows what else.

Following the fight, Batman confronts Robin and tries to make him see that this isn’t how they do things.  They investigate but they don’t cross the line or else Gordon will come down on them.  Damian doesn’t want to hear it.

The pressure quickly gets to Dick as Damian runs off to ‘do things his way’.  Luckily for Dick, he has the same sounding board and stabilizing force in his life that Bruce has always had; Alfred Pennyworth.

Alfred points out that Dick cannot be Bruce as Batman, he can only be himself as Batman.  Seriously good advice.

Re-energized, Dick takes off after Damian and we start to see a more comfortable Batman, one who starts to rein in his over zealous Robin and solve the crimes.  But as soon as this happens, we see a new threat enter the arena – Red Hood.

You know, I love the artwork in this book, I really do (look at all the scans I did! For you!) , but someone, somewhere, should’ve pointed out to whoever designed this Red Hood character, that he looks like a giant tube of lipstick.  I mean, honestly, could we have come up with a more ridiculous looking costume?  So many bad comparisons come to mind when I see this guy.  Ugh.  Worst. Costume. Ever.

Anyway, Red Hood fancies himself as Gotham’s new protector and he even takes on a kid sidekick of his own, a girl calling herself ‘Scarlet’ who was a victim of Professor Pyg.  Together they go around killing all the bad guys, which is a very un-Batman thing to do, which means Batman and Robin have to stop them.

Add to that mix a contract killer hired to also take out the Hood and you’ve got yourself the rest of the book; Batman and Robin trying to stop Red Hood, Red Hood and Scarlet determined to clean up Gotham by leaving a trail of bodies and a high death count and a killer named Flamingo hot on the trail of everyone involved.

Zorro the Gay Blade comes to Gotham! Um.. I mean, Flamingo comes to Gotham... Yeah...

The story here is really that of Dick becoming Batman and Damian becoming Robin.  Everything else is just to move that story along.  I like that Dick struggles, he should struggle, he is far more emotional than Bruce in that regard and it shows through.  Damian is a brat and I don’t like him anymore than I cared for Jason Todd all those years ago.  I get that he’s the son of a bad girl and the grandson of a big bad, I do, but he is such a little know it all snot that I keep looking for Dick to smack him.  I want Dick to smack him.  He treats Alfred like shit so I want Alfred to smack him too.  Okay, everyone needs to smack him.

Dick’s hesitation and angst comes through in the beginning, so much so that Commissioner Gordon, Batman’s long time ally, feels it as well.  He doesn’t know what to make of this guy in the cape and cowl.  By the end, he knows very much who and what this guy is; he’s Batman.

Though I liked this book, I have to say that it is not my favorite Batman story.  It has elements of those stories and I know what they’re trying to do in recapturing that feeling, I just don’t know that they pull it off fully.  Yet.  This is the first step along that path, of bringing Batman back to what he used to be so very long ago; a force to be reckoned with, a symbol, a hero.

Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn is available as a Deluxe Edition Hardcover for $25 at your local brick & mortar, or you can pick it up online for around $15.

~P

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