17 Sept 2011

Cover To Cover: BATMAN AND ROBIN #1

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray & John Kalisz
DC $2.99

Stewart R: DC disappointed me somewhat with promises of the Tomasi and Gleason partnership coming together as the regular creative team on the last volume of Batman And Robin, the incredibly talented pairing only delivering an impressive 3-issue arc before quickly slinking back off to the DC shadows and letting other writers and artists pick up the reigns. I thought that was it, no more Tomasi and Gleason working their magic on tales of the Dynamic Duo.

Well I was half right; they wouldn’t shape the stories of that particular Dynamic Duo and instead they would take over at the start of the DC relaunch when Bruce Wayne would in turn be taking over from Dick Grayson in the role of Damian’s mentor. That news initially had me questioning whether the brooding and somewhat emotionally cold pairing of father and son would be a little too brusque for readers and prevent us from warming to them as a team, Dick seeming to be a lighter, caring and ultimately interesting contrast to Damian’s stubborn, hard-headedness through the previous volume.

In the face of this outstanding debut issue I believe that I shall probably pack those concerns up into a strong little case, throw them into the nearest river, spend a brief second in reflection at what a fool I was and then head straight down to Paradox to wait the 3-4 weeks until the next issue turns up. The more I think back on the different scenes and sequences that make up the 20 pages of story the more the grin tugs at the corner of my mouth.

Tomasi elects to lead with the villain and starts by highlighting that Batman’s global influence through Batman, Inc. is tackling crime in the darkest corners of the world’s cities but at the same time is attracting the attention of parties who believe that the enterprise must be stopped and will take lethal measures to do so. The brutal and mysterious scenes that take place in Moscow set the tone well, showing that Tomasi and Gleason don’t look like holding back when it comes to the darker elements at play and are certainly adept at creating new and intriguing villains rather than continuously diving back into the same old rogues’ gallery that’s been plundered far too much over the years.

A great start is then followed by a superb second act that chimes the ‘new beginnings’ bell that DC seems to want tolled with the relaunch but in the same stroke pays tribute to everything that has come to pass in the crimefighting life of Bruce Wayne. I really enjoyed the way that Bruce explains his shift in perspective and motive to a dismissive and petulant heir-apparent and at some points it’s almost possible to see Damian representing that dangerous, heartless path that Bruce could so easily have taken all those many years ago when he first took up the cape and cowl. Where the Dick/Damien partnership was about the constant, almost sibling-like needling and boundary-testing it seems the ‘fun’ here will come from Bruce’s solid, unswerving attitude in Damian’s training and parenting and the youngster’s growing impatience and frustration at having to play by someone else’s rules.

Gleason captures these early, intimate moments in suitably dark style before getting the opportunity to unleash some fast and frenetic action as the caped crusaders attempt to foil a criminal gang's activities involving radioactive material. In the space of 20 pages we get to see the incredibly broad range of viewpoints, angles and artistic tricks at Gleason’s disposal and an extra nod has to be made in inker Mick Gray’s direction as he helps this to be one of the darkest - almost to an oppressive level - Batman And Robin comics I’ve read.

I have my suspicions that Tomasi may have slipped a rather subtle yet gruesome origin story in amongst all of the action here but only time will show whether that proves to be the actual case or not. Regardless, the book-ending effect that he and Gleason provide by returning briefly to those villainous events in Moscow is brilliantly harrowing and those five simple, chilling panels will linger with me for months to come and certainly fuel my hunger for #2. This is a DC #1 that I simply cannot fault at all and so I bestow upon it a rare, yet well deserved 10/10

1 comment:

Joe T said...

Wow, 10/10? Really?
I'm honestly disgusted that as the Batman fan that I am, that I DIDN'T pick this up.