Thursday, June 11, 2009

Red Robin thoughts and spoilers - and Booster Gold?!

Red Robin #1 did something important - it finally revealed (somewhat) why Tim Drake/Wayne (a distinction that was actually emphasized in this issue) is no longer Robin. That part made some sense - given that Damian wasn't going anywhere (why exactly isn't clear), Dick felt he had to watch him at all times, and the only way he could do that was to make him Robin.

Tim's rationales for his behavior didn't wash as well, though, either for his adoption of the Red Robin persona, or his pursuit of Bruce. He said he chose the Red Robin identity so none of his actions would reflect on Dick or Bruce (but rather on Jason--as if anyone on New Earth remembers his short stint as RR on his wacky travels through the multiverse in That Weekly Series That Shall Not Be Named). Uh, Tim - if you wanted to distance your actions from your brother and father, why not pick a completely different name? "Oh, he's Red Robin - for a minute I thought he had something to do with Robin from 'Batman and Robin' - silly me." Please. Hell, become the new Ravager (piss Deathstroke off!).

Sadly, his reasoning for Bruce's being alive was even weaker (though more emotional): he has no one left, so he has to believe Bruce is still alive. OK, I get that, very tragic and sweet at the same time. (Psst, Tim - Bart's back! And so is Conner! Check your Twitter, dude.) I would rather he believed--as Morrison emphasized so well in "R.I.P."--that Bruce is ready for anything, and if anyone can cheat death/Omega Sanction/Oprah, it's Bruce.

One minor quibble about the art - please decide what body size Tim has, because he looks like a 25-year-old in costume and a 15-year-old out of it. Otherwise, the art was very good, stylistic enough to give the book a unique look.

BONUS: Booster Gold #21 gets points for being the first appearance of Dick/Batman is a non-Bat-title, and very well done too - the costume was accurate to Quitely's redesign, and Jurgens even drew Dick's face and body movements so as to leave no doubt who was beneath the cowl. I wish more had been shown of Dick's reaction to finding out that Booster had gotten his ass kicked over and over trying to save Barbara from getting shot--I think that was underplayed, but maybe Dick's trying to adopt Brucian stoicism already (especially after trying to play tough with Booster initially). (And there was even a nice mention of Blue Beetle, to link the main feature with the back-up - which was great, BTW.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Winick's new Batman - now this is more like it!

I just finished Batman #687, Judd Winick's first issue with Dick Grayson as Batman, and it was absolutely magnificent (includng Ed Benes' pencils, which captured the mood of the characters perfectly). I'll probably have more to say later, maybe after I read this week's Red Robin #1 and later Dini's Batman: Streets of Gotham, and if Winick is planning on continuing to explore Dick's inner conflict throughout his run as he did so well in this issue, then I don't mind Morrison's book so much--that will provide the straightforward Batman and Robin adventures (with the Morrison twist, of course), and Winick will give us the emotional story underneath (which I'm more interested in).

One more thing: if you don't feel a tear starting at Alfred's response to Superman's asking him "are you alright?", then you ain't human. Damn.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dini's Batman: Streets of Gotham #1 looks great!

Now this looks good: just like before Final Crisis and Battle for the Cowl, it looks like Paul Dini will be a nice counterpoint to Morrison when it comes to writing the new Batman and Robin. Rather than creating a entirely new Bat-verse in which they can operate, Dini is putting them in the Gotham we know and love, and seeing how Gordon and the rest react to them. This I can get excited about.

Now let's see what Winick brings to the table...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thoughts on Batman and Robin #1

OK, the adulation for Morrison & Quitely's Batman and Robin #1 is getting a little much (this is just one example), so I'll put two cents in... It was OK. I was a little disappointed the first time I read it, and my impression improved on the second reading a couple days later. But I still thought it was just OK.

Here's one issue I had: What was the point all of the "Dick, you're turning into him" that we saw in the run-up to "R.I.P." and Battle for the Cowl? Apparently, the way Grant's planning to write him (based on numerous interviews), Dick is going to be a kinder, gentler Batman (like we were supposed to get from Bruce after Final Crisis and the 52-week cruise) as opposed to the grim and gritty new Robin. But what happened to the darker, more determined Dick we saw up until through Battle for the Cowl? Maybe facing an over-the-edge Jason Todd for the umpteenth time at the end of that series showed him the error of that way--let's hope Judd Winick fleshes some of that out. (I may be the only person who's looking forward more to his stories about Dick/Batman than Grant's--Judd always had Dick's voice, whether in Batman or Outsiders. Now, about his plotting...)

Don't get me wrong--I didn't like when Dick was turning into Bruce, although it made sense given the context. Dick is decidedly not Bruce, a persistent theme through Nightwing's tales over the last 10 years. But it was appropriate that, as his fate as the next Batman became more solidified, he became more like Bruce. That would have made for an interesting story--and who knows, maybe that's the story Judd Winick is planning to tell. Perhaps he'll show the darker side of the new Batman, perhaps a side he purposefully hides from Damian--I guess we'll see soon.

No matter if Dick becomes more like Bruce, or keeps his traditional lighter personality, I hope the next year of stories shows him (and the readers) that he will never be Batman, no matter how hard he tries. He won't be willing to go to the same extremes, and therefore he won't inspire the same fear and awe. And he shouldn't expect to be Batman--he is doing this out of duty, after all, not because he wanted to--because only Bruce is Batman. It's not about the cape, the cowl, or the name--it's the man underneath it all. (I thought this was the point Grant was making in "R.I.P.," and I could have sworn he reiterated this in a recent interview with respect to the current run, but I can't be certain.) Anybody with willpower can be a Green Lantern; anyone who can tap into the speed force can be a Flash. But wearing pointy ears doth not a Batman make--that takes living the life and making the choices that only Bruce Wayne has. There's only one Bruce Wayne--the Multiverse aside--and therefore only one Batman.

I think this is depicted beautifully when artists show Bruce Wayne casting a shadow in the shape of Batman--he is Batman, whether in or out of costume. It's part of who Bruce Wayne is, as demonstrated by the number of stories in which he struggled with "who is the real me--Bruce or Batman?" We don't have to choose--they are the same person. (Frankly, in general I think this applies to Steve Rogers/Captain America too--sorry, Bucky--but that will have to wait for another day.)

Let me sum up by saying that I'm looking forward to this year without Bruce (though I wouldn't have chosen it). I hope good stories will be told, but I also hope that the end result is Dick realizing who he is--and is not--and Bruce coming back in a way that reaffirms who the only real Batman is.