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.

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