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It’s All Coming Together

July 18, 2010

As the Return of Bruce Wayne rages on, Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin epic is coming to a close with his final arc, starting with Batman and Robin #13.  The issue starts with a different take on the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, with Thomas not getting his shot and telling his dead wife that she’ll never tell.  Then, he goes to the funeral, pays off some guy, turns into Dr. Simon Hurt, then shows up in the present day in Gotham City, announcing his return.  Maybe Hurt really is Thomas Wayne…  Then, he bursts into Wayne Manor and shoots the captured Dick Grayson in the back of the head.  Three days earlier, the story really begins.  Dick and Damian Wayne are interrogating the Joker, who claims that all of his facades disappeared when “his” Batman, Bruce Wayne, disappeared, and that he took up the role of Oberon Sexton to gain their trust.  Dick rattles off a list of clues that gave the Joker away, wondering what his game is.  Knight and Squire find the real Sexton dead, buried with his wife, and the Joker claims that Sexton killed his own wife.  Dick takes Commissioner Jim Gordon to the Bat-Bunker to discuss all of the crime lords running away.  Dick says that El Penitente is behind everything that’s been happening, and that the addiction thing with Professor Pyg wasn’t really solved.  That, in fact, when they used the antidote, they were helping deliver the addiction, which could be activated by a common cold.  Gordon, freaking out since he has a cold, gets a call that Damian is alone with the Joker.  Damian berates and beats the Joker up, saying that his whole insanity thing is bullshit, and that he’s just planning something else.  He’s not true chaos.  As Dick and Gordon try to return, they get shot down by some of El Penitente’s men, then surrounded by Dollotrons.  And more of El Penitente’s people free Professor Pyg and give him a new mask.

Well, this is quite possibly the craziest issue of Batman and Robin thus far.  I mean, this whole issue is jam-packed with stuff, between the Joker/the Domino Killer and Dr. Hurt/Thomas Wayne/El Penitente/Professor Pyg and all that stuff.  It makes you wonder whose side the Joker is really on, since he did work with the Black Glove before, but now he’s killing them.  Is he after Hurt too?  Is he telling the truth?  To be honest, I’m not that big a fan of Grant Morrison’s “supersanity” interpretation of the Joker.  But I do like that he’s changed so much as a result of the loss of his greatest rival.  And obviously, Damian is taking Morrison’s interpretation and assuming that to be the case.  Maybe that’ll be true.  I have no idea if Hurt is really Thomas Wayne, and truth be told, I hope he’s not.  But the mystery around it and all the possibilities are great story material.  It would mess up Bruce’s origin if it was true, but it’s still really cool.  Professor Pyg is also a great villain to have come back, and that addiction in the air virus thing is a great and creepy plot idea.  Rather reminds you of the virus from the Damian segment of Batman #700.  Of course, Dick won’t really die, but we’ll have to see how the next three days play out to meet up with the prologue.  Unfortunately, I’m not as big a fan of Frazier Irving as a lot of people are.  Although he can sometimes draw really detailed faces, and I do like the way he colors things, other times his faces look disproportionate and sometimes even flat.  This issue, as compared to his Return of Bruce Wayne issue, he does a lot better, more of his great shadows and 3D effects.  But even though some of what he does looks cool, the whole product together just isn’t my cup of tea.  It looks nice a lot of the time, but I’d prefer a different artist on this arc.  Still, this looks to be Morrison’s best Batman story of all.  Even though I have a few reservations, it’s so well-written and interesting that I’m swept up in the excitement anyway.  I’m interested to see how the mystery of Dr. Hurt finally ends, but I do hope that, when the dust settles, Dick Grayson gets to stay as Batman.  Bruce has had the cowl for quite a long time, and that miniseries is called the Return of Bruce Wayne, not the Return of Batman.  Think about it.  Morrison may very well agree with me.

Plot: 9.4      Art: 8.8      Dialogue: 9.1      Overall: 9.3

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